Traditional Instrument Resource by Geographic Location
Music has always been an integral part of human life, regardless of the geographic location or time. Universally people have used any available resources to create musical instruments. Most instruments fall into three main categories: percussion for rhythmic sounds, and wind and string instruments to provide melody. It is uncanny to note how they follow the same intrinsic principal functions across all cultures. This guide introduces some of the most popular instruments in each category around the world.
- Djembe – Skin-covered hand drum used in African rituals and ceremonies.
- Shekere – A rattle made from a hollowed-out gourd. The outside is decorated with loosely strung cowry shells.
- Dondo (talking drums) – African hand drum which mimics the sound of talking.
- Algaita – Nigerian double-reed wood wind instrument with holes to control pitch.
- Ivory Horn – Simple horn made by boring a hole at either end of an elephant’s tusk.
- Kora – The body is bowl-shaped like a lute and the strings jut outwards from a long neck, like those of a harp. Found in West Africa.
- Kamale Ngoni – Mali instrument, featuring a rounded body and very long neck, used in hunting rituals and young male ceremonies.
- Tabla – Pair of Indian drums for each hand. Different tones are produced from various spots on the drumhead.
- Paiban – Intricately carved wooden slabs strung together to create rhythmic sounds. Originated in China from the Tang dynasty.
- Anklung – Slide rattles carved from bamboo, originally from several south-east Asian countries.
- Shinobue – Japanese bamboo wind instrument played to the side like a flute.
- Piri – A Korean double reed instrument typically used in traditional and folk music.
- Guqin – Traditional Chinese stringed instrument, related to the zither.
- Sarangi – Squat North Indian wooden stringed instrument, played upright, with around forty strings.
- Bullroarer – An elongated oval piece of wood is attached to a thick cord and thunders when spun around. Used by Australian Aboriginals.
- Gongs – Pacific Island gongs made of wood with sharkskin for the head.
- Didgeridoo – Traditional drone instrument made from a long wood cylinder hollowed by termites.
- Koauau – Short, fat flute used by the Maori in New Zealand.
- Sesando – Indonesian half-sphere-shaped instrument made from palm leaves.
- Waken – Hollowed wooden instrument with a slit along the length. Found in Papua New Guinea.
- Bodhrán – Large Irish hand drum with goatskin for the membrane, distinctive in Irish folk music.
- Hang – Swiss metal drum with large indentations in the surface which create varying tones when hit.
- Flageolet – French wood instrument, later replaced by tin whistles.
- Alboka – Small, curved horn-type Basque instrument.
- Kantele – Traditional Finnish instrument, carved from wood with horsehair strings.
- Epinette – 5-stringed instrument from the north-east region of France.
- Zils – Small metal finger symbols, often used by belly dancers.
- Mouth Harp – Small metal instrument creating a distinct twanging drone. Used everywhere in Turkey and eventually spread to Europe.
- Ney – Famous Middle Eastern flute made from a reed or cane.
- Zurna – Turkish wood instrument resembling a trumpet.
- Kamanche – Persian instrument featuring gut or steel strings stretched across a hollow gourd or coconut body.
- Oud – Popular fretless lute-like Arabic instrument.
- Bukhalo – Large Ukrainian drum played with a stick.
- Tsymbaly – Although the tsymbaly is stringed, it is used as a percussive instrument.
- Garmon – Russian accordion powered by bellows, prominent in folk music.
- Zhaleika – A single reed hornpipe popular in Russian folk music.
- Balalaika – Popular Russian small 3-stringed wooden instrument with a triangular body and thin neck.
- Gusli – Upright Russian instrument played by plucking the strings; related to the Finnish Kantele.
- Torban – Old Ukrainian instrument, similar to a lute.
- Tortoise Rattle – Rattle made from a tortoise shell used by Ojibway tribe in Canada.
- Kazoo – Small American folk instrument played by humming into the mouthpiece.
- Ukelele – Hawaiian instrument, resembling a small guitar but closer in relation to the lute family.
- Appalachian Dulcimer – Three or four stringed zither-like instrument with a fretboard spanning the length of the body.
- Castanets – Similar to zils, since they are hand-held and sound by clicking the sides together. Most often used in Latin American music by dancers.
- Cajon – Box-shaped Peruvian drum.
- Tarka – Ornately carved wooden flute from the Andes.
- Siku – Panpipes from Bolivia and Peru. Sikus vary in size and tunings based on the district they come from.
- Cuatro – Puerto Rican instrument similar to a guitar, although much smaller.
- Columbian Tiple – Guitar-like instrument featuring twelve strings instead of the usual six found on a guitar.