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Upcycling Sound

You see them huddled on top shelves in antique stores, pinned to the walls in themed bars and restaurants, or piled in mouldy smelling cases at swap meets and antiques fairs. What can be done with these poor abandoned instruments? Many have suffered damage – the squashed bell, the bent key, the missing pipes, the stuck valves. Is there a way to give them a new life? Think Upcycling!

We were poking around online and found that there’s a whole business in upcycling musical instruments as jewellery. On Etsy, we found a maker who takes instruments and makes them into objects such as rings, necklaces, earrings, pendants, key chains and more. Elsewhere on the internet we found whole instruments made into light fixtures, bookshelves and drinks cabinets.

Musical instruments are, in themselves, works of art. There’s delicate detailing around a trumpet key, intricate engraving on a trombone bell, delicate silverwork in a woodwind key, so let’s see how designers have been inspired.

Putting through trombone or trumpet tubing will give you a nice brass ring:

Brass trombone ring

Brass trombone ring

Mounting a trumpet valve button gives you an elegant mother-of-pearl ring with a delicate incised edge.

Trumpet valve button ring

Trumpet valve button ring

Simply removing a small bit of curved tubing from a French horn gives you the start of a necklace. In this case, the design added a small blue jewel into the pull ring. We think this one might benefit from a bit more design work, though.

George Enescu: Légende (Huw Morgan, trumpet; Patricia Ulrich, piano)

French horn tubing necklace

French horn tubing necklace

A useful key ring was made using a part of a brass instrument bell as the design element.

Brass Instrument key ring

Brass Instrument key ring

Moving out brass instruments and into the wind instruments, we have an interesting ring made from a piece of flute tubing from around a key-hole with the key attachment retained.

Flute tube ring

Flute tube ring

Clarinet keys have a stylish simplicity and a distinct design.

Leonard Bernstein: Clarinet Sonata – I. Grazioso (Ulrich Wurlitzer, clarinet; Hermann Lechler, piano)

Clarinet key necklaces

Clarinet key necklaces

Saxophone keys often have lovely little mother-of-pearl touch pads.

Saxophone key necklace

Saxophone key necklace

When we move to the string department, we can go with either wood or metal. The tuning pegs from violins are lovely works in ebony.

Violin tuning peg necklace

Violin tuning peg necklace

And, if you cut the stem off, they can become either necklaces or earrings.

Fritz Kreisler: Romance, Op. 4 (Aaron Rosand, violin; Hugh Sung, piano)

Violin tuning peg earrings

Violin tuning peg earrings


Small violin tuning peg necklace

Small violin tuning peg necklace

The tuning pegs on double basses aren’t wood but metal and make a more techno statement.

Double Bass tuning peg necklace

Double Bass tuning peg necklace

In the percussion department, there’s lots of metal and you could make a cymbal into some rather natty cufflinks, for example.

Cymbal cufflinks

Cymbal cufflinks

After upcycling poor broken musical instruments into other artifacts and using their inherent designs to enhance one’s own personal beauty, we next must consider home adornment with the use of whole instruments.

There’s the use of a side drum as a hanging light.

Drum light

Drum light

A guitar with a broken front repurposed as a bookcase.

Francisco Tárrega: Prelude in E Major, “Lagrima” (Mats Bergström, guitar)

Guitar bookcase

Guitar bookcase

Or, from Hammacher Schlemmer, the specially built cello cocktail bar.

Cello Bar closed

Cello Bar closed


Cello Bar open for business

Cello Bar open for business

Don’t tear up your old working instruments for these designs but check around in the resale shops for instruments that have given their lives to music and could have another life as a design piece. Use one art to create a new art!

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