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10 Hit Songs Played on Toys (and How to Replicate Them)

Updated 29 May 2020

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Toys are a lot of fun to play with, but did you know that those squeaky toys and tinny trinkets can actually make amazing music? We climbed down a YouTube rabbit hole to find talented artists playing our favorite hit songs using just the sounds created by popular children’s toys.

To help you create your own musical masterpieces, we’ve worked out exactly what toys you need to get to to recreate these classics. Prepare to be inspired!

1. Nirvana Smells Like Teen Spirit

Starting with a grunge classic from 1991, Nirvana’s hit song Smells Like Teen Spirit was an anthem of teen angst. The band were at the forefront of the Grunge scene that sprung out of Seattle in the late 1980s. Hitting the #1 Billboard spot, Smells Like Teen Spirit spent 20 weeks in the chart and was an international success with the album Nevermind, selling 30 million copies worldwide going diamond.

Now this infamous hit has been transformed into an anthem for toddler excitement courtesy of French outfit The Wackids. For this headbanger they use hand bells, mini electric guitars, a Hello Kitty drum set and what could be the most annoying toy in history, the Otamatone.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Otamatone Japanese Synthesizer
Lighwish Handbells Set
Best Choice Electric Guitar Beginner Starter Kit
REIG Hello Kitty Drum Set with Stool

Total cost for all toy instruments: $200.67 (as of May 2020)

2. Billie Eilish – Bad Guy

Fast forward 28 years, and we get to one of the biggest pop sensations of the 21st century (so far), Billie Eilishs’ Bad Guy. Written with her brother Finneas O’Connell, the fifth single from debut album When We All Fall Asleep,Bad Guy spent a whopping 49 weeks in the chart peaking at #1 winning the then 17 year old 10 awards including a Grammy for Song of the Year.

This ingenious replication was recorded using a mini tambourine, kazoo, castanets, electric toy drums, a Nickelodeon boombox and a ukulele (kind of). Even if it’s not made purely with toys, you have to admire the creativity.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Remo RK-2106-00 Rhythm Club Tamborine
Nickelodeon JoJo Siwa Sing Along Boom Box
Melissa & Doug Makin’ Music Beginner Wooden Kazoo
Rabing Kids Drum Set
ROSENICE Wooden Castanets
First Act Discovery Toy Story 4 Ukulele

Total cost for all toy instruments: $141.64 (as of May 2020)

3. PSY – Gangnam Style

Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhh sexy lady. Unless you were living under a rock in 2012, you’ll recognize this international mega hit. Hitting over 1 BILLION views on YouTube along with sparking a dance craze that swept the world, Gangnam Style remained in the Billboard hot 100 for 31 weeks making PSY a household name and a poster boy for South Korean pop music. 

And just when you thought it couldn’t get anymore annoying, it has been given a new lease of life, using… a rubber chicken?!

Here’s what you’ll need:
POPLAY Rubber Chicken

Total cost for all toy instruments: $6.99 (as of May 2020)

4. Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody

In 1975, British rock band Queen changed the face of popular music with a 6-minute rock opus. Often cited as one of the greatest songs of all time, Bohemian Rhapsody used different sections of music to make up the masterpiece and put Queen on the world’s stage. Appearing on the album A Night at the Opera, which was the first platinum selling record in the US for Queen, the song remained in the Billboard charts for 44 weeks and was introduced into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004.

With pretty big shoes to fill, here it has been reconstructed as a meowsterpiece using this unusual sounding keyboard. Will this version see the same level of success?

Here’s what you’ll need:
B. toys – Meowsic Toy Piano

Total cost for all toy instruments: $28.02 (as of May 2020)

5. The Beatles – Yellow submarine

Back in 1966, British mega band The Beatles released Yellow Submarine. This single from the bands seventh studio album spent 25 weeks in the Billboard chart and peaked at #2. A little different then most of their hits as drummer Ringo took the lead vocals. It was written by putting 2 songs together and became the title track of the animated movie of the same name. The film grossed close to $1 million almost double what other big titles were grossing in 1968.

This quirky version is a collaboration from talk show host Jimmy Fallon, Ringo Starr himself and hip hop collective The Roots armed with a whole host of toy instruments showing how fun this exercise can be.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Glockenspiel 25 Notes – Metall Xylophone Chromatic
COCODE Metal Kazoo
Beistle Giant Hand Clapper
Natural Wood Guitar
Vangoa Melodica 32 Key Pianica

Total cost for all toy instruments: $136.08 (as of May 2020)

6. Coldplay – Viva La Vida

Love them or hate them, Coldplay have been steady visitors of the charts since 2001 when they released their debut hit Yellow. In 2008 they released the single Viva La Vida from their fourth studio album Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. Spending a massive 51 weeks in the Billboard charts, it sold over 6 million copies in the US alone.

This artist has decided to do his own version of Viva La Vida using a toddlers electric drum kit, Vtech keyboard and a miniature acoustic guitar. Wonder if the kids know what Daddy gets up to while they’re asleep.

Here’s what you’ll need:
VTech Record & Learn KidiStudio
WinFun Kids Fun Electronic Drum Set
Natural Wood Guitar With Case and Accessories

Total cost for all toy instruments: $125.97 (as of May 2020)

7. Calvin Harris – My Way

Scottish DJ Calvin Harris released My Way in 2016 hitting the #2 spot, further cementing himself into the hearts of pop music fans the world over, going platinum in the US, UK, Italy and Australia to name a few. With a current net worth of $240 million at age 36, he is the richest DJ on the planet, earning $30 – $40 million in a typical year. A far cry from his job stacking shelves in a local supermarket. 

Here we see a talented saxophonist swapping his usual brass instrument for a miniature toy version with surprising results.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Click N’ Play Saxophone with 8 Colored Keys

Total cost for all toy instruments: $13.29 (as of May 2020)

8. Billy Joel – Piano Man

If you’re going to play a song on a teeny tiny toy piano, it has to be Piano Man by Billy Joel. Seen as the first major hit from the artist, the ballad is about Joels’ experience as a piano lounge singer in 1973. Even though the song peaked at #25 in the Billboard charts, it went on to become a timeless classic known the world over and, in 2015, was selected to be preserved by the Library of Congress National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

This version may not be performed in a smokey basement bar, but still exhibits the beauty of the song.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Melissa & Doug Learn-to-Play Piano

Total cost for all toy instruments: $53.99 (as of May 2020)

9. Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – Old Town Road

One of the most innovative performances on the list goes to this group of Harvard College students who use a set of tuned pipes called BOOMWHACKERS to recreate 2019 hit Old Town Road by Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus. Using samples courtesy of Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor and a remix by country music star Billy Ray Cyrus, the country rap song simultaneously topped the Billboard top 100, Hot Country songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts.

The unusual instruments used in this recreation produce different notes when hit and have endless possibilities to create the songs you love.

Here’s what you’ll need:
BOOMWHACKERS

Total cost for all toy instruments: $14.99 (as of May 2020)

10. Frank Loesser / Hoagy Carmichael – Heart and Soul

If you’ve ever seen the smash hit 80s movie Big, you’ll be sure to remember the hilarious scene where Tom Hanks accidentally steps on a walking piano on the floor of a toy store then decides to play it along with his boss. The movie went on to gross over $151 million worldwide and propelled Hanks into the Hollywood A-list with an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

Although the 16 foot long piano had to be specially made for the film, You can replicate this magical movie moment with a piano roll mat. Will it be Heart and Soul or Chopsticks?

Here’s what you’ll need:
Click N’ Play Gigantic Keyboard Play Mat

Total cost for all toy instruments: $29.99 (as of May 2020)

From rock classics with giant hand clappers, musical tubes playing pop and blues, miniature masterpieces with bells and whistles and… a rubber chicken?! There’s no song you can’t recreate when you put your mind to it and the fun is endless for children and adults alike. Which was your favourite composition? And which toy will start you off on a magical musical adventure of your very own?