Accessories for practicing an instrument are quite standard. For a guitar, perhaps you will need a pick or a capo while more adventurous musicians might break out an ebow or a bottleneck. But there are always those few, clever artists who push the limits of their art, testing the absurd: pocket change, drills, chainsaws, screwdrivers, etc. A real paraphernalia of torture for these brilliant six-string masters!
Brian May and a penny
To his credit and since 1963, Brian May already possessed an awesome, albeit odd, instrument: a home-made guitar (famously named the Red Special) with an oak body, mahogany neck and mother-of-pearl markings made with buttons from his mother’s sewing kit. The flamboyant guitarist of the group Queen pushed the singularity of his instrument just a tad bit further, rejecting the traditional plastic plectrum for a metal one. Not finding a suitable pick for his game in terms of grip, size and hardness, he switched to ... a piece of a sixpence coin claiming it was smaller, more manageable and more solid.
Eddie Van Halen and a drill
Oddly, the drill has a definite effect at a live concert: when the guitarist Van Halen arrives on stage with a customized red, white and black taped drill that matches his outfit and the design on his EVH Stripped Series guitar or when the drill is displayed on the cover of The Best of Both Worlds album, it’s clear that the drill is not for maintenance purposes. Instead, it’s the sign that he will embark on the legendary strident introduction of the song "Poundcake," from the album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.
Jesse Dupree and his chainsaw
If Van Halen is equipped to assemble Ikea furniture, Jesse James Dupree, the charismatic and full-haired singer of the Jackyl, is fully equipped to provide the raw material to the Swedish furniture kits. When he tackles muscular riffs on "The Lumberjack,” a bluesy-rock song... with a chainsaw, he tears it up! He even gratifies his listeners with a solo at the end of the track ... A must-listen in hi-fi.
Jimmy Page and a bow
This time, the use of the unusual object was motivated by musical preferences and not solely as a means to wow the crowd. Beyond the visual impact, and as impressive as it is to see, the guitarist of Led Zeppelin uses a violin bow when performing the monumental hit "Dazed and Confused," giving the piece a psychedelic and unprecedented dimension.
Sonic Youth and a screwdriver
From the album Confusion is Sex, the New Yorkers of Sonic Youth, part of the no-wave movement, freed themselves from the current and based their uniqueness on their unconventional approach to playing the instrument. Learning from the best with the late experimental composer Glenn Branca, with whom guitarists Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore have also been students, they pound and torture their instruments with random tunings, attacking them with drumsticks to draw experimental and discordant sounds. It’s also not uncommon to see them with screwdrivers in hand, wedged between the neck and the strings in an effort to obtain strange sounds.