Ancient and Primitive Musical Instruments

Singing is likely the oldest form of music, wherein people try to imitate the sounds of animals and nature. Later, music was interpreted on musical instruments such as flutes, drums, and stringed devices. Ancient or primitive music was more ritualistic in nature. Rhythms from musical instruments were often accompanied by dancing and chanting. These rituals were conducted during important social events such as marriage, child birth or death. Some rituals were also carried out to pray for rains or protect people from natural calamities.

Ancient Musical Instruments

The flute is the oldest known musical instrument. Its discovery in a cave occupied by the Neanderthals suggest it’s been used almost 45,000 years ago. Earlier flutes were made from different materials as discovered in the ruins of different civilizations. These included bones and bamboos, which were suitably modified to produce different tones. Metal rattles or Sistra were popular instruments used in dance and song rituals. A Sistrum was generally made of brass or wood and it had a handle.

Ancient stringed instruments, also known as Chordophones, were instruments in which strings were attached to a bow shaped wood. The strings were plucked to create sounds very much like the modern harp or guitar. These instruments did not have “fingerboard” to change the pitch while playing music. The pitch could only be changed by touching or plucking the strings.

Percussion instruments include a wide range of idiophones (bells, cymbals, rattles, etc.) and membranophones (drums). A large number of these instruments have been found in the archeological sites in and around Middle East. Membranophones were generally elaborately decorated because they were important instruments during a ritual. For instance, Timbrels were played while dancing. Smaller drums were held in the hand or held around the neck, leaving one or both hands free to play. Larger drums had to be held between the legs and played while seated. Though they are primitive in nature, these instruments could produce very complex rhythms and tones when played with different parts of the hand.

Build Your Own Instrument

Primitive instruments can be easily made at home using simple materials such as a shoe box and rubber bands or thin wire cords to make a stringed instrument. Similarly, plywood, gourds, beads and cords can be used to make drums. There are some places where you can find step-by-step instructions for making these instruments. Some of these are short projects which can even be carried out by children. However, building instruments such as the Japanese Taiko drums are slightly complicated as well as time consuming.

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