Musical instruments made from animal products are way out of tune. Harmonize with animals by getting down on animal-free gear instead. Almost any music store should be able to accommodate your request for a vegan 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 high-quality synthetic materials. And although some companies suggest using lanolin, tallow, or other animal oils to clean drumheads, vegetable-based options such as vegetable tallow, Japan tallow, paraffin, and ceresin can be used instead. For animal-friendly drums and bagpipes, the following companies can’t be beat:

Violin Bows

Some 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 high quality 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:

© Steinway & Sons

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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