Guitar, Popular Stringed Instrument

What is a Guitar?

The guitar is a hugely popular and widely played stringed musical instrument.

There are different varieties of Guitars available including Soft, Folk & Jazz etc. Guitars can be amplified to produce the sound of an electric guitar.

The most recognizable features of a guitar include –

* a flat body
* a long neck
* usually 6 strings
* a fingerboard with frets on it

The guitar strings are plucked using the fingers or a plectrum, also known as the guitar pick.

The plectrum or the guitar pick is usually a small piece of plastic shaped as a soft triangle. The left hand presses the strings on the fret board while the right hand fingers are used to pluck the strings of the guitar.

The vibration of the strings creates sounds and is controlled by the left hand that presses at the fret board.

The combination of the left and right hand at play on the guitar leads to the creation of different sounds which when clubbed together, produce melodies and tunes.


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Dhol, Percussion Folk Instrument

The Dhol is a large barrel-shaped hollow percussion instrument, most popular in North India and played in other parts of India as well.

What does a Dhol Look Like?

The Dhol is barrel shaped with a strong outer body. Both sides of the Dhol are covered with animal hide. While one side has a thin layer of hide, the other has a thicker layer which produces a lower pitched sound.

Most of the time, the Dhol contains a rope which is intertwined or interwoven across the shell or body. This mechanism is used to tighten the dhol and helps to alter its pitch. In other cases, the rope is substituted with nuts and bolts.

Dhol in India

Dhol players are in demand across India, especially in the norther region such as Punjab and Haryana, where the Dhol is very popular. Usually, two long sticks are used to beat both sides of the dhol to produce music and rhythmic beats. One stick is turned at an angle for ease of use.

The wedding season is incomplete without the Dhol in the North of India. Even during social events, Dhol players are much needed and welcomed.

Dhol Performance


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What is a Dholak? Percussion Instrument

Indian Percussion Instrument – Dholak or Hand Drum

Dholak is a robust Indian percussion instrument. In India, the Dholak is one of the most popular and frequently played North Indian folk and percussion instrument. It is also referred to as the Dholaki or the Hand Drum.

It is most popular in Punjab, Rajastha, Haryana, etc.

What does a Dholak Look Like?

The Dholak is a barrel shaped musical instrument with an outer body or drum shell made of wood. It is hollow from inside with two openings on either side which are covered with hide.

What determines the pitch and sound quality of the Dholak is the manner in which it is prepared. The left side of the Dholak usually creates a lower pitched, well defined sound.

How to Play the Dholak?

The player usually produces sound on the Dholak by beating it with the hand or by using a stick.

In India, the Dholak is played during social functions as well as on special occasions, especially weddings as an accompaniment during singing or dancing.

North Indian Folk Music and dance, especially the Bhangra from Punjab is incomplete without the pulsating beats and rhythmic sounds of the Dholak.


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Cymbals, Percussion Instruments

What are Cymbals, Percussion Instruments?

Commonly used in orchestral music, rock, jazz, heavy metal music and marching groups, Cymbals are one of the most popular percussion instruments dating back to 1200 BC. Over the years, Cymbals have been used all over the world, especially in central Asia, India, China and ancient Egypt. Hand Cymbals are called ‘Manjira’ in India.

Cymbals are especially visible as a part of large orchestral performances where skilled artists play the Cymbals to create dynamic and powerful sounds.

Cymbals – What do they Look Like?

Cymbals consist of thin, round metal discs which are either played by striking them together or by hitting them with beaters while they are suspended on a stand. Even though Cymbals are unpitched instruments, their weight, diameter, thickness and curvature of the bell etc, all contribute to the quality of sound they produce.

The different types of Cymbals include

  • Finger Cymbals
  • Hi-Hats Cymbals
  • Splash Cymbals
  • Clash Cymbals
  • Suspended Crash Cymbals
  • Orchestral Crash Cymbals, etc.

What are the different parts of a Cymbal?

Let’s take a look at the anatomy of Cymbals –

  • Diameter – Measured in centimeters or inches, the size of Cymbals is largely calculated based on their diameter. Those cymbals which are larger in size create stronger, louder sound.
  •  Weight – The weight of cymbals define their thickness. Those cymbals which are heavier create louder sound.
  •  Hole – At the center of the Cymbals is a hole which holds the straps used while holding and playing the Cymbals. Alternately, the hole may also be used to place the discs within the stand for crash playing.
  •  Bell or Cup – The area next to the hole is called the Bell.
  •  Bow – The area surrounding the bell is the bow.
  •  Edge is the rim or circumference of the Cymbal.

Different Ways of Playing Cymbals

Cymbals are played in several different ways for example by passing the two faces against one another while maintaining an angle and then pressing it against the body to dampen the sound, using a rolling motion to slide the faces against one another, shutting the discs together, etc.

Cymbals Performance


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What are Rattle & Shakers?

Untuned Percussion Instruments – Rattle & Shakers

Rattle and Shakers are perhaps the most interesting and simplistic untuned percussion instruments known to exist today. The beauty of these instruments lies in their simplistic and innovative construction.

The notable fact is that both these percussion instruments have been a major part of almost every music culture and their rhythmic sounds can truly act as perfect accompaniments.

What is a Rattle?

A Rattle is an untuned percussion instrument that holds beans or small pellets within its body and creates sound when it is shaken or struck. It may or may not have a handle.

What is a Shaker?

The shaker is an untuned percussion instrument which produces sound when it is shaken. The sound is created because of the objects which are stuck to its body’s exterior including shells, metal, glass etc.

The most common forms of the Rattles and Shakers are the Maracas, Ganza, Cabasa and used extensively in African, Latin American and traditional music.

The beauty of these instruments is that they are made using natural materials.


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What is a Mbira?

Mbira, Percussion Musical Instrument

Also called the Thumb Piano, the African Mbira has great religious and social significance at religious ceremonies etc. A number of beliefs are associated with this percussion instrument especially in Zimbabwe.
What is the Mbira?

The Mbira is a lamellaphone with a series of thin metal plates or tongues which are attached at one end and free on the other so that the player can pluck the free end which vibrates and creates sound.

Look & Features of the Mbira

The Mbira is made of a hardwood sound board which holds anywhere between 22 and 52 thin metal plates or tongues. These metal plates are of varied lengths and are arranged in two or three layers on this wood board.

Perhaps, the most noteable feature of a Mbira’s construction is that the longest metal plates are placed right in the center of the board while the shorter ones are on the side. This way, the higher notes are able to sound and radiate outwards.

Shells may be used as reinforcements and attached to create additional sounds.

To Play the Mbira

The Mbira can be played by a group of players forming an ensemble. The players can play together by plucking each metal tongue with the thumb and the first finger of each hand.

Connect with the Spirits: It is believed by some communities that the music created by the Mbira can help to connect with the spirits.

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Gong & Tam Tam – Percussion Instrument


The Gong is a tuned percussion instrument that consists of a round disc made out of bronze and is played with a beater. The round disc is suspended from the top and when hit, it produces a deep rich sound. The Gong is typically an East and South East Asian percussion musical instrument.

Features and Look of the Gong

Gongs vary in size and range anywhere between 3 in ( diameter ). Most gongs have a raised center ( while some others don’t ) and the sound quality that is produced on hitting the Gong is in relation to its construction – that is the dimensions of its raised center or boss, the rim as well as the bow of the Gong.

Gongs have been a part of numerous cultures and regions especially in Malaysia, China, Burma and other parts of Southeast and Central Asia.

Gongs have an important role to play even in the Gamelan music of Indonesia.

Tam Tams

Tam Tams are similar to the Gong but unlike the Gong, the Tam Tams are untuned percussion instruments. Used extensively in classical orchestras, the Tam Tam is suspended from a frame and has a hammered flat surface about 100 cm in diameter.

To play the Tam Tam, a soft headed drumstick is used.


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Jal Tarang – Percussion Instrument

What is the Jal Tarang?

The Jal Tarang is a fascinating Indian Percussion Musical Instrument that has had a vibrant history. Used extensively as a part of Indian Classical Music, the Jal Tarang is one of the oldest percussion instruments known to man.

Look & Features of the Jaltarang

The JalTarang or Jalatarangam (Jal – Water, Tarang – Waves) is also known as a wave instrument. It consists of a set of ceramic bowls which are placed in a semi circle. Each bowl is filled with varying quantities of water and music is created when the bowls are beaten with beaters or two cane sticks.

By varying the quantity of water in each bowl, different sounds can be created.

Famous Jal-Tarang Players

  •     Milind Tulankar
  •     Ranjana Pradhan
  •     Seetha Doraiswamy
  •     Sejal Chokshi
  •     Dattatray Gangadhar Gaekwad
  •     Ragini Trivedi

Jaltarang Performance


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Marimba, Percussion Musical Instrument

What is the Marimba?

The Marimba is a keyboard percussion instrument popular mainly with composers. Falling under the category of orchestral instruments, the Marimba has a distinctively warm and resonant sound.

To sound the Marimba, wooden keys or bars are struck with mallets. The modern Marimba usually has a rose wood keyboard and brass pipe resonators. The 5 octave large Marimbas have the ability to produce a variety of low notes.

The Marimba is recognised as the National Instrument of Guatemala.

Marimba Players & Composers –

Those players and composers who popularised the Marimba and used it extensively in composing music etc include –

  • Jack Imel
  • Nanae Mimura
  • Mark Ford
  • Oliver Messiaen
  • Thomas Burritt
  • Evelyn Glennie
  • Keiko Abe
  • Toru Takimitsu
  • Colin Currie
  • Pedro Carneiro, among others.


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Scraper, Percussion Instrument

What is a Scraper?

The Scraper is a popular percussion instrument used primarily in Jazz music, popular in parts of Africa, Caribbean, Central and South America. Scraping instruments usually have a ridged / rough edge and are played by scraping the rough body with a stick or a comb.

Types of Scrapers

The sound created by scraping instruments is used as an accompaniment played in a rhythmic pattern.

1) Washboard – has a rectangular wooden frame with metal ridges. To play the Washboard, the player uses either a whisk broom or metal thimble worn on fingers.

2) Guiro – is made from ridged bamboo or metal spring, played in Africa and Latin America.

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