Musical Instrument Glossary A

Hohner Panther 3-Row Diatonic Accordion
Hohner Panther 3-Row Diatonic Accordion


Accordion- A free reed instrument with a keyboard. It was developed in Saxony (Germany) and Bohemia (Czech Republic) and is now common throughout the world in many traditions. Various types include piano and button keyboards; chromatic and diatonic tunings; concertinas and bandoneon. The accordion is sometimes referred to as squeezebox.

Achere – Santería shaker. Cuba.

Acoustic – Any musical instrument that can provide sound without the use of electronic amplification.

Adamo – Talking drum. Nigeria.

Adduff – Arabic frame drum.

Adja – Metal bell. Brazil.

Adodo – A cluster of non-resonant bells forged to each end of a metal rod. Ghana.

Adowa – Carved drums with peg tuning. Fontomfrom and Antumpan are headed with cow skin. The others are headed with antelope skin. Ghana.

Adowa drum
Adowa drum


Adufé – Square frame drum. Portugal and Brazil.



Adufo – Tambourine. Portugal and Brazil.

Adungu – A seven to ten arched stringed harp of the Alur people. Uganda.

Adyá – Metal rattle. Cuba.

Aerophone – Scientific term for any instrument that produces sound by moving air. Includes all wind instruments, including trumpets and organs.

Afuche – A shaker comprised of a dried hollow gourd with a handle and a net of metal beads loosely attached around the outside surface. Used in afoxe music. Also known as cabasa. Country of origin: Brazil.



Agbe – The Yoruba term for a beaded gourd instrument or shaker. Country of origin: Nigeria. Also known as agüe and agwe.

Agboba – A large barrel bass drum from Ghana, 0.9 meters (3 feet) tall, with a closed bottom.

Agogo – A set of two bells, one larger and one smaller, that is struck with a wooden stick.Found in Africa and Brazil.

Agogo bells
Agogo bells

 Agual – Middle Eastern women’s frame drum.

Agwal – Small clay barrel drum used by Taskiwin dancers in the western Great Atlas region. Morocco.

Aiapá – Shaker. Brazil.

Aidjé – Bullroarer. Brazil.

Aita – A stringed instrument from the Baka forest people of southeast Cameroon.

Ajaeng- Seven-string zither. Korea.

Aji- An Igede tin whistle associated primarily with children’s ensembles. Nigeria.

Akadinda – A very large Ugandan xylophone with twenty-two keys. It is played by four people with the following titles: Omunazi, the first player who plays the main tune; Abaawuzi, the two players who join the first player with the second development to create an intermixture; and Omukoonezi, the one who syncopates the combination of the above with a few repetitions of the musical notes of the above combination. Uganda.

Akanyembe – Konde fiddle. Mozambique.

Akogo- Thumb piano. Uganda.

Akoko – Rattle made out of nutshells.

Akonting – Long lute. It is believed to be one of the direct ancestors of the American banjo. Gambia.

Akuba- A set of three small Yoruba conga-style drums that are played together.Benin, Nigeria.

Alboka – Traditional Basque horn instrument built out of cane, wood or animal horn. It has a double reed, like the clarinet, two bamboo tubes, one with five holes, and the other with three. One hand contains a mouthpiece made of horn with a holder for the two reeds. The other end is made of a larger horn, which acts as a resonator. France and Spain.

Alfandoque- South American shaker found in the Andes region and Pacific coast of South America. Also known as el chucho. The alfandoque consists of a piece of sugar cane or bamboo filled with dry seeds or small stones. Country of origin: Colombia and Ecuador.

Algozey- A wooden, beaked double-flute traditionally played by goat herders in the Punjab region (India/Pakistan). One flute is kept as the drone, creating a melodious, hypnotic sound. This instrument is popularly used in the Bhangra dance form. Country of origin: India and Pakistan.

Allun- A frame drum with cymbals used by the Berber Chleuhs. Morocco.

Almirez- Metallic mortar used in popular Andalusian folk music. Spain.

Alo – Long hollow gong. Two types, either smooth metal or forged metal. Nigeria.

Alogoza- Double flutes, one drone, one melodic. India.

Alumaru- A flute of the Iteso people of Uganda.

Amadinda- Log xylophone. Also known as embairé. Uganda.



Ambio- A pair of resonant wooden sticks of wood, struck together. Madagascar.

Amponga- the simple cylindrical two-headed drum. Madagascar.

Angklung- Tuned bamboo rattles from Java and Sumatra hung from a frame. Indonesia. Read The Angklung article.



Antara- Pentatonic pan flute of the Andes region. Peru.




Antsiva- Conch shell. Madagascar.

Antumpan- Part of the Adowa drums. A carved drum with cow hide head and played with curved sticks. Ghana.

Apito – Whistle used by the Brazilian bateria leader in an escola de samba group. Brazil.

Aponga- Drums. Madagascar.

Ardin – A Mauritanian 9-string harp traditionally reserved only for women. Also known as ardine. Noura Mint Seymali is one of the best known performers of the ardin.

Ardin performed by Noura Mint Seymali


Arghul- A double reed instrument from Egypt and Palestine/Israel with two asymmetrical pipes. One pipe, the chanter, is dedicated to the melody and usually has 5 or 6 finger-holes. The second pipe, the drone, is much longer and produces a single note. The instrument is played inside the player’s mouth using circular breathing. Both pipes are made from reed or other similar materials and are attached together with strings, wax, tar or glue. Also known as argul, arghoul, arghool, argol, or yarghul.

Arpa Criolla- Creole harp. Venezuela.

Arpa de boca- Arpa de boca means mouth harp. It’s the Spanish version of the Spanish jaw harp. Other Spanish names include guimbarda, trompa, berimbao and birimbao.

Arpa Jalisciense – A harp from the state of Jalisco. It is used in traditional music from Jalisco, as well as mariachi music. Country of origin: Mexico.

Ashiko – A cone shaped drum of the Yoruba people made with strips of wood placed next to one another and skinned with goat, antelope, or rarely with cow skin. It produces a resonant bass tone when struck in the middle, and a high tone when struck on the rim. Nigeria.



Aslatua – A pair of dried swawa gourds filled with pebbles that form round rattles attached by a single string. Ghana.

Aso- Wooden xylophone. Also known as doso. Benin.

Atabal- A wide cylindrical double-headed bass drum found throughout Spain and Puerto Rico.

Atabaque- A conical single-headed drum shaped in the form of a barrel usually played in threes, each of different size. The smallest drum is called le’, the middle drum is called the rumpito and the largest is the rum. Some drums are played with sticks and others with the hands. Brazil.

Atamo- A drum played by tapping the fingers or the palm of the hand. Ethiopia.

Atang- An Igede brass bell used during funerals and other circumstances. Nigeria.

Atarigane- A hand gong also known as chan-chiki or kane. It is played held in the hand or suspended by a cord and struck with a deer horn mallet called the shumoku. Japan.

Atecocolli – Pre-Hispanic sea snail. Mexico.

Atentenben- Soprano bamboo flute. Ghana.

Atoke- Small single boat shaped bell. It is laid in the open palm and played with a metal striker. Ghana.

Atranatra- A 5-12 key xylophone from southwestern Madagascar. Also known as atranatran, katiboky, kilangay or valihambolo.

Atsimevu- large lead drum. Ghana.

Attougblan- A large standing drum. Ivory coast.

Atumpan- A talking drum played as a pair with bent sticks by the Ashanti people of Ghana. Normally they use these kind of drums as the master drums of an Adoa ensemble.

Apache cane flute – A flute carved from the tall stalks of the desert river cane. USA.

au ni aau- ‘Are ‘are panpipes for solo performing made from bamboo. Solomon Islands.

au pasiawa- `Are`are two-stringed musical bow for solo performing made from bamboo. Solomon Islands.

au porare- `Are`are two-hole transverse flute made from bamboo. Solomon Islands.

au waa- `Are`are panpipes played at an angle made from bamboo. Solomon Islands.

au ware- `Are`are bundled panpipes played vertically made from bamboo. Solomon Islands.

Autoharp- Zither with a keyboard chord making mechanism which mutes unwanted strings. Strummed or Picked.

Avaga- Single iron gong. Round shape tapering to handle at one end. Bell has an iron clapper inside. Ghana.

Ayochicahuaztli- Metal rattle. Mexico.

Axatse- Gourd shaker of the Ewe people of Ghana. It has beads on a net woven around it. The axatse is typically shaken and struck with the hand and thigh. Ghana.

Ayacaxtli- A Nahuatl rattle made from diverse materials such as gourds, clay, etc. Mexico.


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