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There are two overall categories of musical instrument in NetHack: tonal instruments, which are capable of playing tunes (especially the passtune), and atonal instruments. Both types of instrument have an effect that results when they are applied. Some instruments may not work if you are confused, instead you will get a message that "What you produce is quite far from music..."

Some instruments are magical - they have effects beyond what their ordinary equivalent would yield. When they are uncharged, they behave identically to that equivalent.

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

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

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