The infamous sound effect used by Gundam and many other movies, songs, and anime is this humble instrument.

Fans of the Gundam franchise will no doubt be familiar with the sound effect that occurs whenever a Newtype (an evolution of regular humans) triggers their enhanced senses in what is known as a “Newtype Flash.” It’s unassuming and yet just jarring enough to stick in the grey matter of all who hear it on a regular basis.

Here’s an isolated sample:

Even if you’re not a Gundam fan, you’ve probably heard that sound used elsewhere in film, TV, music, especially stuff which was created in the ’70s and ’80s like funk music.

▼ It’s pretty low in the mix so you might have to listen carefully, but Rick James’ Newtype powers kick in about 27 seconds in. Cocaine is a hell of a drug.

Also, here’s that very same sound effect, used in almost the same capacity as Gundam but by Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z.

Most of us just took it for granted without ever questioning what exactly is making that weird sound. But when Twitter user Sonya (@Sonya_Sharashka) recently stumbled upon its true identity, of a lesser known instrument called a flexatone, everyone took notice.

“The Newtype sound effect seems to be coming from this unique instrument called a flexatone. I want it… I really want it! I too want this instrument!”

It’s being played a little more slowly in Sonya’s tweet which reminded a lot of people of another, more recent, pop culture use of this sound:

▼ Keep your ears open at the 10-second mark and about every five seconds after that.

The flexatone was invented in the early 1900s and combines elements of bells and the musical saw. It’s simply a thin sheet of metal that can be bent to adjust the pitch while two little wooden mallets hit it on either side.

It’s pretty unwieldy as far as playing a cohesive melody, so the flexatone is usually relegated to atmospheric little flourishes as heard above. However, some people have attempted to take it further such as Juri Seo and her piece “Four for Flexatones (for four flexatones).”

Whether it’s avant-garde music, video games, funk, or anime, there’s a bit of nostalgia in the flexatone for people of all ages and backgrounds. It’s a shame that an instrument that pulls so much weight is so overlooked, stuck in the shadows with fellow misunderstood greats the Udar and sheng.

Source: Twitter/@Sonya_Sharashka, Hachima Kiko
Featured image: Twitter/@Sonya_Sharashka
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