Traditional Japanese Musical Instruments

Traditional Japanese Musical Instruments

The following is a combined list of musical instruments called the wa-gakki or traditional instruments of Japan (wa meaning Japanese, and gakki meaning instruments ). Instruments that originated from mainland China which evolved independently in Japanese culture, and instruments that have been used since ancient times in Japan.


Koto: A stringed instrument, in which the strings resonates over a wooden box. The strings are picked with claw-like picks to create the sound. Approximately 180cm in length with 13 strings.


Shakuhachi: A vertical  bamboo flute named for its size. Shaku is an archaic unit of length roughly 30cm and hachi meaning eight. (Though sizes vary, the standard shakuhachi size is 1 shaku and 8/10ths of a shaku)


Shinobue: A horizontal bamboo flute where the sound of the pitch depends on the length of the flute. It is thought that the origin of all horizontal flutes is ancient India.

Tsutsumi: A hand-drum instrument, where the leather is taut on both ends of the hourglass-shaped body.


Wa-daiko: Japanese-style drum with a wooden body and taut leather that is struck to create the sound. Generally, the sound reverberates and lingers well. The structure of the wa-daiko is cylindrical in shape with a swelled body in the middle, and the leather skin is taut on either one or on both ends. It is more intense compared to other percussion instruments.


Biwa: (Biwa means loquat fruit ) Shaped like a loquat fruit cut in halfthe 4 strings are played using a bachi (picks that look similar to a putty knife ).


Shamisen: Shamisen is a three-stringed instrument, played by “flicking” the strings using a bachi (picks that looks similar to a putty knife).

The three strings have varying thickness, with a separate purpose. The thickest string is called the “ichi-no-ito” (number 1 string) used forthe bass notes. The middle string is called the “ni-no-ito” (number 2 string” covering the mid-notes, and the thinnest string is called the “san-no-ito” (number 3 string) hitting the high notes.


2月 27, 2020