About the Instruments

1. Wind instruments

"Sho" (a free-reed mouth organ)
The shape consists of 17 pieces of bamboo, which are inlaid into a small jar. This instrument mainly performs chords.

"Hichiriki" (a flageolet-like instrument)
A reed pipe is inserted into a short piece of bamboo and makes a vigorous sound.

"Ryuteki" (a flute-like instrument)
Mainly this is used for "Togaku" and has seven-finger holes. It is said that the sound of the "Ryuteki" is similar to the crying voice of a dragon. One feature of the tone of this instrument is its refreshing quality.

"Koma-hue"
This flute has six-finger holes. The length is shorter than "Ryuteki" and the tone is more delicate.

"Kagura-bue"
This flute has six-finger holes and is the longest of all the wind instruments mentioned above. Its tone is soft. This is an indigenous instrument of Japan.

2. String instruments

"Biwa" (lute)
The "Biwa" used for Gagaku is the largest "Biwa" of all. It is called “Gaku-Biwa" to distinguish it from other "Biwa" used for storytelling. It has four strings and is used as a rhythm instrument.

"So" (Japanese harp)
Basically, it is the same as that of the ordinary and popular "So",but to make a distinction it is called "Gaku-So". The strings are made of silk and it is used as a rhythm instrument.

3. Percussion instruments

"Kakko" (a small drum)
A small barrel drum with two heads placed horizontally and struck by two drumsticks. "Kakko" leads the ensemble and plays the role of a conductor.

"San-no-ko" (a small drum)
A small double-headed drum only struck by one drumstick (bachi) on the right head.

"Tsuri-daiko" (a large drum)
This drum is also called "Gaku-daiko" and is hung on a wooden frame that has legs. Two plectrums thump only one side.

"Shoko" (a gong)
A small brass gong suspended in a wooden framed stand and struck on the inside of the gong by two sticks.

"Shaku-Byoshi"
Two flat pieces of wood struck together as a percussion instrument.

Back to Home  Page Top