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Meet the "Hunting Horn" from Capcom's "Monster Hunter" franchise.

enter image description here

While the source video games undoubtedly take liberties, the idea of a large, handheld instrument that plays various tones by physically swinging the device does not seem immediately improbable. (A fair number of hunting horns from the games incorporate standard instruments such as bagpipes or guitars. For this question I'd like to focus on those archetypes that lack such secondary instrumentation)

Other aspects of the concept (such as use as a practical blunt weapon, or supernatural song-powered enhancements) are ancillary in my case; I'm primarily concerned with the feasibility of using physical movement to create tones, rather than traditional methods of sound creation such as blowing air, plucking strings, or percussion.

Are there any real world instruments that are played by moving the instrument?

If not, what considerations would factor into the shaping or utility of such a device? How might one form multiple tones from a single horn? (The games traditionally have precisely three each)

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    $\begingroup$ "played by moving the instrument" - specifically, tonal instruments utilizing airflow? because there's also instruments like maracas which require movement but don't utilize airflow nor generate tones. $\endgroup$ Jul 30 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ @WoodrowBarlow Yes, tonal instruments utilizing airflow. That's a way better descriptor! $\endgroup$ Jul 30 at 15:49
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Corrugaphone

AKA whirly tube, bloogle resonator.

First seen in orchestras in the 1960s as an experimental musical instrument, a tube with internal ribbings, swung around through the air to make musical notes which "phased" depending what direction the tube pointed at any given time.

enter image description here

Hyacinth CC BY-SA 4 Wikipedia 2021

By Bernoulli's principle, the air moves through the tube toward the circumference from the middle.

Like a bugle, the 2nd 3rd, 4th 5 the and 6th harmonics can be played, the faster the higher, maybe even further harmonics with considerable effort.

Structurally, the closer the ribbs, the higher the resonances will be, and the faster it's swung, the higher the pitch, but always in harmonic jumps, not continually.

It's described as hypnotic, mesmerizing to hear.

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  • $\begingroup$ Known to fans of P.D.Q. Bach as the "Lasso D'Amore". Not sure this would make a very effective weapon though. I don't know if the OP was expecting it to work as both a weapon and an instrument or not? $\endgroup$ Jul 30 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ Known to children as those ribbed stretchy straws you get in souvenir cups at amusement parks. $\endgroup$
    – Aww_Geez
    Jul 30 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ I'm seriously hoping they'd be a bit more rigid and threatening than day-glow plastic. @DarrelHoffman $\endgroup$ Jul 30 at 21:02
  • $\begingroup$ Is the shape necessary for the instrument to function? Could you house it inside a larger club-type object? $\endgroup$ Jul 31 at 2:57
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    $\begingroup$ A practical demonstration using these tubes rotationally & percussively, done entirely live by Walk Off The Earth [YouTube video link] A band well-known for their unusual arrangements of existing songs. $\endgroup$
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 31 at 7:45
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Are there any real world instruments that are played by moving the instrument?

Yes, the bullroarer. A traditional instrument throughout the world (Australian Aborigines, North American natives, and prehistoric Scandinavians all used them, as did the ancient Greeks), a bullroarer is basically a length of wood on a cord that is spun in a circle. Different pitches can be obtained by varying the radius of the circle, rotation speed, direction, or by twisting the cord so the body spins around its length.

British Isle bullroarers

Various examples from the British Isles showing different styles. I suspect different patterns of notches, grooves, and holes would also lead to different sounds. (Image from Wikipedia.)

You'll notice that they have some key differences from the hunting horn. First of course is their size - a typical bullroarer is about the size of your forearm, rather than a gigantic monster head on a stick. Second (and related), they are spun in a continuous circle rather than an arc - you need to move them relatively fast to generate any appreciable noise, and if they were only swung in an arc, the note would be very short.

So while there are instruments played by swinging them, they don't have much in common with the hunting horn.

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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf the same applies to Vuvuzelas, yet they're considered instruments. Albeit the bullroarer allows change in pitch, which even the common vuvuzela doesn't. $\endgroup$
    – Tim
    Jul 30 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Many percussion instruments don't play different distinct notes, or even distinct pitches at all, but no one would call a bass drum "not an instrument" (possibly for fear of upsetting the bass drummer). $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Jul 30 at 21:31
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    $\begingroup$ "you might as well say the cannons in Beethoven's "Wellington's Victory" are musical instruments" in that context, they are percussion instruments. $\endgroup$
    – qwr
    Jul 31 at 8:39
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Actually, with one constructed correctly, you can play varying pitches. By putting a sliding collar on the string so you can adjust the length of string it’s spinning on, you can adjust the pitch smoothly kind of like a slide whistle or trombone. Actually doing any kind of musical performance is difficult though, and it would make a mediocre weapon. $\endgroup$ Jul 31 at 16:52
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf "The bullroarer is not an instrument - that is, you can't play different notes or rhythms with it" is completely, utterly FALSE. Please research next time. Maybe start with this: youtube.com/watch?v=2ODGE2f7gLQ $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Aug 1 at 19:37
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Apparently known by various names, in the west it appears to most commonly called a Chinese pigeon whistle

https://www.loc.gov/item/dcmflute.1188/ DCM 1188: Anonymous, Chinese / Whistle ("Ko-ling" or "Shao-tzu")

https://collections.mfa.org/objects/50624
https://www.akg-images.com/archive/Chinese-pigeon-whistle-2UMEBMBG32L7S.html

I first encountered these when attached to a replica Roman "Draco" standard to make a noise as the cavalry charged.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is interesting! The noise it makes is tied to the bird's movement as they fly. Definitely seems like what we're considering! $\endgroup$ Jul 30 at 16:03
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Battle Theremin

As a musical instrument, the theremin is played by not touching it, by moving one's hands through the electrical fields generated by the instrument and the player's body.

One could easily reverse the relative motions: place the theremin inside the weapon and make music while bashing a variety of monsters and evil hordes of EM generating Orcs and Blue Elves.

The key here will be the artful balance between interacting one's own body with the instrument and the bodies of one's foes.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm just imagining a little theramin dagger making high pitched squealing sounds as you get stabbed repeatedly by it. $\endgroup$ Jul 31 at 0:27
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    $\begingroup$ @WolfieSmith -- The Squealing Dagger of Sqriim. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Jul 31 at 21:31
  • $\begingroup$ That is a new level of awesome for a two word combination $\endgroup$ Aug 2 at 8:30
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The pūrerehua (AKA: bullroarer) dates back to at least 18,000 BCE and was common among many stone aged civilizations across the whole world. It is basically nothing more than an airfoil at the end of a string. When swung around in the air, it makes a loud whirring noise. The faster you swing it, the higher pitch sound it makes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ODGE2f7gLQ

If you want a weapon that is an instrument when swung, you could perhaps reshape the blade of a Kyoketsu-shoge or other similar chain whip like weapon to make the same sort of noises.

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I note that MH's hunting horn is a club-like weapon so the responses mentioning the bullroarer are, while technically correct, somewhat beside the point. So, to answer the question of the "feasibility of using physical movement to create tones" using a swung wind instrument, some casual searching shows:

Given that, the answer seems to be a definite "maybe". 0.18 psi is enough to operate some wind instruments and the MH hunting horn is longer than a baseball bat, meaning the tip could exceed 100mph if swung at the same angular rate, although it would require more strength to do so.

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  • $\begingroup$ forget the tuba, which is just resonator that attaches to the lips, and doesnt itself produce noise. how much pressure does it take to operate a flute? $\endgroup$
    – Jasen
    Jul 31 at 4:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Jasen According to researchgate.net/figure/…, most of the tonal range seems to be possible with less than 0.26 psi. $\endgroup$ Jul 31 at 5:13
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While not exactly meeting the criteria of this question, I did once attend a folk-music performance where a very skilled concertina player was demonstrating a few things.

As part of this, he swung the concertina around in wide vertical circles while playing it, which led to some wierd "doppler" audio effects, especially since we were in a relatively small function room!

However, I'm guessing this was more due to the changing position of the concertina, rather than the effect of the changing angle of the air pressure.

Either way, it was definitely a fascinating audio experience!

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    $\begingroup$ Cool, what you describe sounds like a natural Leslie-concertina (Look up the Leslie speaker if you do not know it) $\endgroup$ Aug 1 at 12:12
  • $\begingroup$ I'd hazard a guess that the variation in tone had something to do with the doppler effect, assuming that the concertina was being consistently keyed throughout the motion. $\endgroup$
    – Corey
    Aug 2 at 7:13

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