Instruments

Instrument Families

See how the instruments are categorized.



Accordion
This instrument is held between your hands and consists of bellows, two sets of reeds, akeyboard for the melody and buttons for bass notes and chords. While playing the keyboard and buttons with your fingers, the bellows are pushed open and closed. To make the sound they pump air through one set of reeds when being opened and through the second set of reeds when being closed.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Atumpan
A type of African talking drum. Played in pairs, these drums provide the bass part in Adowa dance ensembles. These drums are also found in Fontomfrom ensembles. The atumpan is played either with one's bare hands or L-shaped sticks.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

Pronunciation:




Autoharp
A strummed instrument with strings stretched across a resonating box. Buttons on th autoharp control bars that dampen all strings except the ones needed to produce a desired chord.




Bagpipe
A wind instrument that is played by blowing air into a pipe leading to the windbag. Air squeezed from the bag into reed pipes. One pipe has finger holes that used to play the melody. The other pipes, called drones, are used to continuously sound one tome each.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Scotland.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Balofon
A gourd-resonated xylophone, originally from West Africa.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Banjo
A stringed instrument in the guitar family with a long neck, five strings and a round body like a tambourine with an open back. A banjo's strings are strummed or plucked with the fingers.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Bass Drum
The largest drum. It stands upright and is hit on the side. It is used in both orchestras and marching bands.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Bassoon
This long, narrow woodwind instrument has a double reed. Its wooden tube is doubled back on itself to reduce its height and ends with a bell that points up. Bassoons play the low notes in the woodwind family.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Bells
A collection of bells that are worn, often around the ankle of a traditional dancer

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of North America.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Biwa
A Japanese short-necked lute, often used in narrative storytelling.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

Pronunciation:




Bodhran
An Irish drum whose construction includes two perpendicular pieces of wood at the back used to hold the instrument. It is most commonly played with a stick that has a knob at one or both ends.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Ireland.




Carillon
A set of bells in a church or bell tower that are played using a keyboard.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Castanets
A Spanish percussion instrument that consists of two small shell shaped pieces of wood held together with string. The strings of the castanets are looped over the thumb. Sound is created by clicking the two shells together using the other ingers.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Spain.




Celesta
A keyboard instrument with tuned metal bars. When a key on the keyboard is pressed, a hammer hits a metal bar to produce a tone.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Cello
A stringed instrument that is double the length of a violin and deeper from front to back. It has four strings, is held between the knees, and is supported on the floor with a metal peg. It is played with a bow and has a tone that is much lower and more mellow than a violin.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Chimes
A set of tuned metal tubes that hang in rows in a frame. The sound is made by striking the tube at the top edge with a mallet. The chimes are often used by orchestras to create the sound of bells.




Clarinet
A woodwind instrument consisting of a black cylindrical tube that has a mouthpiece with a single reed at one end, and a bell at the other end. The wooden tube has holes covered by metal keys, which are pressed to change the instrument's pitch.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Claves
A percussion instrument consisting of a pair of short, wooden sticks

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Latin America.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Clavichord
An early keyboard instrument consisting of strings stretched across an oblong wooden box, and a brass wedge or tangent. When the key is struck, the tangent rises and strikes the string, causing it to make the sound, which is very soft.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Concertina
An instrument with expanding bellows like an accordian, but with buttons, instead of keys, for playing the melody.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Congas
A tall Afro-Cuban drum with a tapered or barrel-shape, played with the fingers and the hollow palm of the hand.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.




Contrabassoon
This instrument is also called a double bassoon. It has a double reed that can play an octave lower than a regular bassoon. Its tube is over 16 feet long and is doubled over on itself four times. The metal bell at the end of the tube points downward.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Cornet
Similar to a trumpet, the cornet has a partly conical metal tube and is mellower and less brilliant than the trumpet.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Cymbals
A percussion instrument consisting of two round metal plates that create classing sounds when struck together. A single cymbal can also be struck with a stick.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Da-daiko
A double-headed cylindrical drum of Japan.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

Pronunciation:




Darbuka 
A single-head drum with a goblet shaped body used mostly in the Middle East and Northern Africa

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of the Middle East.

Pronunciation:




Didgeridoo
A long bamboo or wooden tube, played like a trumpet by Australian aborigines.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Australia.




Djembe
A rope-tuned skin-covered goblet drum played with bare hands, originally from West Africa.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Double Bass
The largest and lowest-pitched instrument in the string family. The double bass rests on the floor on a metal peg; double bass players often stand when they perform.

Pronunciation:

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Drum
A percussion instrument consisting of a hollow cylinder with a skin stretched tightly over one or both ends. The skin is hit with the hands or drumsticks.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Dulcimer
An early stringed instrument whose strings are stretched across a wooden sound box and hit with small hammers.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Dùndún
An hourglass-shaped drum from West Africa, whose pitch can be regulated to mimic the tone and prosody of human speech. It has two drumheads connected by leather tension cords, which allow the player to change the pitch of the drum by squeezing the cords between their arm and body.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

Pronunciation:

Example:




English Horn
A woodwind instrument with a double reed that is similar to an oboe, but longer, and with a pear-shaped bell. Its tone is lower and mellower than an oboe.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Fiddle
The highest pitched member of the string instrument family. It has a shallow wooden body, four strings that are tuned with pegs, and it is played with a bow.

Pronunciation:

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Finger cymbals
Tiny cymbals that are played by putting one on the thumb and the other on the index or middle finger.




Flute
A small, cylindrical woodwind instrument, usually made of silver, that is held sideways to the mouth. It is a tube with one open end and one capped end. Sound is created by blowing across a mouthpiece at the capped end of the instrument. Its pitch is changed by pressing the metal keys that cover holes along the tube.

Pronunciation:

Example:




French Horn
A brass wind instrument with a conical tube that's bent into a circle, a funnel shaped mouthpiece, and a wide bell. The modern French horn has valves that allow it to play a complete chromatic scale.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Gamelan
A multi-timbre ensemble consisting of metallophones, xylophones, flutes, gongs, voices, as well as bowed and plucked strings.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Indonesia.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Gankogui
An African bell made of forged iron and comes in various sizes, it is played by with a wooden stick.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Glockenspiel
A percussion instrument with a set of steel bars arranged like the keyboard of a piano. It is played either with two hammers, or with a piano keyboard.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Gong
A flat, circular metal disc which is hit with a mallet.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Guiro 
A Latin American percussion instrument consisting of an open-ended, hollow gourd with parallel notches cut in one side

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Latin America.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Guitar
A stringed instrument with a long neck and a flat, hollow body. Its strings are plucked or strummed with the fingers.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Guitarrón
a large six-stringed, plucked instrument, usually part of a mariachi ensemble

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Latin America.

Pronunciation:

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Hand Drum
A traditional Native American drum, made with a rawhide stretched over a circular frame

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of North America.

Pronunciation:

Example:

Audio sample courtesy of Douglas Blue Feather




Harmonica
A wind instrument consisting of a set of metal reeds inside a wooden or plastic case, with a metal cover plate. The reeds vibrate to produce pitches when air is blown or drawn through the instrument. Forcing air into a hole by blowing creates one pitch, and drawing air through the same hole by sucking creates a different pitch.

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Harmonium
A keyboard instrument that looks like a small organ. The sound on the harmonium is made by pushing air through metal reeds. The player uses foot pedals to pump the air.

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Harp
This string instrument dates back to pre-historic times. The modern harp has a large triangular frame with strings stretched vertically across the triangle. The strings are graduated in length from longest/lowest pitches to shortest/highest and there are pedals that can be used to raise the pitch of each string by half steps. The sound is created by plucking the strings with fingers.

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Harpsichord
A keyboard instrument that was an ancestor of the piano. When the keys are pressed, the strings are plucked by quills. Because of this, it is nearly impossible to make changes in dynamics playing the harpsichord.

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Kakko
A Japanese double-headed drum.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

Pronunciation:




Kendang
A two-headed drum used by peoples from Maritime Southeast Asia.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Indonesia.

Pronunciation:




Kettle Drum
The only drum that can be tuned to produce definite pitches. Its name comes from the large kettle-shaped bottom, over which the skin of the drumhead is stretched. The player uses a pedal to tighten and loosen the drumhead to change the pitch. Also called timpani.

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Kora
A string instrument used extensively in West Africa, a kora typically has 21-strings which are played by plucking with the fingers, and combines features of the lute and a harp.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

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Koto
A Japanese plucked half-tube zither and the national instrument of Japan.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

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Lute
An ancestor of the guitar, this string instrument with a pear-shaped body has its strings arranged in pairs. Its strings are plucked.

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Lyre
An ancient harp-like string instrument.




Mandolin
A small, stringed instrument of the lute family. It has a pear shaped body, strings in four pairs and a neck similar to a guitar.

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Maracas
A rattle which appears in many genres of Caribbean and Latin music

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Latin America.

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Marimba
A percussion instrument that consists of a set of tuned wooden bars arranged like a piano keyboard. A series of hollow tubes beneath the bars allows the sound to resonate. The bars are struck with mallets.

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Mbira
Traditional to the Shona people of Zimbabwe, a mbira is usually made of a wooden board with attached metal tines, and is played with the thumbs.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

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Metallophone
A percussion instrument with a series of metal bars of varying pitch suspended over a resonance box. The instrument is struck with a hammer or mallet.




Mridangam 
A wooden double-headed drum, originally from southern India.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Indonesia.

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Musical Bow
A simple string instrument used by a number of South African peoples, that consists of a flexible stick and strung end to end with a taut cord, usually metal. It can be played with the hands or a wooden stick or branch.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

Pronunciation:




Native American Flute
A flute that is held in front of the player, has open finger holes, and has two chambers: one for collecting the breath of the player and a second chamber which creates sound.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of North America.

Pronunciation:

Example:

Audio sample courtesy of Douglas Blue Feather




Nohkan
A high pitched, Japanese bamboo flute, commonly used in traditional Imperial Noh and Kabuki theatre

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

Pronunciation:




Oboe
A woodwind instrument made of a conical tube with a double reed stuck into the top. Sound is made by blowing through the double reed. The pitch is changed by opening and closing holes on the sides of the instrument.

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Organ
A keyboard instrument on which sound is produced by forcing air through pipes. Each pipe sounds one tone, and is controlled by keyboards and pedals.

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Pemade
A Balinese instrument in the gamelan, which is used in the gamelan, it normally has seven bronze bars placed on top of a resonating frame.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Bali.

Pronunciation:




Piano
A stringed keyboard instrument. Its strings are struck by hammers which are connected to the keys. There are 88 keys on a modern piano, and each one is a different note. It was originally called pianoforte because it could play both soft (piano) and loud (forte).

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Pianoforte
This is the original name for the modern piano, which comes from the fact that a player could play both soft (piano) and loud (forte), unlike its harpsichord ancestor.

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Piccolo
A small flute that sounds an octave higher than a regular flute. It gets its name from the Italian word for "little" - short for flauto piccolo, or little flute.

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Powwow Drum
A traditional native american drum, made with a large base and covered with rawhide of deer, buffalo or steer

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of North America.

Pronunciation:

Example:

Audio sample courtesy of Douglas Blue Feather




Rattles 
A hand-held rattle that is traditionally used as a dance rattle or to accompany the rhythm of the Native American drums

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of North America.

Pronunciation:

Example:

Audio sample courtesy of Douglas Blue Feather




Rebab
A medieval Arabic bowed musical instrument having from one to three strings, shaped typically like a small lute

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Indonesia.

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Recorder
A woodwind instrument consisting of a wooden tube, at the top of which is a whistle-like mouthpiece. The recoder has a softer tone than the flute, and it is held vertically, not horizontally.

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Sandblocks
Wooden blocks covered with sandpaper that are rubbed together to make a brushing sound.




Saxophone
A wind instrument made of brass with a single reed and a curved conical tube. The pitches are controlled by keys on its body. It is named for its inventor, Adolphe Sax.

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Setar
An Iranian musical instrument and member of the lute family

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of the Middle East.

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Shaker
A percussion instrument made of a container filled with beads or seeds which make a rattle sound when shaken.




Shakuhachi
A Japanese and ancient Chinese end-blown flute, made of bamboo

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

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Shamisen
A three-stringed traditional Japanese musical instrument

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

Pronunciation:




Shekere
(also called Axatse) A West African percussion instrument consisting of a dried gourd with beads or cowries woven into a net covering the gourd.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

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Sitar
A plucked stringed instrument, originating from the Indian subcontinent.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of India.

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Snare Drum
A small double-sided drum with skin pulled tight over the top and bottom. Metal wires, called snares, are stretched across the bottom skin, and rattle when the drum is struck.

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Steel Drums
A tuned percussion instrument, originally made from the kind of large, metal container (also known as a drum) used for storing oil. The head of the steel drum contains several depressions, each of which produces a different pitch. The steeldrum was developed in Trinidad in the 1930's and 40's, and is played with a rubber-headed stick.




Synthesizer
An electronic instrument, usually with a keyboard, used for the generation and modification of sound. First developed for electronic music studios, the technology evolved to enable concert performance, and eventually digital sound and recording capabilities.




Tabla
A pair of twin hand drums from the Indian subcontinent.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of India.

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Taiko
A family of Japanese percussion instruments

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

Pronunciation:




Tambourine
A percussion instrument consisting of a small wooden hoop with metal disc inserts called jingles. The hoop is covered on one side with a drumhead. It is played by shaking or striking the drumhead with the hand.

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Tambura
A stringed drone instrument played in India

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of India.

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Tar 
An Iranian long-necked, waisted lute family instrument, shared by many cultures and countries

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of the Middle East.

Pronunciation:




Theremin
One of the earliest electric instruments, first demonstrated in 1920 by the Russian who invented it: Lev Temen, known in English as Leon Theremin. A Theremin player moves his or her hands around the instrument instead of touching it. The two antennae that stick out of it control pitch and volume by transmitting radio waves.




Timpani
The only drum that can be tuned to produce definite pitches. Timpani is Italian for kettle drum, another name for the instrument because of its large kettle-shaped bottom, over which the skin of the drumhead is stretched. The player uses a pedal to tighten and loosen the drumhead to change the pitch.

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Triangle
A percussion instrument made of a metal bar bent into the shape of a triangle with one corner open. It is held by a string and struck with a metal rod.

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Trombone
A brass wind instrument with a cup mouthpiece and a long metal tube. A moveable U-shaped slide changes the length of the tube, which changes the pitch of the instrument.

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Trumpet
A brass instrument with a cup-shaped mouthpiece and a metal tube with a bell-shaped end. Three valves can be pressed to change the length of the tube, which changes the pitch of the instrument.

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Tuba
The largest and lowest brass instrument, with a mouthpiece and a big bell-shaped opening to a tube that is wrapped around in an oval. Valves on the tube can be pressed to change the pitch of the instrument.

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Ukulele
A small wooden instrument with four strings, similar to a guitar. The ukulele was brought to Hawaii by Portuguese settlers in the 1870's, and quickly became popular with native Hawaiians.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Hawai'i.




Venu
One of the ancient transverse flutes of Indian classical music, typically made from bamboo

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of India.

Pronunciation:




Vihuela
A 15th-century fretted plucked Spanish string instrument, that is shaped like a guitar but tuned like a lute

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Latin America.

Pronunciation:




Vina
An Indian stringed musical instrument

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of India.

Pronunciation:




Viola
Slightly larger than the violin, this member of the string family has a hollow wooden body, four strings that are tuned with pegs, and is played with a bow. It sounds a fifth lower than a violin.

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Violin
The highest pitched member of the string instrument family. It has a shallow wooden body, four strings that are tuned with pegs, and it is played with a bow.

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Woodblock
A percussion instrument that consists of a hollow block of wood, struck with a stick or mallet.




Xylophone
A percussion instrument consisting of a set of tuned wooden bars arranged like a piano keyboard, with a hollow tube under each bar. Each bar gives off a different pitch when struck with a mallet.

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Yamatogoto (Wagon)
a Japanese six- or seven-stringed zither

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

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Zither
A folk instrument with 30 – 40 strings stretched over a flat, shallow, horizontal soundboard. The zither is played with a thumbpick* and with the tips of the fingers.

* A thumbpick is a small, flat tool with a loop on the end that is placed over the thumb, and used to pluck or strum a stringed instrument.


Instruments

Instrument Families

See how the instruments are categorized.



Accordion
This instrument is held between your hands and consists of bellows, two sets of reeds, akeyboard for the melody and buttons for bass notes and chords. While playing the keyboard and buttons with your fingers, the bellows are pushed open and closed. To make the sound they pump air through one set of reeds when being opened and through the second set of reeds when being closed.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Atumpan
A type of African talking drum. Played in pairs, these drums provide the bass part in Adowa dance ensembles. These drums are also found in Fontomfrom ensembles. The atumpan is played either with one's bare hands or L-shaped sticks.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

Pronunciation:




Autoharp
A strummed instrument with strings stretched across a resonating box. Buttons on th autoharp control bars that dampen all strings except the ones needed to produce a desired chord.




Bagpipe
A wind instrument that is played by blowing air into a pipe leading to the windbag. Air squeezed from the bag into reed pipes. One pipe has finger holes that used to play the melody. The other pipes, called drones, are used to continuously sound one tome each.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Scotland.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Balofon
A gourd-resonated xylophone, originally from West Africa.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Banjo
A stringed instrument in the guitar family with a long neck, five strings and a round body like a tambourine with an open back. A banjo's strings are strummed or plucked with the fingers.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Bass Drum
The largest drum. It stands upright and is hit on the side. It is used in both orchestras and marching bands.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Bassoon
This long, narrow woodwind instrument has a double reed. Its wooden tube is doubled back on itself to reduce its height and ends with a bell that points up. Bassoons play the low notes in the woodwind family.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Bells
A collection of bells that are worn, often around the ankle of a traditional dancer

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of North America.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Biwa
A Japanese short-necked lute, often used in narrative storytelling.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

Pronunciation:




Bodhran
An Irish drum whose construction includes two perpendicular pieces of wood at the back used to hold the instrument. It is most commonly played with a stick that has a knob at one or both ends.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Ireland.




Carillon
A set of bells in a church or bell tower that are played using a keyboard.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Castanets
A Spanish percussion instrument that consists of two small shell shaped pieces of wood held together with string. The strings of the castanets are looped over the thumb. Sound is created by clicking the two shells together using the other ingers.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Spain.




Celesta
A keyboard instrument with tuned metal bars. When a key on the keyboard is pressed, a hammer hits a metal bar to produce a tone.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Cello
A stringed instrument that is double the length of a violin and deeper from front to back. It has four strings, is held between the knees, and is supported on the floor with a metal peg. It is played with a bow and has a tone that is much lower and more mellow than a violin.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Chimes
A set of tuned metal tubes that hang in rows in a frame. The sound is made by striking the tube at the top edge with a mallet. The chimes are often used by orchestras to create the sound of bells.




Clarinet
A woodwind instrument consisting of a black cylindrical tube that has a mouthpiece with a single reed at one end, and a bell at the other end. The wooden tube has holes covered by metal keys, which are pressed to change the instrument's pitch.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Claves
A percussion instrument consisting of a pair of short, wooden sticks

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Latin America.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Clavichord
An early keyboard instrument consisting of strings stretched across an oblong wooden box, and a brass wedge or tangent. When the key is struck, the tangent rises and strikes the string, causing it to make the sound, which is very soft.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Concertina
An instrument with expanding bellows like an accordian, but with buttons, instead of keys, for playing the melody.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Congas
A tall Afro-Cuban drum with a tapered or barrel-shape, played with the fingers and the hollow palm of the hand.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.




Contrabassoon
This instrument is also called a double bassoon. It has a double reed that can play an octave lower than a regular bassoon. Its tube is over 16 feet long and is doubled over on itself four times. The metal bell at the end of the tube points downward.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Cornet
Similar to a trumpet, the cornet has a partly conical metal tube and is mellower and less brilliant than the trumpet.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Cymbals
A percussion instrument consisting of two round metal plates that create classing sounds when struck together. A single cymbal can also be struck with a stick.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Da-daiko
A double-headed cylindrical drum of Japan.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

Pronunciation:




Darbuka 
A single-head drum with a goblet shaped body used mostly in the Middle East and Northern Africa

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of the Middle East.

Pronunciation:




Didgeridoo
A long bamboo or wooden tube, played like a trumpet by Australian aborigines.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Australia.




Djembe
A rope-tuned skin-covered goblet drum played with bare hands, originally from West Africa.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Double Bass
The largest and lowest-pitched instrument in the string family. The double bass rests on the floor on a metal peg; double bass players often stand when they perform.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Drum
A percussion instrument consisting of a hollow cylinder with a skin stretched tightly over one or both ends. The skin is hit with the hands or drumsticks.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Dulcimer
An early stringed instrument whose strings are stretched across a wooden sound box and hit with small hammers.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Dùndún
An hourglass-shaped drum from West Africa, whose pitch can be regulated to mimic the tone and prosody of human speech. It has two drumheads connected by leather tension cords, which allow the player to change the pitch of the drum by squeezing the cords between their arm and body.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

Pronunciation:

Example:




English Horn
A woodwind instrument with a double reed that is similar to an oboe, but longer, and with a pear-shaped bell. Its tone is lower and mellower than an oboe.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Fiddle
The highest pitched member of the string instrument family. It has a shallow wooden body, four strings that are tuned with pegs, and it is played with a bow.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Finger cymbals
Tiny cymbals that are played by putting one on the thumb and the other on the index or middle finger.




Flute
A small, cylindrical woodwind instrument, usually made of silver, that is held sideways to the mouth. It is a tube with one open end and one capped end. Sound is created by blowing across a mouthpiece at the capped end of the instrument. Its pitch is changed by pressing the metal keys that cover holes along the tube.

Pronunciation:

Example:




French Horn
A brass wind instrument with a conical tube that's bent into a circle, a funnel shaped mouthpiece, and a wide bell. The modern French horn has valves that allow it to play a complete chromatic scale.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Gamelan
A multi-timbre ensemble consisting of metallophones, xylophones, flutes, gongs, voices, as well as bowed and plucked strings.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Indonesia.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Gankogui
An African bell made of forged iron and comes in various sizes, it is played by with a wooden stick.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Glockenspiel
A percussion instrument with a set of steel bars arranged like the keyboard of a piano. It is played either with two hammers, or with a piano keyboard.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Gong
A flat, circular metal disc which is hit with a mallet.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Guiro 
A Latin American percussion instrument consisting of an open-ended, hollow gourd with parallel notches cut in one side

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Latin America.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Guitar
A stringed instrument with a long neck and a flat, hollow body. Its strings are plucked or strummed with the fingers.

Pronunciation:

Example:




Guitarrón
a large six-stringed, plucked instrument, usually part of a mariachi ensemble

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Latin America.

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Hand Drum
A traditional Native American drum, made with a rawhide stretched over a circular frame

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of North America.

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Audio sample courtesy of Douglas Blue Feather




Harmonica
A wind instrument consisting of a set of metal reeds inside a wooden or plastic case, with a metal cover plate. The reeds vibrate to produce pitches when air is blown or drawn through the instrument. Forcing air into a hole by blowing creates one pitch, and drawing air through the same hole by sucking creates a different pitch.

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Harmonium
A keyboard instrument that looks like a small organ. The sound on the harmonium is made by pushing air through metal reeds. The player uses foot pedals to pump the air.

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Harp
This string instrument dates back to pre-historic times. The modern harp has a large triangular frame with strings stretched vertically across the triangle. The strings are graduated in length from longest/lowest pitches to shortest/highest and there are pedals that can be used to raise the pitch of each string by half steps. The sound is created by plucking the strings with fingers.

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Harpsichord
A keyboard instrument that was an ancestor of the piano. When the keys are pressed, the strings are plucked by quills. Because of this, it is nearly impossible to make changes in dynamics playing the harpsichord.

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Kakko
A Japanese double-headed drum.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

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Kendang
A two-headed drum used by peoples from Maritime Southeast Asia.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Indonesia.

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Kettle Drum
The only drum that can be tuned to produce definite pitches. Its name comes from the large kettle-shaped bottom, over which the skin of the drumhead is stretched. The player uses a pedal to tighten and loosen the drumhead to change the pitch. Also called timpani.

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Kora
A string instrument used extensively in West Africa, a kora typically has 21-strings which are played by plucking with the fingers, and combines features of the lute and a harp.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

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Koto
A Japanese plucked half-tube zither and the national instrument of Japan.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

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Lute
An ancestor of the guitar, this string instrument with a pear-shaped body has its strings arranged in pairs. Its strings are plucked.

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Lyre
An ancient harp-like string instrument.




Mandolin
A small, stringed instrument of the lute family. It has a pear shaped body, strings in four pairs and a neck similar to a guitar.

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Maracas
A rattle which appears in many genres of Caribbean and Latin music

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Latin America.

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Marimba
A percussion instrument that consists of a set of tuned wooden bars arranged like a piano keyboard. A series of hollow tubes beneath the bars allows the sound to resonate. The bars are struck with mallets.

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Mbira
Traditional to the Shona people of Zimbabwe, a mbira is usually made of a wooden board with attached metal tines, and is played with the thumbs.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

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Metallophone
A percussion instrument with a series of metal bars of varying pitch suspended over a resonance box. The instrument is struck with a hammer or mallet.




Mridangam 
A wooden double-headed drum, originally from southern India.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Indonesia.

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Musical Bow
A simple string instrument used by a number of South African peoples, that consists of a flexible stick and strung end to end with a taut cord, usually metal. It can be played with the hands or a wooden stick or branch.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

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Native American Flute
A flute that is held in front of the player, has open finger holes, and has two chambers: one for collecting the breath of the player and a second chamber which creates sound.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of North America.

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Audio sample courtesy of Douglas Blue Feather




Nohkan
A high pitched, Japanese bamboo flute, commonly used in traditional Imperial Noh and Kabuki theatre

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

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Oboe
A woodwind instrument made of a conical tube with a double reed stuck into the top. Sound is made by blowing through the double reed. The pitch is changed by opening and closing holes on the sides of the instrument.

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Organ
A keyboard instrument on which sound is produced by forcing air through pipes. Each pipe sounds one tone, and is controlled by keyboards and pedals.

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Pemade
A Balinese instrument in the gamelan, which is used in the gamelan, it normally has seven bronze bars placed on top of a resonating frame.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Bali.

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Piano
A stringed keyboard instrument. Its strings are struck by hammers which are connected to the keys. There are 88 keys on a modern piano, and each one is a different note. It was originally called pianoforte because it could play both soft (piano) and loud (forte).

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Pianoforte
This is the original name for the modern piano, which comes from the fact that a player could play both soft (piano) and loud (forte), unlike its harpsichord ancestor.

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Piccolo
A small flute that sounds an octave higher than a regular flute. It gets its name from the Italian word for "little" - short for flauto piccolo, or little flute.

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Powwow Drum
A traditional native american drum, made with a large base and covered with rawhide of deer, buffalo or steer

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of North America.

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Audio sample courtesy of Douglas Blue Feather




Rattles 
A hand-held rattle that is traditionally used as a dance rattle or to accompany the rhythm of the Native American drums

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of North America.

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Audio sample courtesy of Douglas Blue Feather




Rebab
A medieval Arabic bowed musical instrument having from one to three strings, shaped typically like a small lute

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Indonesia.

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Recorder
A woodwind instrument consisting of a wooden tube, at the top of which is a whistle-like mouthpiece. The recoder has a softer tone than the flute, and it is held vertically, not horizontally.

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Sandblocks
Wooden blocks covered with sandpaper that are rubbed together to make a brushing sound.




Saxophone
A wind instrument made of brass with a single reed and a curved conical tube. The pitches are controlled by keys on its body. It is named for its inventor, Adolphe Sax.

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Setar
An Iranian musical instrument and member of the lute family

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of the Middle East.

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Shaker
A percussion instrument made of a container filled with beads or seeds which make a rattle sound when shaken.




Shakuhachi
A Japanese and ancient Chinese end-blown flute, made of bamboo

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

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Shamisen
A three-stringed traditional Japanese musical instrument

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

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Shekere
(also called Axatse) A West African percussion instrument consisting of a dried gourd with beads or cowries woven into a net covering the gourd.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Africa.

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Sitar
A plucked stringed instrument, originating from the Indian subcontinent.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of India.

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Snare Drum
A small double-sided drum with skin pulled tight over the top and bottom. Metal wires, called snares, are stretched across the bottom skin, and rattle when the drum is struck.

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Steel Drums
A tuned percussion instrument, originally made from the kind of large, metal container (also known as a drum) used for storing oil. The head of the steel drum contains several depressions, each of which produces a different pitch. The steeldrum was developed in Trinidad in the 1930's and 40's, and is played with a rubber-headed stick.




Synthesizer
An electronic instrument, usually with a keyboard, used for the generation and modification of sound. First developed for electronic music studios, the technology evolved to enable concert performance, and eventually digital sound and recording capabilities.




Tabla
A pair of twin hand drums from the Indian subcontinent.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of India.

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Taiko
A family of Japanese percussion instruments

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

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Tambourine
A percussion instrument consisting of a small wooden hoop with metal disc inserts called jingles. The hoop is covered on one side with a drumhead. It is played by shaking or striking the drumhead with the hand.

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Tambura
A stringed drone instrument played in India

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of India.

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Tar 
An Iranian long-necked, waisted lute family instrument, shared by many cultures and countries

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of the Middle East.

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Theremin
One of the earliest electric instruments, first demonstrated in 1920 by the Russian who invented it: Lev Temen, known in English as Leon Theremin. A Theremin player moves his or her hands around the instrument instead of touching it. The two antennae that stick out of it control pitch and volume by transmitting radio waves.




Timpani
The only drum that can be tuned to produce definite pitches. Timpani is Italian for kettle drum, another name for the instrument because of its large kettle-shaped bottom, over which the skin of the drumhead is stretched. The player uses a pedal to tighten and loosen the drumhead to change the pitch.

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Triangle
A percussion instrument made of a metal bar bent into the shape of a triangle with one corner open. It is held by a string and struck with a metal rod.

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Trombone
A brass wind instrument with a cup mouthpiece and a long metal tube. A moveable U-shaped slide changes the length of the tube, which changes the pitch of the instrument.

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Trumpet
A brass instrument with a cup-shaped mouthpiece and a metal tube with a bell-shaped end. Three valves can be pressed to change the length of the tube, which changes the pitch of the instrument.

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Tuba
The largest and lowest brass instrument, with a mouthpiece and a big bell-shaped opening to a tube that is wrapped around in an oval. Valves on the tube can be pressed to change the pitch of the instrument.

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Ukulele
A small wooden instrument with four strings, similar to a guitar. The ukulele was brought to Hawaii by Portuguese settlers in the 1870's, and quickly became popular with native Hawaiians.

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Hawai'i.




Venu
One of the ancient transverse flutes of Indian classical music, typically made from bamboo

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of India.

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Vihuela
A 15th-century fretted plucked Spanish string instrument, that is shaped like a guitar but tuned like a lute

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Latin America.

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Vina
An Indian stringed musical instrument

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of India.

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Viola
Slightly larger than the violin, this member of the string family has a hollow wooden body, four strings that are tuned with pegs, and is played with a bow. It sounds a fifth lower than a violin.

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Violin
The highest pitched member of the string instrument family. It has a shallow wooden body, four strings that are tuned with pegs, and it is played with a bow.

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Woodblock
A percussion instrument that consists of a hollow block of wood, struck with a stick or mallet.




Xylophone
A percussion instrument consisting of a set of tuned wooden bars arranged like a piano keyboard, with a hollow tube under each bar. Each bar gives off a different pitch when struck with a mallet.

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Yamatogoto (Wagon)
a Japanese six- or seven-stringed zither

*Usually considered a traditional instrument of Japan.

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Zither
A folk instrument with 30 – 40 strings stretched over a flat, shallow, horizontal soundboard. The zither is played with a thumbpick* and with the tips of the fingers.

* A thumbpick is a small, flat tool with a loop on the end that is placed over the thumb, and used to pluck or strum a stringed instrument.