Instrument Petting Zoo

Instrument Petting Zoo

One of the ways to enjoy TWM is to challenge yourself to recognize the sound and identify each of the instruments used in the videos. They are listed here alphabetically:


The accordion belongs to the free-reed aerophone family. Sound is produced by the squeezing and release of a bellows air chamber, which generates airflow. A keyboard produces the tones by controlling the airflow to the different reeds. The accordion was introduced to Arabic music in the early 1950s when a German company produced a new accordion that could finally play the quarter-tone pitch relationships used so frequently in Arabic music.

Bawu Flute

The bawu is popular among the Miao, the Hani, the Yi, the Dai, and other people of the Yunnan province. To these people the bawu most definitely is a “talking instrument,” which speaks with a mellow tone and reflects some qualities of their local languages. Traditionally it is used in the accompaniment of dancing and singing.

Blues (electric) Guitar

The blues (electric) guitar is very similar to an acoustic guitar; it is a six-stringed instrument made of wood that can be divided into three main parts.  The solid body can be made up of more than one kind of wood and can take on designer shapes.  The neck is a long piece of wood that contains 19 metal frets, and the head has six pins that can alter the tension of a string and be used to tune the guitar.  The major difference between acoustic and electric guitars is that, instead of the acoustic soundbox, the electric guitar needs external equipment and electric power to amplify its sound enough to be heard.


This instrument is a large drum dating back to very early cultures in Argentina, traditionally made from a hollowed tree trunk with a head made of animal skin. It is played with two sticks, and is still used in Chile and other parts of South America as well.


The Spanish word “cajón” translates to “box” or “crate” in English, and that’s exactly where this Peruvian percussion instrument originated from.  The creation of the cajón is attributed to enslaved Africans who were brought to Peru by the Spanish conquistadors. The Spanish had banned the use of drums among the Africans, but they could not extinguish the desire to create music. So it wasn’t long before the Africans began using shipping crates as drums, because these crates were easy to find in the coastal towns. The original shape has remained intact and the cajón still looks like a crate, or box.  The percussionist sits on top of the cajón and plays the drum by slapping various sections of the drum with different parts of his hand. The player can also rock back and forth while sitting on the cajón to create different pitches or changes in the percussive sound.


This is a small South American stringed instrument, originally from Bolivia but now played in Chile and other countries as well.  The soundbox was originally made from the shell of an armadillo, and often, the current shape of the back of the soundbox is still meant to resemble the armadillo shell, even though it’s made of wood.  The charango has five pairs of strings, and all ten strings are tuned inside one octave.


The cuatro is a small four-string guitar. ( “Cuatro” in Spanish means “four”.)  It is tuned so that it can be strummed in a way similar to the flamenco style of Spain.  The up-stroke of the strum sounds the same as the down-stroke.


The dabakan is the only actual drum in the kulintang ensemble of gongs.  However, it plays a very important role in the ensemble by being a time-keeper for the whole group.  It keeps the pace and pulse to which the other instruments must adhere, even when their rhythmic patterns are different.

Darbouga (or Doumbek)

This goblet-shaped drum is found in music cultures all over the world.  Darbouga, or darbouka, is the name for this drum when used in Northern Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean. In other regions it is called the Doumbek. The huge variety of names for the “goblet drum” is testament to the central role it has played in so many cultures. In the modern version of the drum, the body (base) is made of ceramic, and the head (top) is plastic.


The dholak is a North Indian and Pakistani hand drum used in Qawwali and Sufi music, Indian film and folk music, and religious music of the Hindu, Islamic, and Sikhs traditions. The dholak is barrel-shaped, with a thin but strong skin pulled tight over either end.  The left side of the drum has a lower pitch due to a special coating of tar, clay and sand.


The djembe is found in all countries and cultures of West Africa, where it is one of the most common instruments. The rounded shape with the extended tube of the djembe body gives the drum a deep bass sound.  It is played with two hands, and the three main types of sounds usually made with the drum are named “bass”, “tune”, and “slap”.


The erhu is a two-stringed instrument that has an important position in the modern Chinese orchestra, as well as in the accompaniment of singing, dancing, and traditional operas. Its two strings are generally tuned a fifth apart, and its range can reach three or four octaves. It has a very distinctive and expressive vocal sound, almost like a plaintive wail, and other versions of it exist in various regions of Asia.


The Gambang has a series of 17-21 wooden bars, or keys, usually made of teak wood, mounted over a wooden case that acts as a resonator to help carry the sound.  A pair of long thin mallets (tabuh), made of flexible water buffalo horn tipped with felt, are used to play the instrument. Unlike most other gamelan instruments, no dampening is required, as the wood does not ring like the metal keys of other instruments in these traditional ensembles. In a full Gamelan there are typically two sets of Gambang used, one for each of the two tunings, Slendro and Pelog.


Gandingan, used in the Philippines and other regions of Southeast Asia, are four gongs that are hung vertically and played with padded mallets between each set of two gongs.  The tones and rhythms of its music mimic local speech and so gandingan are otherwise known as “talking gongs.”


A gender is a type of metallophone used in Balinese and Javanese gamelan music. It consists of 10 to 14 tuned metal bars suspended over a tuned resonator of bamboo or metal.  The gender is played with a padded wooden mallet in each hand, which can prove to be challenging, due to the technique of dampening the previous notes as the next ones are hit. In a Javanese gamelan ensemble, there are two types of genders. One is called gender barung, and the other is called gender panerus, which is an octave higher than the barung. Both types of gender play semi-improvised patterns called cengkok, which generally elaborate upon the seleh – the final note in a four-beat melodic unit.


The largest Gong, or Gong Ageng, is the most important structural instrument in the Javanese Gamelan because it marks the end of each Gong cycle, or Gongan. The Gong is typically thought to have spiritual powers, due to the length of time and strict purification guidelines that are required before making the Gong.

Gourd Pipe

The hulusi – also called the Chinese Gourd Pipe – is a free reed aerophone that originated in the Yunnan Province. The hulusi has three bamboo pipes that pass through a gourd. The center pipe has finger holes to play the melody while other pipes play one continuous note as in a drone. The instrument’s name comes from the Chinese words hulu, meaning “gourd,” and si, meaning “silk”, referring to the instrument’s smooth tone.


The acoustic guitar is a six-stringed instrument made of wood that can be divided into three main parts: the body has a flat back and curves in the middle; the neck is a long piece of wood that contains nineteen metal frets; and the head has six pins that can alter the tension of the strings and are used to tune the guitar. Sound is produced by plucking or strumming the strings over the soundboard; that pitch then resonates in the hollow space in the body of the guitar. Nearly every culture on earth uses some form of guitar, and the most common versions in the Western Hemisphere are 6-string and 12-string guitars.


The gu-zheng or zheng (table harp) has existed for over 2,000 years.  It originally was made with 12 strings, but now can have as many as 26. Each string is suspended over the upper soundboard by a single adjustable bridge, used as a device for fine-tuning. The strings are tuned to give three complete octaves of a pentatonic (or five-note) scale. Plucking devices are attached to the player’s fingers.


The harmonica traditionally has three parts: the comb, or main body, contains the air chambers that a musician blows or sucks air through; the reed plate holds the reeds in place; and the cover plates, usually made of metal, determine the tonal quality. To play a particular note a musician would place his mouth over the corresponding airway.  As the air flows past the vibrating reed, it produces sound.


The harmonium is a keyboard instrument invented in 1842 by Alexandre Debain in Paris. It was introduced to India by French missionaries, where it was altered to be able to play the pitches required for the music of this region. Unlike a piano, the harmonium makes sound with a series of reeds instead of strings.  A foot-pump system causes air to flow over the reeds, which creates a long, unique tone.

Kulintang Ensemble

The name kulintang actually can be used to mean three different things.  First, the kulintang is an instrument, really a series of eight gongs of different pitch.  The gongs are played with a soft wooden mallet and are played in a variety of patterns.  Secondly, the name kulintang is given to the entire ensemble, which plays the instrument.  Finally, the word kulintang refers to the music itself, played on the instrument, by the ensemble.


The instrument matouqin, or morin huur, originated in the Mongolia region of China, and its deep, mellow tone is used to accompany the singing of folk tales.  In performance, the finger joints of the left hand stop the strings, and fingernails push the strings from inside out. The two strings are tuned a fourth apart. The TWM videos contain an animated story about the origins of this lovely instrument.


The roots of this chordophone instrument can be traced back 3,500 years to Persia, where it was originally called the darbat.  The oud can be found in Israel, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Morocco, North Africa, and other countries as well.  Musicians of different cultures have their own particular way of tuning the instrument. With five sets of doubled strings, the oud can produce a variety of different tones, pitches, and intervals, ideal for use when playing the maqamat of Middle Eastern music.

Quijada de burro  ( “Donkey’s Jaw”)

Quijada de burro, a shaker and scraper instrument from Peru, translates to “jaw of a donkey”. After a donkey has died, the jaw is removed and left to dry out.  Then the teeth are carefully loosened so they will be able to produce a rattling sound.  The quijada can be used either as a shaker or a scraper instrument, depending on the sound and rhythm desired.  Like the cajon, this instrument developed when captured slaves were forbidden to play their native instruments so they looked around for items they could re-purpose into percussion instruments to accompany their traditional songs and dances.


The rebab is a bowed string instrument originating in Eastern Persia (present-day Afghanistan).  In Javanese gamelan music, the rebab has a spiked-fiddle form and is one of the leading melodic instruments in the ensemble.  The neck is narrow and has no frets, which allows the player to alter the melodies, creating a sensitively shaped dialogue with the singers.


There are a number of different drums in the sabar family used in Senegal and other countries of Africa, but they are generally recognized by the hour-glass shape of the drum body and the pegs that stick out of the drum.  The pegs help hold the drum head in place and are used as tuning devices, to raise or lower the pitch of the drum. There can be 3-12 drums within a sabar ensemble, each one playing a different rhythm and producing a different pitch.


The sarode is an instrument that is derived from the older rebab.  Its history probably dates back no more than 150 to 200 years. It has a metal fingerboard with no frets. The sarode has numerous strings, some of which are used as a drone, some are played, and some are “sympathetic” – they vibrate in harmonics with the nearby strings that are actually played. The sarode is played with a pic made of coconut shell.


The saxophone is an aerophone instrument usually made of brass, yet belonging to the woodwind family. Invented by clarinetist Adolphe Sax around 1840, the saxophone has a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of a clarinet, but with either a round or square inner chamber. The saxophone’s body is cone-shaped, giving it a piercing, projected sound more similar to the oboe than to the clarinet. There are many different types of saxophones, some sounding in higher range and some much lower, depending on the size and shape.


The shekere rattle consists of a calabash, or hollow gourd, covered with a net of beads, shells, or other material. Shekeres are used throughout all of West Africa but are particularly used by the Yoruba culture of Nigeria, and for these people all music has a very spiritual nature so the shekere has specific uses.


The shofar is a wind instrument with a history dating back to Biblical times.   The shofar is played on several Jewish holidays including Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.   The instrument is traditionally made from a ram’s horn, but can also be created from the horns of other kosher animals.  The person who plays the shofar is called Ba’al Tokea, which translates to “master of the blast.”


The Siter, along with its larger relative the Celempung, are the only plucked string instruments used in Javanese Gamelan Music.  The siter and celempung each have between 11 and 13 pairs of strings, strung on each side, between a box resonator. One side is tuned in Slendro, and the other in Pelog (the two tuning systems of Gamelan).  The strings of the siter are played with the thumbnails, while the other fingers are used to dampen those strings when the next note is played.


The Suling is a bamboo flute that can be tuned in a wide variety of ways, depending on the region. Typically one uses both a four-hole Suling  and a six-hole Suling, depending on the required tuning in any section of the piece. In contrast to all of the other instruments in the Javanese Gamelan, the Suling plays in a free un-metered style. The range of one Suling can be as wide as three octaves depending on the strength and speed of the air being blown into the Suling by the performer.


The “suona” is a double-reed trumpet.  Because of its loud and penetrating sound, it is most often used in theaters or with singing and dancing, on such occasions as weddings, funerals, or other ceremonies and celebrations.

Steel Pan

The steel pan is a percussion instrument made originally from a 45-gallon oil drum.  Today, pans come in a variety of sizes ranging from smaller melodic pans that can create up to 30 different pitches, to larger “bass” pans that may have only three low pitches.  Percussionists who play these bass pans can only create a full range of pitches by stretching five or six pans near each other and playing them all.  Steel pans are usually played in groups called steel bands or steel orchestras.


The word tabla is derived from an Arabic word meaning ‘drum’ and is a widely popular South Asian percussion instrument. The tabla is traditionally used in the classical, popular and religious music of the northern Indian subcontinent but has now also become popular in fusion music. The instrument itself consists of a pair of hand drums. The tabla, the smaller of the two drums, is made from a hallowed conical piece of wood and is played by the dominant hand. The bāyāñ is the larger bowl-shaped drum and has a much deeper bass tone. The playing technique involves extensive use of the fingers and palms, producing a wide range of sounds, making the tabla one of the most unique and distinctive sounding percussive instruments.

Talking Drum

The pitch of the talking drum (also known as Tama or Dundun in different regions) can be changed by the player simply by putting the instrument under his/her arm and tightening or loosening the strings that hold the drum head.  A good player can mimic the language tones and rhythms of the local speech when playing the talking drum. The drum is used in the music of both Senegal and Nigeria as well as in many other countries throughout the globe.


The tambura is a stringed instrument found in Eastern Europe and India. The instrument is slightly different from region to region. The Bulgarian tambura is a long-necked metal-strung lute that comes in two styles. One type of Bulgarian tambura has four-paired strings, and another type has two-paired strings. The tambura is used for both rhythmic accompaniment and melodic solos.

Treble Bawu

The bawu is popular among the Miao, the Hani, the Yi, the Dai, and other people of the Yunnan province. To these people the bawu most definitely is a “talking instrument,” which speaks with a mellow tone and reflects some qualities of local languages. The treble bawu is shorter and has a higher pitch than the bass bawu.


The “tupan” is a two-headed drum, which means that you can play it on both ends, and it is played with two sticks or beaters, one being thicker than the other. It is often used in Bulgarian folk music.


The violin is an hourglass shaped wooden instrument with four strings. It is played with a bow, typically made of horsehair. The violin entered Arabic music in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, when it was adapted for use with the traditional Lebanese tuning and playing techniques. There are different styles of violin playing amongst almost every culture or region of the world, from Irish and Scottish fiddling to Appalachian style in America; Eastern European “gypsy” style, Scandinavian folk music, Middle Eastern violin use, and Western classical symphonic orchestras.