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Asian Instruments

 
Music of Asia is often called Eastern Music. This is because Asia is part of the eastern hemisphere. On the other hand, music of Beethoven and Mozart, who were born in Europe, and music from America, is called Western Music because it was written in the western hemisphere. The two types of music sound very different. They even use different kinds of instruments. When you visit our Meet the Musicians of the National Symphony Orchestra page, you can see all sorts of Western instruments. Keep reading to learn a little bit about traditional music of the East.

Chinese Instruments

Traditional Chinese instruments are grouped by the material from which they are made. There are eight categories of instruments. Here are a few examples of each category.

  1. Metal Includes bells, and gongs
  2. Stone Stone chimes and slabs of stone which resonate, or echo, when struck
  3. Clay Flutes and whistles made of clay
  4. Skin Drums of different shapes and sizes with skin stretched along the top, or head
  5. Silk Zither and dulcimer with strings made of silk
  6. Wood Hollow wooden blocks and boxes and xylophones with wooden bars
  7. Gourd Flutes and mouth organs made out of hollowed-out pumpkin-like vegetables
  8. Bamboo Flutes and other instruments with reeds

Japanese Instruments

Many Japanese instruments have been adapted from instruments of other countries. Instruments such as the koto were originated in China but have become an important part of Japanese music. The earliest forms of Japanese music include gagaku (court music) and shomyo (Buddhist chant). Gagaku was performed by ensembles of instruments such as the tsuridaiko (a drum), the biwa (a lute), and the shoko (a gong) in the Imperial Palace. Traditional Japanese instruments can be classified in categories similar to Chinese instruments. Of particular interest is the Koto, a type of zither. For more information on the Koto, click here.

Today, Japan is one of the world’s largest producers of Western musical instruments with companies such as Yamaha. However, many of the country’s traditional instruments have been borrowed and adapted from Chinese culture and are now made out of modern materials such as plastic and metal. Japanese pop music is very similar to Western pop music. The lyrics are usually in Japanese, though the songs sometimes have English titles or contain English expressions.

For more on Japanese instruments, click here.

 
 

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