Musical Instrument Glossary C

Cabasa – South American rattle. It’s a stainless steel cylinder with metal ball chains wrapped around it, which are scraped against it.

Cabrette – Bagpipe from Auverne. Also known as Cabreta. France.

Cadenas – Cadenas means chains in Spanish. The iron chains are used as a percussion instrument. Spain.

Caixa – A drum with springs on the bottom to create a vibration much like a snare drum. Portugal and Brazil.



Caixeta – Wood block percussion instrument. Country of origin: Portugal and Brazil.

Caja – Snare drum. Spain and Spanish-speaking America.

Cajita – Cajita means small box in Spanish. It is a small trapezoidal box. The lid is opened and closed with one hand, while the other hand hits the box with a wooden stick. Peru.

Cajón – Cajón is a Peruvian and Cuban box drum made from a wooden hollowed box, originally used to store fish. It’s widely used in Afro-Peruvian music and modern Spanish flamenco. They come in varying sizes with open bottoms.

The instrument is usually played with the hands, with the player sitting on the cajón, executing strokes on the sides and rocking the cajón up and down to change the sounds.

Brazilian percussionist Rubem Dantas, a member of Paco de Lucia’s band, introduced the Peruvian cajón to flamenco. It became so popular within flamenco performers that it’s become an essential instrument in contemporary flamenco. Inspired by Afro-Peruvian music and flamenco, many international percussionists have added the cajón to their percussion collection. Variations include the cajón flamenco and caja.



Calabash – 1. A small dried hollow shell of a gourd, used as a rattle. 2. A large dried hollow shell of a gourd, used as a bass drum (West Africa). Also known as calebasse and calabaza.

calabash shaker
calabash shaker


Campana – Campana means bell in Spanish. Percussion instrument.

Cañaveira – A cane with a slit in the middle from Galicia, Spain. It is held tightly and the lower half is struck rhythmically to obtain a certain kind of clapping sound.

Cannada – A Sardinian metallic container used by shepherds to replace the guitar. Italy.

Cántaro – Cántaro means water pitcher in Spanish. A drum made from a clay pitcher. Sometimes spelled in the plural feminine form: cántaras. Spain.

Caña rajada – A slit reed made out of cane. Used in traditional Andalusian folk music. Spain.

Caña de agua – Caña de agua means water cane in Spanish. It’s a rain stick from South America made out of cane with seeds or small stones inside. It is also called palo de lluvia which literally means rain stick in Spanish.

Capachos – Maracas containg capacho seeeds. Used in llanero (plains) music. Colombia and Venezuela

Caracachá – A type of maraca made out of a small gourd filled with small stones. Also spelled caracaxá. Country of origin: Brazil.

Caracalho – A bamboo scraper used by the També indians. Brazil.

Caracol marinho – Caracol marinho means sea snail in Portuguese. It’s a horn made out of conch shell. Brazil.

Caracola – Wind instrument made out of a sea shell. Caracola means conch shell in Spanish.

Carajillo – small clapper. Spain.

Carapacho de jicotea – sea turtle shell used as a percussion instrument in Cuba.

Cáscara – The shell or sides of the timbales.

Cáscara de coco – coconut shell used as a percussion instrument.

Castanets – Percussion instrument composed of two concave halves made out of wood or other materials. They are tied together with string. The player inserts the thumb through the string and the rest of the fingers are used to clap.



Castañetas – Galician castanets.

Castanhetas – Portuguese castanets.

Castanholas – Portuguese castanets.

Castañuelas – Spanish castanets typically used in traditional Spanish music and flamenco.




Catacá – Brazilian wooden blocks.

Caval – Bulgarian wind instrument. Its size varies from 50 to 80cm long, with different tunings.

Cavaquinho – A small 4-stringed instrument from Portugal and the Portuguese-speaking countries. It was the predecessor of the Hawaiian ukulele.




Caxambú – Barrel drum. Brazil.

Caxixi – The caxixi is a woven rattle with a gourd bottom filled with dried seeds. It is usually made of rattan. Brazil.




Cejilla – A device that can be moved to adapt the pitch of the flamenco guitar.

Celempung – Large plucked zither used in the Javanese gamelans. Indonesia.

Cello – In the violin family, the tenor instrument, played upright, while held between the knees.



Celtic Harp – A small instrument of 24 to 34 strings, around 1 meter tall, with curved neck and pillar.

Celtic Harp
Celtic Harp


Cembali – 1. Italian harpsichord. 2. Small Italian cymbals.

Cencerro – A Spanish and Spanish American cowbell (with the clapper removed), struck with a wooden stick.

Centa – A two-headed cylindrical stick drum from Indonesia.

Cetvorka – Quadruple flute with four pipes. Croatia,

Chabreta – Bagpipe from Lemosin. France.

Chácaras – Castanets from the Canary Islands (Spain).

Chalaparta – Chalaparta is an ancient percussion instrument from the Basque Country and Navarra. The chalaparta is made of one or more planks of wood, stone or steel bars.
The players strike the planks, using batons made of wood or iron. One player keeps the basic rhythm while the other fills the gap, creating a rhythm counterpoint. Spelled txalaparta in Basque. Spain.

Chalumeaux – A predecessor of the modern clarinet.

Champara – Kosovar Albanian small metallic finger cymbals

Chanter – The reed pipe in a bagpipe with finger holes on which the melody is played.

Chanz – Long-necked spiked lute with an oval wooden frame and snakeskin covering stretched over both faces. The three strings are fixed to a bar, which is inserted in the body. The instrument is struck or plucked with a plectrum made of horn or with the fingers. As the tones do not echo, every note is struck several times. Mongolia.

Chanzy – Three-stringed Tuvan bowed string instrument.

Chapei dang weng – Cambodian long-necked lute.

Charango – The mini-guitar from South America made from armadillo shells. Read more about the charango.

Chékere – A beaded gourd instrument of African origin used in Cuban music.

Chekwa – The bagpipe from Biskra (Algeria) is named chekwa. It was created at the beginning of the 20th century in the district El Alia, and it is in the very same place that the virtuosos of the chekwa were born.

The chekwa consists of two pipe reeds tied together at the tip, one part of which is fixed to the inside of the bag. At the top end of the bag, two small gazelle horns are placed with a third small reed, into which the musician will blow to fill the bag with air.

Chenda – A drum from the state of Kerala (India) beaten with two sticks.

Cheng – 1) Smallest and highest-pitched of Chinese zithers, related to the ch’in and the Japanese koto. 2) Chinese gong.

Chhing – Cambodian finger cymbals.

Chico – Afro-Uruguayan candombe drum.

Chichas – Shakers. Colombia.

Chieuve – bagpipe from Berry. France.

Chiftelia – A Kosovar Albanian three-stringed instrument from the same family as the saz.

Chigovia – Wind instrument similar to the ocarina. Mozambique.

Chicahuaztli – Nahuatl rain stick. Mexico.

Chiflo – Three hole flute from Aragon. Spain.

Chililihtli – large Pre-Hispanic flute. Mexico

Chimta – A percussion instrument, a long strip with jingles. India.

Ch’in – long narrow zither with very smooth top surface. Traditionally the most honored of Chinese instruments. China.

Chin Chin – A 4 string lute with aluminum body. China.

Ching – Cambodian finger cymbals.

Ching-hu – smallest of Chinese bowed lutes.

Chitarra batente – guitar from Calabria (southern Italy), also known as Renaissance guitar. The body is made from walnut or chestnut wood. It has four or five metal strings.

Chirimía – Wind instrument found in Spain and Spanish-speaking America.

Chocalho – An Angolan shaker made of either many small cymbal like metal pieces or large metal cans filled with rocks, sand or other materials.

Ch’ojok – Grass flute, made from blades of grass. Korea.

Cholaho – A large tube shaker filled with small pellets. Most are made out of metal and some are multiple tubes attached together. Brazil.

Chonguri – long four-stringed fretted lute. Georgia.

Cho’or – End blown flute. Kyrgyzstan.

Chordophone – class of instruments comprising strings stretched between fixed points. divided into zithers, which includes sets of strings stretched parallel to the board; lutes (lute, violin, guitar, etc), with strings stretched across a fingerboard and its attached resonator; and harps.

Chu – Burmese jingle.

Chüeh-hu – Bowed lute with a fingerboard. China.

Chulluchullos – Percussion instrument made from dozens of flattened tin can covers. Bolivia.

Chum Nhac – A small Vietnamese modern bell tree used to produce percussion effects (Courtesy of Khac Chi).

Chunggum – Medium-sized bamboo flute. Korea.

Ciaramella – Double-reed instrument, similar to an oboe, that comes with 7 to 8 holes. It is usually played along with the Neapolitan zampogna (bagpipe). Italy.

Cifte – Double reed pipe. Turkey.

Cimbalom – Box zither with forty-eight strings, which are stretched over a large sounding board and sounded with small hammers. Hungary.

Cirrampala – A wooden stick with a rope tied to it. The mouth is used as the resonance box, vibrating the rope with fingers. Colombia.

Cistro – Spanish cittern.

Citara – Spanish and Latvian zither.

Cittern – A fretted instrument similar to a mandolin, played with a pick. It usually has 10 strings in 5 courses.

Clapper – A percussion instrument formed by two or more elements that are joined together and are struck together to make a percussive sound.

Clarsach – Scottish folk harp, with 25 to 34 strings.

Claves – Two round, polished sticks that are struck one against the other. Cuba.

claviola – an unusual free-reed instrument, also known as key bagpipe, invented in the 1960s by German instrument maker Ernst Zacharias, a technician and designer for German musical instrument company Hohner.

Cobsa – A short-necked, pear-shaped lute. Romania.

Cobza – A short-necked lute related to the cobsa, derived from the kopuz. Moldova.

Coco – South American wooden block.

Concertina – Small accordion (free reed) instrument from England, usually hexagonal in shape.



Conga – Conga is a barrel drum played vertically. The conga was originally made from a hollowed log with a nailed-on skin. Later, tunable hardware was added and current dayconga drums are made out of fiberglass as well as wood. The conga is often played in sets of two or three. The drum derived from several African predecessors and is also known as tumbadora. Cuba.



Contra – Transylvanian three-stringed viola. Romania.

Controller – A MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) synthesizer with a piano keyboard. It can be used to control other synthesizers, called tone generators that do not have a piano keyboard.

Cornas de cabra – Goat horn. Ancient Galician instrument used by shepherds. Spain.

Cornemuse – Mouth blown bagpipe with chanter and small drone in one stock, and a separate large drone, from the Bourbonnais region. France.

Corneta china – Chinese bugle. Another name for the trompeta china, or “Chinese trumpet,” used in Cuban comparsas during carnaval (carnival).

Cromorno – Spanish crumhorn.

Crumhorn – Medieval European reed instrument.

Crwth – Old-style Welsh harp.

Cuatro – Cuatro means four in Spanish and refers to a family of four-string guitar instruments derived from the Spanish guitar that are found throughout Latin America. The body is made out of pine or cedar wood. The cuatro is usually strummed rather than plucked.

1. The Cuban cuatro has four courses of double strings.

2. The Puerto Rican cuatro is a guitar originally used in country music (música jibara) and more recently in salsa. Originally, the cuatro of Puerto Rico had only four strings. Around 1875 it was changed to five sets of double strings.

3. The Venezuelan cuatro has four nylon strings.

Puerto Rican-style cuatro
Puerto Rican-style cuatro


Cucharas – Cucharas means spoons. Spoons are used in Spanish folk music as well as in Cuban rumba to play the clave patterns.

Cugenao – Leaf reed. China.

Cuica – Friction drum with a stick attached to the middle of the drum head, which is rubbed by the player with a piece of damp cloth or cotton. The friction on the stick causes the head of the cuica to vibrate and “squeak”. The pitch of the squeak can be changed by applying pressure to the drum head and changing the tension. Brazil.



Cümbüs – An ud shaped like an American banjo. Turkey.

Cununú – Hollowed tree trunk drum with leather drum head. Colombia.

Cura – Smallest of the saz family, about 75 cm long. Turkey

Cymbal – A round, concave brass disk that when struck with a stick makes a metallic, crashing sound. It is often part of a drum set. A pair of cymbals fitted with hand grips are struck together creating a larger sound and are often part of the percussion section of marching bands. Finger cymbals are small disks fitted around the fingers and are often used in Eastern musical traditions.


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