Musical Instrument Glossary P

Palheta – Portuguese double reed instrument, similar to the Spanish dulzaina. It has five holes and the end section is bell shaped.

Pahu – The pahu or pa’u is a Polynesian bass drum made out of hollowed out coconut trunks, covered by either stretched shark skin, ray or calf skin. The pahu is played with the palms and fingers of the hand. Variations include the heiau pahu (religious drum), also known as the pahu pu’ule (prayer drum); and the hula pahu or pahu mele

Paigu – Paigu means row of drums. It’s a set of three to seven tuned drums (toms toms) in varying sizes, usually made of wood with animal skin heads. The drums are arranged in a row of adjustable metal stands. The drums are painted red with decorative designs. China.

Paixiao – Ancient chromatic pan flute made out of bamboo. Name variations: pai xiao and pai-hsiao. China.

Pailas – A name sometimes used by Cuban musicians to refer to timbales. Pailas or pailas criollas were also small metal toms toms used by street bands.

Pakawaj – North Indian double-ended barrel drum made out of light wood. Played horizontally. Also known as pakhawraj, Pakhavaj, pakhawaja. India.

Palitos – Palitos means small sticks in Spanish. Palitos or claves is a percussion instrument consisting of a small stick that strikes a wood block. Cuba.

Palmas – Handclap percussion used in Flamenco music and in some Spanish American countries. Spain.

Palos – Palo means stick or tree trunk in Spanish. The Dominican palo is a tall drum, also known as atabales, bambula and quiyombo. Palos usually come in the three sizes: tambor mayor (the largest), tambor mediano and alcahuete. The drums are made from hollowed out trees covered with either goat or cow skins drum heads. Dominican Republic.

Palo de lluvia – Palo de lluvia means literally rain stick in Spanish. It’s a hollowed out shaker tube made out of wood, cactus or other plants, filled with seeds, small stones, rice or other materials.

Palwei – End blown bamboo flute. Myanmar.

Pandeireta – Galician tambourine. Spain.

Pandereta – Spanish and Spanish American tambourine. Spain.

Pandeiro – Frame drum or tambourine of Portugal, Brazil and Galicia (Spain).

Pandero – Large Spanish and Spanish American frame drum.

Pandero cuadrado – Square frame drum from the Peñaparda region. The drum head is beaten with a wood stick. Spain.

Panduri – Fretted three-string lute made out of wood. Georgia.

Pan hu – Bowed two-string fiddle. China.

Panjtar – A Uighur tar with a long neck. China.

Panpipe – A set of tuned cane pipes joined together in a bundle shape.

Paraguayan harp – A diatonic harp with 32, 36, 38 or 40, 42 or 46 strings used in traditional music.

Paranku – A small one headed Okinawan cowhide frame drum. It’s struck with a bachi. Japan.

Pastýřské píštaly – Shepherd’s flute. Czech Republic.

Pate – Slit log drums from the Cook Islands that have become popular across Polynesia. Also knoen as tokere, tō’ere and ka’ara.

Patenge – Square frame drum held between the legs. The pitch can be changed by the pressure of the heel on the skin. Democratic Republic of Congo.

Pattalar – A traditional boat-shaped xylophone made out of bamboo or copper. Also now as patala. Myanmar.

Pífano – Small high pitched flute used in Spanish military bands and also found in the Andes region. Also known as pífaro and flautin. Spain.

Piffaro – Double reed instrument. Also known as piffero. Italy.

Pilón – A kitchen pestle used as a percussion instrument in vallenato and other forms of Latin American music. Source: Ministerio de Cultura, Colombia.

Pingullo – Small six hole cane flute used throughout the Andean region. Also known as caracol, pinkullo, pinkullus, pinquillo and pinkuyo and originating in Ecuador.

Piob Mhor – Great Highland bagpipe with a conical chanter and 3 drones. Scotland

Pipa – The pipa is a short-necked Chinese lute. It has a shallow body with small sound hole concealed by the bridge. The pipa is a traditional Chinese plucked instrument with a long history that originates from the historical straight-nape Pipa and bent-nape Pipa. To play Pipa, one should press the strings at relevant areas with the left hand fingers and pluck strings with right hand fingers that wear fake nails made of celluloid (or hawksbill). Pipa is widely used for the accompaniment of national bands, various local opera and folk art forms. The well-known music of Pipa includes ‘Ambush on All Sides’ the Conqueror Unarms and ‘Lady Zhaojun Crossing the Frontier,’ etc. Pipa also often appears in poems of ancient poets, such as “Pipa Player” of Bai Juyi, “Liangzhou Music” of Wang Han and “Dongfengpo” of Su Shi, etc.

In September 2008, the Chinese Ministry of Culture awarded Liaoyuan city the title of “Hometown of Chinese Pipa”. Liaoyuan city is located in the south central part of Jilin Province. In Liaoyuan, the education and training of Pipa is at a domestic leading level. In 2012, more than 580 Liaoyuan students were studying Pipa in various arts institutions of China and more than half of the students majoring in Pipa at the Central Conservatory of Music come from Liaoyuan. Many students from South Korea, Japan, Singapore, etc. are trained with Pipa in Liaoyuan.

Source: Radio China International



Pipiolu – Small Sardinian shepherd’s flute. Also known as pipiolu, pipaiolu, sulittu, piffaru, pipiriolu. Italy.

Pito – Pito means whistle in Spanish. Also known as silbato.

Pito de afilador – A small panflute-style instrument made out of wood or plastic. Used by knife sharpeners to announce their services. Also known as chiflo. . Spain.

Pito herreño – Traverse flute from the island of El Hierro (Canary Islands). Spain.

Pistoñ – The Pistoñ is a type of oboe invented by Breton musician, educator and musical instrument maker Youenn Le Bihan. The pistoñ is a contemporary enhancement of the hautbois (baroque oboe).

Pitkähuilu – Overtone flute. Finland.

Pito de paragüeiro – A wooden triangular whistle in the shape of a horse used in Galicia by traveling knife and blade sharpeners who would announce their trade by playing the whistle. Spain.

Piwang – a Tibetan long-necked. two-stringed fiddle from Kham (eastern Tibet). Source: Penpa Tsering.

Płock – The Płock fiddle originated in the city of Płock in central Poland. Dating to the 15th century, the Płock fiddle is a box-shaped instrument with six strings and no fingerboard. Polish musician and investigator Maria Pomianowska methodically reconstructed the płock based on ancient images and texts. Pomianowska was the first modern musician to play this instrument. Source: Polish Cultural Institute New York.

Posaune – Trombone in German.

Prim – A small pear or oval shaped guitar-like instrument that normally leads the melody. Also known as bisernica. Croatia.

Psaltery – One of the most ancient musical instruments. It is a raised wooden board or box with sound holes, with strings stretched parallel to the soundboard and attached at either side by wooden pegs or metal pins. The psaltery is played by plucking the strings with the fingers or a plectrum. Also known as psalterio and salterio.

Pu’ili – Double bamboo sticks, 35-60 centimeters long (18-26 inches) used in Hawaiian hulas music. USA.

Puk – Klezmer bass drum, also known as baraban.

Pung – Wooden barrel drum from the Indian state of Manipur played horizontally Also known as manipuri mridang. India.

Pungi – A reed instrument with a gourd air reservoir. Used by snake charmers in India and Pakistan. Also known as been. India.


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