Ever wonder what John Diliberto, Kimberly Haas, or the musicians that appear on Echoes are talking about? Here are brief descriptions of a few of the unfamiliar instruments, styles and terminology you might come across on Echoes.


Abbess Hildegard Von Bingen:

Twelfth-Century Abbess and mystic known for composing Gregorian chants of rare power and mystery. Her music has been preserved by many groups, including Sequentia and Gothic Voices, and brought into a modern context by Vox, Richard Souther, and others.

Aeolian Harp:

A harp played by wind passing through the strings. It takes its name from Aeoleus, the Greek god of the wind.


In Indian music, an improvisation introducing the Raga. Usually played unaccompanied in free rhythm by the lead instrumentalist, it establishes the scale of notes that will be heard in the raga.

Ambient Music:

A term popularized by Brian Eno in the late 1970s to describe music he made that could exist in the foreground or background. Eno modeled his compositions after Eric Satie's "Furniture Music," useful music that did not demand one's complete attention, but existed in the room like furniture. More than a decade after Eno's Ambient 1: Music for Airports album was released in 1978, the term was adopted by a wave of musicians emerging from the electronic dance-music scene. Ambient is now often used as an adjective, "Ambient House" "Ambient Dub" or "Ambient Jungle" for instance. This newer ambient music was derived from the techno dance scene, and could still contain dance beats, but slowed-down or low in the mix. This music originated in "chill-out rooms" at clubs or raves where a D.J. would spin discs to create a calm space for recovering from frenetic techno dancing. It has developed into a genre of its own, independent of the dance scene, and contains many varied sub-styles. Now, the term "ambient" is used to describe a wide range of music from many disciplines with only an avoidance of traditional song-structure in common.

Ancient Echo:

A term used on Echoes for a program that highlights an important and influential artist, group or album from the early days of the music we play on Echoes.


An Indonesian tuned bamboo rattle, usually arrayed in a set with a range of different notes.


An Andean Pan-Pipe.


A Turkish long-necked lute with strings tuned in pairs.


A reed instrument with several drone pipes and a melody pipe, or "chanter", all attached to a bag held under the arm. The player blows air into the bag and squeezes with the arm, creating a constant flow of air to feed the pipes, allowing a continuous drone. Most often associated with Scotland, many cultures have bagpipes, including the central European Gaida, the Spanish Gaita, the Italian Zampogna and many others ranging from Europe, through North Africa and into India.


An African xylophone with wooden keys and gourd resonators that hang beneath the keys. These gourds often have membranes stretched across them to create a buzz.


A button Accordion popular in Argentinean music.


A North African frame drum usually with strings stretched across the underside of the drum head to create a buzzing tone.


A musical bow from Brazil, played with a short stick.

Berlin School:

The early innovators in electronic "space music" were mostly located around Berlin. The term has come to refer to music in the style of the early and mid 1970s works of Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel, Popol Vuh and others in that scene. The music is characterized by long compositions, looping sequencer patterns, and improvised lead melody lines.


a wide-bodied Japanese lute, similar to the Chinese Pipa.


a frame drum from Ireland usually held in one hand by its cross-braces, and played with both ends of a short stick.


A long-necked lute derived from the Turkish Saz, it features pairs of strings tuned together. Important in Greek music, it has also become popular in Ireland.

Bulgarian Choir:

A recording from 1955 of a Bulgarian choir formed by Philip Koutev was an underground favorite of musicians for years. But better-known is a later recording of a different group, the Bulgarian State Television and Radio Female Vocal Choir. Since the end of state funding there has been some confusion over how to refer to the group, and even which of several choirs is the "official" group. The state choir, which had frequently changed personnel since its creation in the early 1950s, gained world-wide fame in 1987 with Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares, a recording by Marcel Cellier. Cellier released two more "Mystere" recordings and the group adopted Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares as the official name of the choir. With the end of state sponsorship, several choirs emerged, each with singers and/or choral directors originally from the "official" group. All of the groups follow Koutev's example of formalizing Bulgarian folk songs while retaining the unique style based on traditional rural singing. Unusual harmonies, especially parallel seconds, the "open throat" style of singing without vibrato, and imitative sounds that recall the pastoral landscapes from which these melodies come, make this music distinctive. Three singers from the choir formed the Trio Bulgarka, which has recordings of its own and appears on Kate Bush's album The Sensual World.


A simple instrument found in many cultures. It usually consists of a small flat piece of wood which is spun around on the end of a string to make a low, buzzing, roaring sound.


An abbreviation of Compact Disc, Read-Only Memory. The discs themselves are identical to audio CDs, but they contain many different types of data, rather than just coded audio. On a computer, one can read the data which can contain graphics, sound, video, text, and other information. Musicians now often include a CD-ROM track on their audio CDs, or release complete CD-ROMs that include music and videos, lyrics, information about the artists, and even interactive adventures.


A Chinese zither without frets or moveable bridges. It is considered the forerunner of all eastern zithers.

Chapman Stick:

An instrument created by Emmet Chapman that resembles an electric guitar, but with no body, just an oversized fretboard. The standard model has ten strings that cover the range of a bass and lead guitar. It is played by the fingers of both hands "hammering on" rather than plucking with one hand and fretting with the other.


A small guitar-like instrument from South America. The body is built from, or at least modeled after, an armadillo shell.


A Chinese zither with moveable bridges, the precursor of the Japanese Koto.


A hammer dulcimer from central and eastern Europe.

Circular Breathing:

A technique used by players of wind-driven instruments to create an uninterrupted flow of sound. Air is blown out from a reserve in the cheeks while inhaling through the nose. This technique is vital to players of the didgeridoo, and has been adopted by players of woodwinds, brass and reeds.


Abbreviation for Digital Audio Tape, specifically a certain type of digital tape, resembling a small videocassette, on which one can record stereo audio and subcoded index and time information. The high audio quality at a (relatively) low price made DAT a defacto standard in the music industry in the 1990s, from amateur musicians to major studios. Music publishers' concerns over bootlegging of copyrighted material resulted in adding SCMS (Serial Copy Management System) on consumer DAT recorders, which limits digital dubbing of tapes. This restriction, along with high prices, seemed to dissuade the consumer market from embracing the technology, and most companies are only making recorders for the pro and semi-pro recording market. Recordable CDs have made DATs less prevalent.


A large middle-eastern frame drum, usually with jingles like a tambourine.


A two-headed barrel drum from South India. The two heads are tuned differently, one played with one open hand, the other with a stick.


An instrument created by the aboriginal people of Australia. It is simply a tree branch hollowed-out by termites. One end is treated with beeswax to smooth the edge, and that end of the branch is blown much like a trumpet, employing circular breathing to maintain a steady drone. The pitch is fixed, determined by the length of the didgeridoo, although many tonal and melodic variations are possible by over-blowing and adding vocalizations. Some players have constructed slide-didgeridoos out of two pieces of PVC pipe, allowing them to alter the pitch by changing the length of the tube. Almost any tube can be used as a didg, and players in the American South-West have created "Dream-Pipes" from Saguaro cacti.

Digital Reverberation:

A electronic process used to simulate the sound reflections present in real spaces. Feeding a sound into a digital reverberator allows an engineer to make it seem that the sound is being produced in a concert hall, a closet, a train station, or even non-existent or impossible spaces. "Reverb" can be used to create lush, spacy ambiences, or to add realism by re-creating natural reflections that may be missing due to the recording technique. Digital Delay or Echo is usually differentiated from reverb by having one or more discrete repetitions of the sound, while reverb usually features many indistinguishable refections close together in time.


A bowed instrument from India, with four melody strings and 24 strings that resonate sympathetically. The neck has frets like a sitar, and the bridge rests on a stretched skin, like a sarod.


A large goblet-shaped wooden drum from Africa. The player straddles the drum, which is often hung by a harness around the neck and shoulders. The goat-skin drum head is played with open hands; the center of the head gives a deep booming tone, while a strike near the rim creates a sharp, piercing note.


An acoustic guitar with a metal, domed resonator, designed to project the sound of the guitar without amplification. Also known as a resonator guitar, it is often played with a slide.


An Indian folk instrument, like a small sarod, with a smooth, unfretted metal neck, and a bridge resting on a stretched goat skin.

Double Reed:

A reed instrument with two vibrating reeds, usually bound together, as in an oboe or duduk.


A long, sustained note or notes, found in the music of many cultures. Indian Classical music employs a drone, usually played on tamboura or harmonium. Celtic music often has a drone, especially bagpipe tunes, and even Gregorian Chant tends to have a single sustained note, sung or implied. Electronic music has often employed drones as well. Minimalist pioneer Lamonte Young took great inspiration from the drone of step-down transformers on electric lines near his home. And most modal music can be thought of as having a drone, perhaps unplayed, but there as a steady reference.

Drum Machine:

An electronic device that can record and play back rhythm patterns. With advances in sampling technology, the sounds that drum machines make can be quite convincing, and with the improvements in microprocessors, a programmer can include more nuance and "feel" in the patterns. As a result, a well-programmed drum machine can sometimes create quite human rhythm patterns. Interestingly, many use drum machines to sound intentionally unnatural and machine-like. In ambient, techno and other dance music, the most sought-after drum sounds come from older, less natural-sounding machines, like the Roland 808, and the grooves are often far too fast or dense for a human drummer to perform.


A double-reed instrument from Armenia. The best-known player is Djivan Gasparyan.


A family of stringed instruments, with two very different branches: Hammer Dulcimers and Appalachian, or Mountain Dulcimers. Hammer Dulcimers, including the Cimbalom and the Chinese Yang Ch'in, are trapezoidal boxes with strings stretched between tuning pegs on two sides. The strings are struck with thin sticks, the hammers, which often have felt or some other substance to soften the hammer and change the timbre of the struck note. Mountain Dulcimers have elongated hourglass-shaped bodies with melody and drone strings. The mountain dulcimer is placed horizontally on the lap or on a table and strummed with one hand, while the melody strings are fretted from above with the other.

Dumbek, Darabuka:

A small-to-medium-sized, goblet-shaped drum from the Middle East and North Africa. It is typically ceramic or metal, and is played with the hands, often employing intricate finger-rolls, slaps and mutes.


A small, hand-held electromagnetic device that magnetically vibrates metal strings, resulting in a continuous sound similar to playing with a violin bow. Bill Nelson, Carl Weingarten, The Cocteau Twins, and Love Spirals Downwards all employ the E-Bow for various effects, from constant sustain, to backward-sounding melodies. Michael Brook expanded on the idea and built his "Infinite Guitar" which uses a similar technique to excite all the strings on a guitar at once without a hand-held device.

English Horn:

A double-reed instrument, similar to the oboe, but larger and lower in pitch.


A two-stringed, Asian "spike fiddle" similar to the violin or viola, but with no fingerboard. It is held vertically in front of the player, and the bow is threaded between the strings.

Frame Drum:

A simple drum consisting of a shallow hoop-like frame with a skin stretched across it. The frame drum is usually held in the up-turned palm of one hand, or rested on the knee, and played with the fingers of both hands. The drum may have jingles (metal discs) around the shell, or snares stretched across the head. The best-known frame drum is the tambourine, but the bendir, deff, bodhran, pandero, riq, and many others are all frame drums.


A raised bar across the neck of a stringed instrument. Pressing behind the fret causes the length of string capable of vibrating to shorten, raising its pitch.


Originally a system of tape-loops created by Robert Fripp to create long, regenerating patterns. The technology has improved, and Fripp now creates music in this style with digital delays. The term has come to mean the music resulting from these techniques, which can be heard on his recordings No Pussyfooting, Let the Power Fall, Evening Star, 1999 and many others.


Indonesian musical ensemble usually including tuned gongs, metalophones and drums.


a xylophone with metal bars used in Indonesian Gamelan.

Germania Harp:

A 51-stringed zither made in Saint Louis in the early 1900s. It is featured on David Michael's album Winter Reveries.


Used in South Indian music, a clay pot or vase played with the hands. Many different sounds can be made by slapping the sides, rim, and neck.


A type of song from India, based on romantic poetry.

Guitar Synthesizer:

A guitar fitted with an interface that translates the vibration of the guitar strings to signals that can control a synthesizer. Most new guitar synthesizers employ MIDI converters which can control any synthesizer or sampler, but Robert Fripp, Pat Metheny and others still often use a pre-MIDI Roland guitar synthesizer that only drives its own sound module.


A guitar-playing technique in which one percussively "hammers" the finger down onto the string on the fretboard, instead of plucking with one hand and fretting with the other, causing a note to sound with a sharp attack.

Harmonic Singing:

A technique by which one can sing several notes at once. By changing the shape of the mouth, the singer can create resonating spaces in the mouth and sinuses that accentuate harmonics present in the voice, creating high, whistling tones in addition to the lower, fundamental tone. The most famous harmonic singers are the Gyoto Monks of Tibet, but some musicologists have hypothesized that long ago, travelling Tibetans learned the technique in Tuva, an area between northern Mongolia and southern Russia. There have recently been several recordings, and even concert tours by Tuvan singers. Huun-Huur Tu and Shu-De are the best-known groups. The Gyoto Monks have been recorded many times and tour frequently. David Hykes also adapted these techniques for several interesting recordings, solo and with his group The Harmonic Choir.


An electronic device that is used to change pitch. When the original signal is mixed with the pitch-shifted version, one can create harmonies from a single source.

Hidden Treasure:

A title coined by Echoes for a program that highlights a recording or artist that has been unfairly forgotten, or never received the exposure deserved.

Hurdy Gurdy:

A stringed instrument whose strings are "bowed" by a rotating wheel, operated by a crank. Different notes are sounded by pressing down on keys, which in turn, press against the strings, like fingers against a violin neck.

Infinite Guitar:

An instrument created by Michael Brook that employs electromagnetic devices built into the guitar that excite the strings into "infinite" sustain without picking them. The sound of the infinite guitar is similar to that of one played with an E-Bow.

Jaw Harp, Jew's Harp:

A small key-shaped loop, usually made of metal or bamboo, with a single tine. The instrument is placed against the lips, the tine is plucked to create a buzzing sound, and the shape of the mouth is varied to change the pitch and timbre of the note.

Just Intonation:

A tuning system in which the intervals of the major third and fifth are harmonically "pure," or "just." This results in different consonances and dissonances from the more common western "Tempered" or "Stretched" tunings. Terry Riley, Robert Rich and many others have recently composed pieces in Just Intonation.


see Mbira


A zither from Finland.


A Turkish end-blown flute, similar to the Ney.


An African Harp, most common in Gambia and Mali. It is often built from a large calabash gourd, with a tall pole protruding from the top. Strings are stretched from the pole to the gourd in two rows. The kora is often played as accompaniment by a Griot, or story-teller/historian.


A Japanese harp with strings stretched across the top of a long hollow wooden box. Each string has an individual moveable bridge. It is played with finger-picks on one hand, while the other hand alternately plucks, strums a glissando, or presses down on the string behind the bridge to bend the note.

Lap Steel:

A smaller version of the Pedal Steel Guitar, without the pedals. Basically a small solid-body guitar with no frets, it is played on the lap, strings facing up, often with fingerpicks. The position of a slide (a cylinder of steel) along the strings determines the pitch, allowing the characteristic sliding between notes and the sounding of microtones that would lie between a conventional guitar's frets.

Living Room Concert:

A term coined by Echoes to describe our live concert recordings. We travel to artists' homes, set up our recording equipment in their living rooms, and record informal concerts for us, a few friends, and the listening audience.


A technique used by solo musicians to layer performances in real time. It started with an actual loop of tape on a tape recorder whose erase head had been disabled. By recording on this loop of tape, a musician could play along with parts played previously. Complex variations on this scheme, using multiple tape recorders and other manipulations, were used by many musicians, including Robert Fripp and Brian Eno. Now digital technology has replaced the tape loop, and many musicians are using digital looping devices that have been built specifically to allow accompanying oneself. The term is also used in sampling to mean repeating a segment of digitally recorded sound to sustain a note, or to repeat a few bars of a rhythm.


A scale of notes in Turkish and Arabic music, similar to a key or mode.

Marxophone, Marxolin

These and other quirky zither-like instruments were made by various companies headed by Henry Charles Marx, from the mid 1920s, through the 1970s. Sold through catalogs and door-to-door, the instruments were billed as easy for anyone to play. In practice, it's actually very difficult to coax anything but strange sounds out of the odd contraptions with spring-loaded hammers, sliding bars, bows and multiple strings, but that aspect has attracted a few musicians, including Forrest Fang, Thomas Newman and Jaron Lanier, to incorporate them in their compositions.


An african instrument also called Kalimba, Sanza, or "thumb piano." It consists of several thin tines of metal or wood of varying lengths, mounted on a wooden board, a gourd or a box. The tines are plucked with the thumbs and first fingers, and other fingers cover and uncover sound holes to create tremolo.


A vocal style in which one sings several pitches in one syllable.


An acronym for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. The standard MIDI interface allows one device to send data about a musical performance, rather than the actual sound, to another device. MIDI sends such information as note on, note number, velocity, aftertouch, modulation amount, and note off, on any of 16 channels on a standard 5-pin cable. The MIDI standard can be used to send many types of data, and it is commonly used to send time code, and "system-exclusive" data such as digital samples, sequences, or programming information. By using MIDI, a musician can record the expression and nuance of a live performance into a sequencer without recording the sound itself. That performance can then be edited, and one can change the sound being triggered by the MIDI data. Most sequencers allow recording of multiple layers of performances to be played back by synthesizers, samplers or drum machines, making it possible for a single musician to play many parts simultaneously. Alternate MIDI controllers like drum pads, MIDI guitars or MIDI wind controllers allow non-keyboard players to play synthesizers and samplers.


A musical movement that emerged from the academic avant-garde of the 1960s. Reacting against the prevailing trends in composition exemplified by Stockhausen and Shoenberg, several composers took as inspiration the modalism of Indian classical music and the cyclical patterns of African drumming. These new compositions were characterized by repeated patterns that evolved slowly through addition or subtraction of elements, or by shifting patterns against one another. The best-known minimalist composers are Philip Glass, Terry Riley and Steve Reich, all of whom took inspiration from the earlier work of Lamonte Young. None of them accept the tag of "Minimalism" for their work, but it is a helpful shorthand to refer to these and other artists working in similar areas.

Mouth Music:

An a capella form of Scottish vocal music, also known as "Puirt a Beul". It developed as a result of an English ban on musical instruments, so the vocal parts are often percussive or imitative of instruments. The rhythmic quality of the music has made it fertile ground for integrating with modern dance music, and a few groups have done that, most obviously the band called Mouth Music.


A South Indian two-headed drum that plays a role similar to the North Indian Tabla. One head produces low notes, the pitches bent upward by pressure of the heel of the hand. The other head creates a tuned high-pitched tone.


A recording process in which one records parts onto several different tape tracks, to be mixed together later. This technique allows musicians to build up many layers of sound with only one or a few musicians. It also gives more control in fine-tuning the mix. Multi-tracking was popularized by Les Paul in the 1950s and its great potential was demonstrated by Mike Oldfield's 1973 album Tubular Bells on which he layered literally hundreds of his own performances. Multitracking is now commonplace, with affordable digital multitracks used routinely by hobbyists and professionals alike. Digital multitrack recorders that record to hard-disc or on VHS or 8mm videotape, and older analog reel-to-reel machines, especially 24 and 48 track models are still standard equipment in professional recording studios.

Native American Flute:

An end-blown flute, often made of Cedar, usually with five finger-holes. The flute was traditionally used for courtship by young Lakota men.

New Age Music:

A controversial term, used in many different ways. It has been suggested that the first New Age record was Tony Scott's Music For Zen Meditation from 1964. Others have proposed that Paul Horn's 1968 recording Inside started the trend. But the term is most often used to refer to a quiet instrumental style that became popular in the mid 1980s. At that time, labels such as Windham Hill, Private Music and Narada released many albums that sold well, creating a marketing niche. Attempts by artists and record companies to capitalize on the trend led to plenty of bad music along with the good, and soon critics declared it all "aural wallpaper" and "yuppie elevator music," painting with a broad brush the diverse styles that had been subsumed under this one category. The name also implied a connection with New Age spirituality, which was often not the case. While some New Age musicians do compose music as part of a spiritual journey, or create it to aid others on that quest, most artists who have been assigned to the category have no connection to any particular spiritual movement. Some have suggested that only music created to aid in healing, meditation, or worship can properly be referrred to as "New Age," but until another term becomes widely-accepted, all atmospheric, genre-blurring music will probably remain in this category, at least in record stores. Many musicians reject the tag, either to avoid the critical backlash, or because they feel it is inaccurate. No suitable substitute for the name has arisen, and so it survives amid arguments about what it means.


A middle-eastern end-blown flute, usually made from a hollow reed.


A small flute or whistle, usually made of clay or plastic. Because of the shape, manufactured ocarinas are sometimes called "sweet potatoes." South American clay ocarinas often are shaped like animals.


A Middle-Eastern fretless lute with a deep, round body. It is the forerunner of the European lute and guitar, and is perhaps the predominant instrument in Arabic music.


A recording process by which additional parts are recorded alongside the basic track. This process allows one musician to play many parts, a single vocalist to become a choir, or it simply may be used to isolate the various components of a performance from one another for greater control.


Rhythmic clapping that is an important element of Flamenco music.


An array of fixed-pitch cane flutes in graduated lengths, bound together in a group. Called Sikkus, Antaras or Zamponas in South America, the notes of a scale are often split between two sets of pipes. In performance, the melody alternates between players, a technique called "Hocketing."

Pedal Steel Guitar:

A type of solid-bodied electric guitar, mounted horizontally on a stand. The strings are put under very high tension, which gives a long sustain to a plucked note. The strings are not fretted as on a conventional guitar, rather a metal rod, the slide, is placed over the strings which are picked with the opposite hand, often with finger-picks. There are also pedals and levers extending down from the instrument that the player moves with a foot or knee, each changing the pitch of one of the strings, allowing individual notes within a chord to slide to a different note, one of the characteristic sounds of the instrument. It is often played using a volume pedal, fading in the notes after being picked, adding to the fluid feel.

Pentatonic Scale:

A scale in which the octave is divided into five intervals. Due to its mathmatical simplicity, and perhaps the fact that we have five fingers, its is a common scale in cultures all around the world.


A wide-bodied chinese lute with raised frets, played with finger-picks.


A medieval zither.

PVC Pipe:

A construction supply used in most new plumbing, it has proved to be a popular material for instrument builders. The group Uakti puts small drum heads over the ends of varying lengths of these platic pipes and plays them with their fingers. Another Uakti instrument has an array of different lengths of pipes, and the open ends are hit with paddles. Others use the pipes as didgeridoos, flutes, resonators for marimbas, or percussion instruments played with bare hands.


A South American end-blown reed flute.


A name used for several different musical instruments in different parts of the world, usually small bowed string instruments. In many Arabic countries, and in Indonesia, it is a violin-like instrument, similar to the Chinese Er-hu. In Afghanistan, rabab refers to a larger, plucked lute.

Raga, Rag:

A musical form in classical Indian music. The term can refer to the particular piece, or to the scale of notes upon which the piece is based. Due to the improvisational element in Indian music, any given Raga has an infinite number of interpretations. However, the improvisation is not completely free. In addition to a scale, a raga may have certain patterns of notes that must be included, and it may have a defined length, mood, and time of day for it to be performed.


A thin strip of wood or reed, placed in the mouthpiece of a wind instrument so that it will vibrate when blown across. Organs, Accordions, Harmonicas and the Chinese Sheng use metal reeds.


A digital recording of a sound, often a single note, or perhaps several bars of a song, the length only restricted by the memory of the system. Once the sound is "sampled" or digitized, it can be manipulated. The sample can be trimmed, looped, pitch-shifted, reversed, slowed-down or speeded-up, and altered in a myriad of ways. The most common applications of sampling are recording a single note of an instrument, then playing that sample back from a keyboard to simulate the original instrument, or recording a few bars of a rhythm and using the sampler to repeat that rhythm in a loop. But the sampler also allows the creation of nonexistent sounds with some characteristics of natural organic sounds, and the playing of natural sounds in ways impossible with the original instrument.


An electronic device that makes and manipulates short digital audio recordings, often connected to a keyboard.


See: Mbira


A large lute from North India with melody, drone and sympathetic strings and a smooth metal neck. The bridge rests in a goatskin stretched across a deep, round, wooden resonating chamber.


A long-necked turkish lute in the baglama family.


A device for recording data about musical events, rather than audio. Early sequencers could only record and play back short patterns of notes with clock-like precision, but since the advent of MIDI, one can record the timing and expression of a real performance. That performance can then be edited, copied or transposed. One can also change the sounds being played by the MIDI data. Sequencers allow recording of multiple layers of performances to be played back by synthesizers, samplers or drum machines, making it possible for a single musician to play many parts simultaneously.


A japanese end-blown bamboo flute.


A gourd covered in a netting with shells, beads or stones strung on, that makes a scraping sound when shaken, or twisted in the hand.


An Indian double-reed instrument, similar to the oboe.


A chinese mouth-organ with 17 pipes extending upward from a metal bowl. Inside each pipe is a metal reed. Air is blown into the metal bowl, and the individual pipes sound if a small hole near the base is covered with a finger. In Japan, it is called a Sho.


A South American reed flute.


An Indian Lute with moveable frets and four main melody strings. In addition, there are several drone strings, and un-plucked sympathetic strings.

Slack-Key Guitar:

A style of guitar playing from Hawaii. The term comes from players tuning the strings down, "slacking" them, to create alternate tunings.

Slide Guitar:

A style of guitar playing in which, instead of fretting a note with the fingers, a bar, or "slide" is placed over the strings, allowing slides between notes. The slide can be a metal or glass cylinder, usually worn on the fourth or fifth finger, or even a bottle held in the hand.

Steel Drum:

A caribbean instrument constructed from steel oil barrels. The concave metal inner surface of the drum is divided into several sections, each a different note. The drum, or "Pan" is played with mallets.


A small bamboo flute used in gamlelan music.


An electronic device that creates sound from oscillators, filters and amplifiers. By combining different waveforms from several oscillators, complex filtering, and manipulating the attack, decay and release of the sound, one can create a wide variety of different sounds. The synthesizer can imitate acoustic instruments, or create original, uniquely electronic sounds.


The rythmic cycle used in Indian classical music, roughly analogous to the time signature or meter of western compositions.


A set of two small tuned drums used in North Indian music. The left hand plays the larger of the two drums, the "Bayan", which has a lower pitch. After striking the drum with the tips of the fingers, the note is "bent" up by pressing down with the heel of the hand, tightening the drum head. The right hand plays elaborate patterns on the smaller drum, the "Tabla," which has a higher, fixed pitch.


In Turkish and Arabic music, an introductory improvisation that establishes the Maqam, or scale, in which the piece will be played. Similar to an Alap in Indian music.


An indian stringed instrument played as a drone to accompany other instruments.


A North-African frame drum, played with the fingers of both hands, while the edge of the drum rests in the upturned-palm of one hand.


A dance-music style that originated in Detroit. It fused electronic, machine-like music of groups like Kraftwerk with American funk. As techno spread to England, it became more electronic and frenetic, often featuring almost undanceably fast rhythms.


A loosely-defined style of music that incorporates primal, earthy elements with technologically-based sounds from synthesizers, samplers or electronic processing.


A transverse flute from China made of bamboo. There is a paper membrane that vibrates when an note is sounded, creating a bright, buzzing timbre.


The characteristic texture of a musical sound determined by its harmonic structure. Timbres are often described in non-audio terms like "bright", "warm ", or "rough ".

Tin Whistle:

A small, metal flute used in celtic music.


A percussion instrument from the Basque region of Spain, constructed of one or more planks of wood resting on baskets. It is played with mallets by two people. The term can also refer to rhythms played on the instrument.

Udu Drum:

A clay pot with an extra hole in addition to the normal top opening. The drum is played by slapping the hand over either opening, which gives a low tone. When the hand is pulled away, a higher "release tone" is heard. By playing both openings, and varying the coverage of the holes, the player can elicit a wide range of tones.

Uillian Pipes:

Similar to bagpipes, but instead of the bag being filled by blowing into a pipe, air is pumped in with a bellows.


A tube zither from Madagascar.

Yang Ch'in:

A Chinese hammer dulcimer.


A family of instruments with strings stretched across a hollow soundbox. The strings may be strummed, struck with hammers, or even bowed. The Dulcimer, psaltery, Ch'in, and Koto are all variations on the zither.


A deafeningly loud reed instrument from Turkey, related to the oboe.

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