A waterphone (also ocean harp or AquaSonic waterphone) is a type of inharmonic acoustic percussion instrument consisting of a stainless steel resonator bowl or pan with a cylindrical neck and bronze rods of different lengths and diameters around the rim of the bowl. The resonator may contain a small amount of water giving the waterphone a vibrant ethereal sound that has appeared in movie soundtracks, record albums, and live performances. The instrument was invented and developed by Richard Waters.
Several sizes and design variants of the instrument exist. It is generally played in a seated position by a soloist and either bowed or drummed, played as a friction or struck idiophone, with movements to affect the water inside. This combines the resonant characteristics of the bowl and rods in combination with the movement of the water. The sound of the waterphone is often used to evoke mystery and suspense. A superball mallet has become the prime way of drumming the waterphone.
The waterphone is a modern invention influenced by a Tibetan drum, encountered by the inventor in the early sixties, containing a small amount of water affecting its timbre. It is also related to the nail violin, which also used a resonator and rods (nails), and is struck or bowed.