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Make Beautiful Music With Animal-Friendly Instruments

Musical instruments made from animal products are way out of tune. Harmonize with animals by getting down on cruelty-free gear instead. Almost any music store should be able to accommodate your request for a cruelty-free instrument. Before making a purchase, take the time to verify that the instrument is free of animal products by using the following information as a guide.

Drums and Bagpipes

Here’s the skinny on drums: In the past, skins from sheep, elks, and cows were commonly used to make drumheads and traditional bagpipes. Today, it’s easier than ever to snare drumheads and bagpipes made from synthetic materials. And although some companies advocate the use of lanolin, tallow, or other animal oils to clean drumheads, vegetable-based alternatives such as vegetable tallow, Japan tallow, paraffin, and ceresin can be used instead. For cruelty-free drums and bagpipes, the following companies can’t be beat:

Violin Bows

Many violin bows are made with horsehair. There’s no need to use “mare” hair to play Mozart, so quit horsing around! Make your violin, bass, cello, fiddle, or viola sing with synthetic bows made from carbon fiber or fiberglass. Try the products available from the following companies:

Piano Keys

Horns belong in brass bands, not piano keys. Although piano keys are rarely made from ivory, they can be made from the hooves, horns, and bones of various animals. Here’s a “grand” idea: Stick with the many piano manufacturers—including Steinway and Baldwin—that make their keys out of white plastic:

Strings (‘Catgut’ and Natural Gut)

Talk about a feline fable! No one is sure of the origin of the term “catgut string,” but it’s unlikely that the intestines of cats were ever used to make strings for instruments. One likely theory is that the term originated from the “kit,” a small fiddlelike instrument that used strings made from the intestines of lambs. Whatever the source of this cat tale, these strings are really derived from the same source as natural gut.

The raw material used in natural-gut strings typically comes from several kinds of animal, including sheep, cattle, kangaroos, and water buffaloes. Most gut strings, however, are made of serosa, the outermost layer of a cow’s intestines. On average, it takes the bodies of three animals just to make one string. While it takes guts to play a violin in front of a crowd, it’s actually unnecessary to take a cow’s guts: Gut strings used for stringed instruments can easily be replaced with strings made of nylon or steel, which can be found in most music stores.

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  • Kate says:

    I am desperate to have a vegan violin made for me or to make one myself and the glue is a real problem. Can anyone help please? Only recently found out about the glue. I have ordered an incredibow meanwhile and waiting for it to arrive. There ought to be a market for animal friendly instruments. Kate

  • Jennifer says:

    Hey I want to thank you for this. One thing I still got on my mind though is about the glue used to put stringed instruments together. Is there an animal friendly glue too? I hope so