Musical instrument

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Musical instruments are tools that can be applied to produce music, causing some sort of effect. Instruments in NetHack fall into two categories: tonal instruments, which can play tunes (including the passtune), and atonal instruments, which cannot.

Some instruments are magical—they have effects beyond what their ordinary equivalent would yield. When they are uncharged, they behave identically to that equivalent. Every non-magical musical instrument except the bugle has at least one magical counterpart. Elven Priests and Wizards start with a non-magical musical instrument.

If you are stunned, confused, or hallucinating, you cannot play tunes with any instrument; you will always improvise when playing a tonal instrument.[1] Also, if you are stunned or confused, magical instruments (except the Bell of Opening[2]) behave like their non-magical counterparts and do not consume charges when used.[3]

Instrument Type Non-magical equivalent
tooled horn Tonal (non-magical)
wooden flute Tonal (non-magical)
wooden harp Tonal (non-magical)
bugle Tonal (non-magical)
frost horn Tonal tooled horn
fire horn Tonal tooled horn
magic flute Tonal wooden flute
magic harp Tonal wooden harp
bell Atonal (non-magical)
leather drum Atonal (non-magical)
Bell of Opening Atonal bell
drum of earthquake Atonal leather drum

A horn of plenty is not an instrument at all, even though its unidentified appearance is that of a horn.


You start playing <instrument>.
You improvised with a tonal instrument, or played an atonal instrument. This message is usually followed by other instrument-specific messages or effects.
You radiate an obnoxious droning sound.
As above, but you were stunned.
You feel a monotonous vibration.
As above, but you were both stunned and deaf.
You generate a raucous noise.
As above, but you were confused.
You feel a jarring vibration.
As above, but you were both confused and deaf.
You disseminate a kaleidoscopic display of floating butterflies.
As above, but you were hallucinating. (You get this even if you're deaf.)
What you perform is quite far from music...
As above, but you were some combination of stunned, confused and hallucinating. (You get this even if you're deaf.)


This page may need to be updated for the current version of NetHack.

It may contain text specific to NetHack 3.6.4. Information on this page may be out of date.

Editors: After reviewing this page and making necessary edits, please change the {{nethack-364}} tag to the current version's tag or {{noversion}} as appropriate.