Glossary of Musical
Instruments & Styles
- Antara -
term used by the Quechua people of Peru for the Andean panpipes
- Atabal -
cylindrical double-headed bass drum of the Basque region; wider
- general term for a conical single-headed drum of Brazil; usually
played in threes, each of different size.
- Aud - Egyptian
lute (see ud).
- Baglama -
long-necked turkish lute, about 1m, member of the saz family.
- Balafon -
African xylophone: set of three: bass, mid range and high one
- lute-type; triangle shape; national instrument of Russia.
- Bamboo xylophone
- (Papua New Guinea) - pair of large bamboo xylophones erected
on ladders, beaten with rubber flipflops (sandals) or thongs.
- Bandola -
modern lute of Colombia; tear-drop shape, flat or concave back.
- square-built button accordion; used in Argentinian tango.
- type of psaltery found in the Ukraine; short neck, oval, flat
body; held vertically.
- small 12 string mandolin type instrument with a very short wide
neck, popular in Spain.
- Bata drums
- set of double-headed drums.
- Bata (Afican)
- set of three drums: the 'iyailu' or "mother drum", a talking
drum; the 'emele abo' is the second drum, smaller and higher pitched;
the 'omele' is the base of the set and consists of 3 or 4 small
drums tied together, and plays steady grooves.
- Bayan - chromatic
accordian of Russia and Belorussia, with button keyboard.
- Bawoo - Chinese
wind instrument; bamboo tube with rectangular hole carved in side
near closed end, with reed fastened across; finger and thumb holes.
- Biniou -
Breton bagpipe with single drone, pitched an octave higher than
- Bodhran -
single-headed frame drum of Ireland; membrane, of animal skin,
usually nailed to frame; hand-held using criss-cross system of
cord, wire or sticks over open end.
- Breton shawm, usually pitched in Bb, sometimes C. Traditionally
played as a duet with the Biniou.
- Bombo - large
- Bombo (2)
- One of at least 45 Aboriginal words for didjeridu
- Greek long necked lute; 3 or 4 double courses of metal strings.
- Caja - frame
drum, sometimes with snare, of Spain and the New World.
- Cajon - Cuban
box drum, made from a wooden box.
- dried hollow shell of a gourd, used as a rattle.
- Campana -
- Celtic folk harp
- small instrument of 24 to 34 strings.
- ten string instrument, made from the shell of an armadillo;
an Amerindian version of the imported European mandolin; found
in an Andean region.
- Cheng - 1)
half tube plucked zither of the Han chinese; 2) chinese gong.
- predecessor of the kena, but bigger.
- Chordophone -
class of instruments compreising strings stretched between fixed
points, including: zithers, lute types (lute, violin, guitar,
etc), harp types.
- Cittern -
small wire-strung plucked instrument; played with a plectrum;
popular from renaissance to baroque times, modern citterns are
much bigger, and more like mandolins in shape.
- Scottish folk harp, 25 to 34 strings usually.
- Cobsa - short-necked
lute of Romania; pear-shaped, 5-7-sectioned resonator.
- Cuatro -
of the guitar family; found in South America and the West Indies.
- Cuica - Brazilian
friction drum with a remarkable pitch range.
- Cura - smallest
of the saz family, about 75cm.
- box zither of Hungary, related to the English dulcimer.
- Daduk - Bulgarian
- Daire - round,
single-headed drum of south-eastern Europe, Asia etc.
- one-sided goblet-shaped drum; Northern Africa, Middle East
- hand drum.
- Dholak -
(or Dhol) double ended drum traditionally used in weddings across
the Indian subcontinent.
- traditionally used by aborigines of Northern Australia; an end-blown,
straight, natural trumpet, without separate mouthpiece, made from
termite hollowed eucalyptus branch, stripped of its outer bark,
with beeswax at mouth end. Also made from bamboo. Yidaki and yidaki;
Two of about 45 Aboriginal words for didjeridu. Didjeridu not
an Aboriginal word
- Divan - largest
member f the saz family, about 140cm.
- Dizi - transverse
flute of the Han Chinese.
- Djembe -
one-sided drum from west coast of Africa, usually carved from
a single tree trunk.
- Dobro - guiatr
with one or more metal resonator discs mounted inside body.
- the brass Tabla.
- Duduk - flute
of Bulgaria; 20-100cm long; 6 finger holes.
- Duf - a Mazhar
but without the cymbals.
- name applied to certain musical instruments of the box zither
- Dumbeg -
(or Dumbeck)hour glass-shaped drum similar to darabuka.
- Dumbra -
lute of the Tartar people.
- Dundun -
African; set of 4 drums, the 'iyailu' member is shaped like an
hour glass and has a skin on each side, linked by tension strings
(by pressing these, up to 2 octaves can be played); but only played
- Bulgarian double fipple flute.
- Emele abo
- see Bata
- Erhu - chinese
2 string fiddle.
- Fa'atete -
Tahitian drum, covered in a tight, single membrane; distinct,
high sound like a drum roll.
- Fender Rhodes
- Jazz: electric piano.
- Fipple -
a word meaning the sharp edge of the lip (of a flute or recorder).
- valved brass instrument resembling a large cornet
- Gadulka -
Bulgarian type of fiddle played upright; usually rests on knee.
- Gangan -
Nigiran drum, smaller than Dundun; palyed under the arm.
- Gasbah -
- Gayda - Bulgarian
bagpipe; single reed; mouth blown.
- Ghatam -
South Indian clay pot; classical percussion.
- Gilo stones -
(Solomon Islands, Pacific) music is created by striking certain
stones with bamboo sticks of varying lengths, prodrucing mellifluous
xylpophonic sounds, like running water.
- Gousli -
traditional Russian zither/harp with 16 metal strings.
- Guiro - scraper
of the Caribbean; long, fretted gourd rubbed with stick.
- based on the European guitar and mandolin, this intrument with
10 strings has a "sound body" made from the armour of the armadillo.
- Guitarron -
large bass guitar of Chile and Mexico.
- Guoqin -
7-stringed Chinese zither.
- Gyterne -
- Hammond -
Jazz: electric organ, often times equipped with built in rotating
Leslie speaker for tremolo effect.
- Hardanger fiddle
- folk violin of western Norway; 8/9 strings; narrower, shorter-necked
and more arched than the ordinary violin.
- small, portable, bellow-blown reed organ used in India; player
usually sits on ground, one hand fingering keyboard, other pumping
bellows. European and American Harmoniums have a pedestal, and
foot pedals to pump the bellows. The player sits in a chair and
uses both hands!
- Iyailu -
see Bata drums.
- Jaleika -
from Tver, Russia; wind instrument made from reed-tipped cow horn.
- Jarana -
five course guitar of Mexico, smaller than the normal guitar.
- bowed lyre of Finland.
- Kalimba -
played with the thumbs; "thumb piano"; its sound is produced by
the vibration of toungues of metal or wood; small in size.
- Kanoun -
(also 'quanun') zither/psaltry of the Middle East.
- Kantele -
known by other names including 'gousli'; Finnish folk instrument
of the psaltery type.
- Kanun - 72
stringed harp of the Near East.
- Kaval - long,
rim-blown flute from Bulgaria.
- Kawala -
special type of egyptian bamboo flute (different from the nay);
played in religious festivals.
- Kena - shepherd's
pipe; shepherd's flute (pre-Colombian times) without mouthpiece,
carved in a bamboo cane; originally carved from animal bone.
- Kobsa - plucked
- Konghou -
historical Chinese string instrument; harp.
- Koto - longest
of the long zithers of East Asia; about 6 feet long; 13 silk strings;
this narrow harp is laid horizontally, each string with its own
- Lali - (Beqa,
the Pacific) two large slit log drums.
- Laud - a
flat back lute from Spain, with 12 metal strings in 6 courses
and pear shaped body.
- Lojki - wooden
spoons, popular Russian percussion.
- Lute, class
of instruments related to the violin and guitar; do not necessarily
have to have a 'body'; plucked or bowed; many types.
- modern commercially manufactured, fully resonated orchestral
- Mazhar -
a very large tambourine.
- 1) button accordion, In England this term includes all button
keyed accordions, in Ireland and Scotland it is more specific
to the one row 10 keyed variety.
2)small reed organ with single keyboard;
- percussion instrument consisting of a row of tuned metal bars.
- Mizmar -
Arabic wind instrument with single or double reed.
- Moxenos -
family of three wooden flutes of variable size(large, medium and
small) that are always played simutaneously.
- Nai - panpipes
of Romania; concave row of 20 pipes of different lengths and diameters,
glued together in order of size with lower ends resting on a slightly
curved stick; lower ends stopped with cork, then filled with beeswax
to determine tuning.
- Nay - Egyptian
- Norwegian tusselfloyte
- a Norwegian flute.
- keyed fiddle used throughout Scandinavia and N. Germany.
- Ocarina -
extremely popular vessel flute usually made of terracotta; all-in-one
large, elongated egg-shaped with flattened tube in its side and
- Omele - see
- Oud - Egyptian
- Ovcharska svirka
- Bulgarian shepherd's pipe, smaller version of the kaval.
- Pahu - Tahitian
bass drum; double-headed membranophone; Western origin; can be
of hollowed out coconut trunks, covered by either sharkskin or
- Pahu Tupa'l Rima
- Tahitian single membrane drum, not unlike a tall conga.
- either frame drum or tambourine of Portugal, Brazil and Galicia
- Paraguayan harp
- 36 strings; built by the Guarani tribe of Indians from carefully
selected local wood that must then be stored for at least 2 generations.
- Pate - (Cook
Islands, the Pacific) slit log drums.
- A one of a kind electric ten stringed collision of the hammer
dulcimer, slide guitar, koto and fretless bass with six pickups
of varied types. It is struck with sticks, plucked and bowed.
- Pinquillo -
very small wooden flute with mouthpiece.
- Pipa - 4-stringed
guitar-like plucked instrument; pear-shaped box.
- Psaltery -
box zither; raised wooden board or box with soundholes, with strings
stretched parallel to the soundboard and attached at either side
by wooden pegs or metal pins; usually plucked.
- Qanoun -
- Quanoon -
- Quena - see
- large Quena.
- Venezualan homemade instrument made from bamboo; when hit against
each other and against the floor produce the unique Qui-ti-pla
- Rebaba -
depends whether 'rabab'-lute or 'rababa'-lyre [rebab; term for
lutes, both bowed and plucked, and lyres] [rababa:bowl lyre with
5 or 6 strings, similar to the tanbura].
- Reque - medium-sized
- small guitar used in Spain, Colombia, Equador and Mexico.
- Rigg - (riqq)
- see rik.
- Rik - small
drum with jingles as in tambourine.
- Rojok - 'Vladimirskii
Rojok': russian trumpet carved from a single piece of wood, usually
- Ronador -
panpipes of Ecuador; variety of forms; tubes are closed at the
bottom; may be made of cane, vulture feathers or other material.
- Russian guitar
- 7 strings; popularised at the beginning of the 20th century.
- Sanduri -
Greek term for the zither; also applied to the cymbalon.
- Santoor -
simple, stringed instrument, belonging to the category of zithers;
struck with two hammers; similar to the cymbalon.
- Santour -
same as santoor, santur, sanduri.
- Sarangi -
foremost bowed instrument in North Indian classical music; of
one piece of wood with a goat skin sound table; no frets.
- Saz - family
of long-necked lutes played throughout Turkey; eg:baglama, cura,
- Sekere -
African calabash embroidered with beads to give shaker sound.
- Sepik flutes
Kanengara - (Papua New Guinea) the longest flutes in the world.
- Shaksha -
- Japanese bamboo flute with 4 finger holes and a thumb hole;
great flexibility of tone and pitch through half holing and head
- Japanese 3-string lute, like a long-necked, fretless banjo with
parchment strtched across the front; plucked with a heavy ivory
- Shawm - double
reed wood instrument; the oboe is a modern example.
- Sitar - Indian
Classical stringed instrument (also has Persian links?), modern
type has 7 plucked strings and other sympathetic strings (not
plucked); fretted with a gourd base; plectrum (misrab) can be
- cousin of the sitar but longer at 5 ft 5ins.
- Surdo - Brazilian
- Tabla - NB
Egyptian: single headed, hour glass-shaped drum, used by
- Tabla - (or
tabla-bayan) - NB Indian: an asymmetrical pair of small,
tuned hand played drums (of the kettle-drum type) of north and
central India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; the tabla drum is of wood,
the Bayan of metal.
- double-headed drum of Latin America; similar to bombo but wider
- cylindrical drum of Brazil, 30 cm long; used in dramatic dances.
- Tambura -
long-necked fretted lute from Bulgaria, especially seen in Pirin.
- plucked lute of Yugoslavia; wire strings; several soundholes.
- main instrument of Slavonic music; an instrument of the Tanbur-lute
family, which originally came from Asia.
- Tanbur -
name applied to various long-necked lutes of the Middle East and
- Tanpura -
long-necked ancient lute of India; four strings; provides the
reference point for melodic improvisations by performers of the
- Tapan - double-headed
- Tarkas -
wooden flute with mouthpiece.
- woodwind instrument with a reed, similar to an oboe; 30-40cm;
dark, penetrating tone.
- Thavil -
two-headed drum originating from Southern India; for festivals.
- pair of metal-shelled, single-headed, cylindrical drums.
- Tiple - in
Spain, Colombia, Puerto Rico, etc., a small type of guitar; 12
- To'ere -
Tahitian slit log drum; hollowed out trunk of tou wood, struck
with a wooden beater; the larger the instrument, the deeper the
- Tonback -
drum used in Iranian classical music; carved from wood, open at
the lower end, covered with goat or calf-skin at the wider, upper
end; played with the fingers of both hands.
- Tres - type
of guitar with 3 single or double courses of strings.
- Trump - hand-sized
instrument placed in front of the mouth; sound produced by blowing
across a flexible ' toungue' set into a frame; many types. Also
known as Jew's Harp or Jaw Harp
- Trombita -
large horn, similar to the alpenhorn.
- Tulum - bagpipe
of Turkey and Azerbaijan.
- Tzouras -
Greek long-necked lute.
- Ud - (also
spelt aud or oud) short necked, plucked lute of the Arab world,
the direct ancestor of the European lute;principal instrument
of the Arab world.
- Udu drum
- clay pot with 2 holes, cupped alternatively; sound produced
by compression and release of the air inside it.
- Uillean pipes
- see union pipe; ('Uillean' is Gaelic for elbow)
- Ukulele -
(or Ukelele) small guitar shaped instrument of Hawaiian origin,
4 nylon strings.
- Union pipe
- type of bellows-blown bagpipe known in Ireland from 18th century.
- of the bar percussion family; metal; similar in appearance to
- Vihuela -
plucked chordophone of the viol family.
- Stainless steel and bronze monolithic, one-of-a-kind, acoustic,
tonal-friction instruments that utilize water in the interior
of their resonators to bend tones and create water echos. Played
with mallets, by hand, and with a bow.
- Chinese bamboo pipe.
- Yang Qin
- Chinese hammered dulcimer; came into China from Persia in the
17th century and now regarded as a Chinese national instrument.
- Zampona -
panpipe; reed pipe, different length of reed bound together, know
in Europe as a pan flute; neither mouth piece or finger holes.
- Zurna - another
name for shawm; folk oboe of the Arab world.
Back to Resources