The Waterphone- Learn About Exceptional Musical Instrument

What if we told you that there is a phone that can be twisted, punched, scratched, or stroked in any way to create a sound, music, or background atmosphere for your videos? Add a little water to all of this; I am sure that You will keep thinking about it, right? Folks, the answer is “The Waterphone.”

Did you know Waterphone?

A popular instrument for making mysterious and deep music for many films, it is recognizable by the sound it produces. Said sound seems unsightly and anxious. However, the Waterphone is very little known to the common people.

The Waterphone is a new type of hand-crafted musical instrument that consists of a metal base with a little water and rods of different lengths that can be fretted with a bow. The Waterphone is a musical instrument widely used for making music for horror and suspense films because of the sound produced, which seems very dark and unnatural. The instrument can take various forms, sometimes also used for contemporary music. Let’s go and explore this instrument with unusual sound effects.

Here, in this video of The Waterphone demoed above by Todd Barton is a Bass-Waterphone made by Brooks Hubbert. Watch and listen as it’s both bowed and drummed demonstration and feel the mysterious tones and charm of the Waterphone. The Waterphone is mysterious. This unique instrument creates the sounds of horror in the film, which could lead the audience or listeners into a nervous and shaky mood.


The Waterphone is a musical instrument invented at the end of the year 60s by the American Richard Waters. It is classified in the category of idiophones. Although Richard has a family name it seems predestined, the instrument is called “Waterphone” not because of the name of its inventor, but because the resonator contains water. It is a derivative of the Tibetan Bowl, having similar characters with also the Mbira, Violin, Cristal Baschet, and Water Drums.

In other words, we can say that the Waterphone is a sculpture in the form of an instrument, which combines the beauty of its lines with the beauty of its sounds.

The Waterphone consists of a tank in the middle of which stands a tube to hold it and pour water into it. Bronze metal rods are welded around the perimeter of the reservoir and largely determine the pitch.

Over the years, Richard Waters has offered different models, in different sizes and with different shapes of containers (‘Small’, ‘Standard’, “Wide Range Flat Bottom”, “Ultralight”, “Bass” with the top of the container ” in a bowl ”).

In his later years, one could acquire a model “The Whaler”, “The Bass” and “The Mega Bass”. They were made with thick enough stainless steel containers, resulting in a richer sound with less distortion than models offered in the past. A Mega Bass generally has between 56 and 60 rods.

Each Waterphone is unique, by its agreement and by its manual manufacture, dated and signed by Richard Waters. After an interruption following Richard Waters’ death on July 4, 2013, the manufacture of the original second-generation Waterphones began in May 2014. They are now produced by Brooks Hubert III.

Interesting To Know

The sounds produced evoke underwater life (whales, dolphins), and sometimes the noise that one might imagine in a futuristic city or an abandoned factory, like factory noise. It also evokes the wind which would pass between metal cylinders, an iron wheel which squeaks while turning, well, it is a little according to the imagination and the mode of play.

What place for the Waterphone in current music?

Concept artist and environmental activist Jim Nollman used the Waterphone to communicate with marine animals. He shares his experience in “Dolphin Dreamtime: Talking to the Animals” in 1985 and emphasizes the interest of sound productions for cetaceans. Moreover, we often find the Waterphone in the world of cinema.

The instrument has been used extensively in film music, too. For example, the introduction of “Matrix“, the music by Lalo Schifrin for the movie “Amity Ville“, the famous “Dark water” by Kenji Kawai, or “Star Trek the motion picture” ( music by Goldsmith).

Richard Waters also made an exhibition model of the Waterphone, featuring rods not only upwards but also downwards. The instrument was suspended or placed on a pivot and was called “Rotating Sound Generator”.

After an interruption following the death of Richard Waters on July 4, 2013, the manufacture of the original second-generation Waterphones began in May 2014. They are now manufactured by Brooks Hubbert III. 

How to play Waterphone?

To play this unusual device, you must first pour water into the resonator. Then you can play it in different ways. Most of the time, the Waterphone is played on the stems with a cello bow or that of the double bass, or with mallets. However, one can tap under the tank like a water drum or play it by friction with a superball wand.

Bach Bogen curved bows are also recommended, as they encompass a large series of rods in one stroke. Waterphonists have played it often since. However, it can also be played by hanging it. Concretely, the long and voluminous stems will sound naturally serious. In any case, each rod has a unique vibration and vibrates in relation to the others.

MoreTo Know

We came across this by chance while researching music therapy, and what the Americans call “healing Music” (music accompanying meditation).

Rhythmotomy: Meditation music with Chakra bowls, Cymbals, Gongs, Tubular bells, and Waterphone. Rhythmotomy is a band made up of Jim Long, Tom Hollow, and Steve Sandstedt. Chakra bowls: SueMary Long and Wally Stoltz. You may listen to it here: Healing music of Waterphone, Chakra bowls, and Gongs.

Friends, visit the official Waterphone website: Waterphone.


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