Musical Instrument Glossary S

Sabar – A Wolof orchestra of five to seven drums carved from solid mahogany. Each drummer plays one drum with one hand and a stick. It is composed of solo drums called n’der and gorong yeguel, three accompanying drums known as gorong talmbat, m’bumg m’bung bal and m’bung m’bung tungoné. The bass drum is the lambe. Senegal.

Sabaro – A long and narrow Mandinka drum carved from mango or mahogany wood. It is the lead drum in a tantango set and is played with one hand using a short stick. The head is covered with shaved goat skin. Also known as sarouba. West Africa.

Sac de gemecs – Sac de gemecs means bag of moans. It’s a Catalan bagpipe. Also known as buna in Andorra or coixinera, gaita or botella. Spain.

Säckpipa – Säckpipa means bagpipe in Swedish. Swedish bagpipe.

Sadev – gourd monochord zither with a gourd resonator. Cambodia.

Sakara – A Yoruba shallow ceramic drum with a circular body covered with goatskin, played with a stick. Nigeria.

Säkkipilli – Finnish Bagpipe. Although the Finnish bagpipes had nearly disappeared, they were revived in the late 20th century by musicians such as Petri Prauda, who formed the band Päre. Petri Prauda plays bagpipes made by Yrjänä Ermala.

Salamuri – Georgian shepherd’s flute.

Sälgflöjt – Willow flute. Sweden.

Saliamiya – A three-holed flute made from cane. Egypt.

Sampho – Small barrel drum made out of hollowed out wood, with two calfskin heads, played with both hands.

Sanduku – a string bass from Zanzibar with a tea-chest resonator. Tanzania.

Sanduri – Hammered dulcimer. Also known as santouri. Greece.

Sanfona – 1. Hurdy-gurdy. Also known as sanfonha. Portugal. 2. Accordion. Brazil.

Sanshin – Okinawan long-necked lute. Japan.

Sansula – An enhanced kalimba developed by German musical instrument maker Peter Hokema. The regular kalimba is placed over a small frame drum.

Santoor – A zither, struck with two hammers. In India it is known as the ‘shata tantra veena’ ­the hundred-stringed lute. Also spelled santur.

Sanxian – Long-necked lute with 3 strings and a small snake-covered head. Also known as san-hsien and xianzi. China.


1. A thumb piano from Congo and other parts of central and East Africa.
2. Widely-used term for all African thumb pianos.

Sao Ba Nguoi – An original instrument crated by Canada-based traditional Vietnamese music ensemble Khac Chi. The sao ba nguoi combines three flutes into one instrument that allows three players to perform on it at once.

Sao Dai – Long flute invented by Vietnamese music ensemble Khac Chi.

Sao Meo – H’mong flute. Vietnam.

Sao Tre – Long transverse bamboo flute. Vietnam.

Sao Truc – A small transverse bamboo flute, also known as sow trook. Vietnam.

Sape – Sarawakian boat-shaped lute. The sape is the most popular instrument among the various Orang Ulu groups. It is usually made of soft wood such as the jelutong or gita or adau. Normally, the sape is played by men, either as a solo instrument or as a duet, while men or women dance. (source: Bisayah Gong Orchestra)

Sarangi – The most common bowed instrument in North Indian classical music. It is made from one piece of wood with a goatskin sound board with 3-4 main gut strings and 23- 35 sympathetic strings and no frets. This ancient bowed lute is known as “the voice of a hundred singing colors.” Also spelled saarangi.

Sarod – A short-necked, unfretted, waisted lute carved from a block of teak wood and covered with a skin belly. Its broad, triangular fingerboard is superimposed with a thin sheet of polished metal. It has four to eight main strings and 11-15 sympathetic strings. The sarod traces its genealogy and origin back to the rabab. India.

Sartenes – Sartén means frying pan in Spanish. The frying pans are used as a traditional percussion instrument in Spain and Spanish-speaking America. In parts of Spain, a single pan is played with a cuchara (spoon) and a dedal (thimble).

Sarune – Wooden shawm from Sumatra (Indonesia).

Sarune bolon – A double reed wooden shawm from Sumatra. Indonesia.

Sarune etek – Small shawm from Sumatra (Indonesia).

Sarune fur – Bamboo shawm from Sumatra. Indonesia.

Satara – A double flute, one drone, one melodic; used across India and Pakistan.

Satar – A long-necked bowed lute derived from the Persian setar; used by the Uyghur community in Western China. It has one metal playing string and 10-12 sympathetic strings.

Saung – Lacquered arched harp made out of wood with a resonator covered by stretched deer skin. Also known as saung-gauk. Myanmar.

Saz – Family of long thin-necked fretted lutes played throughout Turkey, Iran, Armenia and Central Asia. Types of saz include the baglama, divan sazı, bozuk, çöğür, kopuz irızva, cura, and tambura.

Scacciapensieri – Ancient jew’s harp made out of iron. Italy.

Scorriu – An instrument that was created by Sardinian bandits to scare horses and unseat the riders to rob them or escape from the police. It is made out of a cork cylinder with a dog skin membrane. When rubbed, the scorriu produces a loud screeching sound that scares horses. Also known as moliaghe, orriu, and zumbu-zumbu. Italy.

Scottish smallpipes – A bellows blown bagpipe from the Scottish lowlands that is softer than the highland pipes. It’s related to the Northumbrian smallpipes.

Scraper – A percussion instrument consisting of a rough serrated surface made out of wood, bamboo, metal, stone or plastic, in any various shapes that is scraped by a hard object.

Se – A plucked zither with 25–50 strings with moveable bridges. China.

Sebi – A long end-blown reed flute. Egypt.

Segundo – Segundo means second in Spanish. It’s the middle (or second) drum in the set of three tumbadoras (congas) used in Afro-Cuban drumming. Cuba.

Selingut – Sarawakian (Malaysian) nose flute, used to convey love messages by both men and women.

Senj – A metallic cymbal in the form of a bell. Also known as sanj, Sanj, Zang, Chalab, and Boshqābak. Iran.

Sentir – A Gnawa three-stringed long-necked bass lute with a body made from a single piece of wood, and covered with camel skin. Also known as sintir, hejhuj, gogo, gnbri and guimbri. Morocco.

Seke-seke – Metal rattle, or ears, that are used on a jembe. Also known as ksink-ksink. West Africa.

Seljefløyte – Swedish and Norwegian willow flute. Originally, it was called birch flute. It exists in two forms: an end-blown flute, often called a whistling flute, and a side-blown flute. In ancient times the willow flute was made of willow bark. During a short time in the spring, when the willow sap rose, the bark of the tree was easy to detach from the trunk. When the bark eventually dried up, the flute could no longer be played.

The only recourse was to wait until the next spring. Today, willow flutes are often made of plastic, and are usually 40 to 80 centimeters long. Air is blown into a hole on the side of the flute, and a wooden stick inserted into the end of the flute leads the flow of air through the resonating chamber. The willow flute does not have finger holes. The pitch can be varied both by adjusting the level of air pressure exerted, and by covering the end hole completely, or partially, with the forefinger.

Selnien – Vertical cymbals used by Tibetan monks in Buddhist rites. Also known as selnyen.

Senh Tien – A small hand held percussion instrument made from two pieces of flat wood. The upper piece is grooved to produce a rasping sound when rubbed by a small stick, and the lower piece is struck against the upper as in a clapper. Small bells and jingles are attached. The playing technique is complex, alternating rapidly between rasping, clasping, and jingling sounds (Courtesy of Khac Chi).

Sepik – One the longest flutes in the world, from Kanengara, made out of bamboo. Papua New Guinea.

Serraggia – An ancient one-string bowed instrument from Sardinia, used during carnival. It is made of a cane with one brass string. The instrument is rubbed with a bow made from horse hair. Italy.

Serunai – One-stringed fiddle with a bow of the Iban people. It is made from bamboo and wood and animal skin. Sarawak, Malaysia. (source: Bisayah Gong Orchestra)

Setar – A Persian stringed instrument in the lute family with 25 to 27 adjustable frets. Iran.

Shaker – A percussion instrument consisting of a receptacle filled with a rattling substance such as seeds, beans or pebbles.

Shakuhachi – Traditional end-blown flute made from bamboo. Recent models are also made out of wood. Japan.

Shamisen – A long necked 3-string fretless lute plucked with a heavy ivory plectrum. Also known as samsien. Japan.

Asoviva brand shamisen

Shan Osi – Burmese long drum.

Shanz – Three stringed lute played with a plectrum. Also known as shudraga. Mongolia.

Shaoqin (韶琴) – An erhu with a wider range invented by Chinese erhu virtuoso George Gao.

Shawm – Double reed wood instrument. The predecessor of the modern clarinet.

Shekere – Nigerian calabash shaker embroidered with beads to give shaker sound. Known as chékere in Cuba. Also known as sekere.

Sawtooth brand shekere

Shenai – A South Asian shawm found throughout India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Also known as shahnai and shehnai. The shehnai is thought to bring good luck, and as a result, is widely used in North India for marriages and processions.

Sheng – It consists of a bundle of between 17 to 36 vertical bamboo pipes seated on a small wind chamber. A free brass reed is placed in the root of the instrument. It is the predecessor of other free reed instruments such as the accordion and is one of the oldest varieties of Chinese instruments. It first appeared in 551 BC during the Zhou Dynasty (1111 to 222 BC). China.

Huang brand sheng

Shevi – An end-blown shepherd’s fipple flute made of apricot wood, boxwood, ebony or bamboo. It is 30 centimeters and is played solo or in ensembles. Also known as shvi. Armenia.

Shime daiko – Small double-headed rope tuned drum. Japan.

Shinobue – Transverse shinodake bamboo flute with a high-pitched sound. Japan.

Shiqin – A stone xylophone of southern China.

Sho – Mouth organ consisting of 17 bamboo pipes inserted into a cup-shaped wind chest. Blowing into this wind chest while closing holes in the pipes produces a series of chords. The pipes sound whether the player breathes in or out, so a constant tone may be obtained. Has to be heated before playing. Japan.

Shuang Guan – A small double-reed wind instrument. China.

Shurle – Istrian reed instrument with two chanters. It consists of two separate pipes of wood that are connected at the top. Also known as šurle. Croatia.

Shuye – Leaf whistle. China.

Sicu – Andean double-row panpipe available in various sizes. Depending on the size the sicu has different names: zampoña chuli, zampoña malta, sanqa siku, and t’uyu siku. Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile.

Siyotanka – Lakota (Sioux) end-blown flute. Also known as courting flute.

Sihu – Bowed instrument made from hardwood and the playing end of the soundbox is covered with python, cow, or sheep skin. China.

Sikadraha – A long piece of bamboo with transverse ridges cut into it that is played by scraping with a stick. Madagascar.

Sil – Tibetan cymbal used in Buddhist rituals.

Silverbasharpa – A two-row nyckelharpa with a silver-wrapped gut string. Sweden.

Simsimiyya – an ancient five-stringed lyre from the Middle East. Typically, the body was made of wood, covered with stretched goat or camel skin. The origins of the Simsimiyyia are lost in the mist of time and legend. Its modern history comes to life in the 1930s, when Cafe owners in Port Said (Egypt) often employed a player to entertain their customers in the old-time smoking dens. Adopting influences from other styles of local folk music and local Sufi beliefs, the instrument quickly gained in popularity, eventually drawing large audiences and a new repertoire known simply as Simsimiyya was created. This popular success was followed by a decline after the war: economic difficulties and widespread commercialization led to a decline of the tradition in the late 1970s, and many of the old masters simply quit performing, disillusioned and tired.

The simsimiyya became well known again in the 1980s. El Tanbura’s founder, Zakaria Ibrahim first heard the simsimiyyia in Port Said as a young boy in the 1950s. The sound of the instrument stayed in his memory ever since, and in 1980, he decided to dedicate himself to seeking out the old masters and convince them to perform once again. In 1989 a small group of veteran performers came together to form the El Tanbura group. The band grew to include not only folk musicians and percussionists but dancers and singers drawn from local fishermen, market traders and builders, alongside with some older master instrumentalists. (source: El Tanbura)

Sinding – A harp from West Africa with five strings made out of hemp. The resonating body is a calabash stretched with goat skin. A tin rattle may be attached to the instrument. Plucking the string sets the rattle in motion, adding a percussive element to the hollow sound.

Sitar – Indian classical string instrument with 13 sympathetic strings, 6-7 melody strings, and a resonant body fashioned from a gourd base. The frets are movable.

Rosul sitar

Sitolotolo – Jew’s harp. Swaziland.

Sixian – A circular-shaped lute with a short-necked and three or four strings. Also known as moon guitar, yueqin, kuzhu or sixian.

Siyari – A woven rattle of the Frafra people of northern Ghana. It’s made from the fiber of the gang tree and a calabash. Ghana.

Skalmeja – Skalmeja means shawm in Swedish.

Skor arak – Cambodian frame drum.

Skor thom – Large barrel-type bass drum. Cambodia.

Skratji – Bass drum with a cymbal on top. Played horizontally on a stand and used in kaseko music. Suriname.

Slavonske gajde – Slavonian bagpipe. Croatia.

Sluskinja – Double flute with six holes on the right side. Croatia.

Sodina – A 3-6 hole flute made out of bamboo, lightwood, plastic, or reed. It varies in size. Madagascar.

Sogeum – Small transverse bamboo flute. Korea.

Sogo player, a member of Jeonjeup Nongak performing at Jeonju Sori Festival 2019 – Photo by Angel Romero

Sogo – 1. A barrel drum, about 75 centimeters tall with a low pitch of the Ewe people. It’s used as lead and support drum. The sogo is played with two wooden sticks, one hand and one stick, or with both hands. Ghana. 2. Double-headed frame drum used in traditional Korean nongak and ipch’ang music.

Soinari – Cane panpipe from the region of Guria with larger pipes placed in the middle, tied with cord and bark. Also known as larchem. Georgia.

Sonaja – Spanish and Spanish American shakers.

Song Loan – Small clacker played with the foot. Vietnam

Souffara – Small flute. Egypt.

Spelpipa – A traditional wooden whistle usually with eight finger holes, scale usually includes ‘blue notes’ adding special character. Sweden.

Sralai – Low-pitched quadruple-reed shawm. Cambodia.

Steel drums – Drum made traditionally made from a steel oil drum or steel container, originating from Trinidad & Tobago. The interior drum surfaces are hammered and sectioned off into separately tuned sections. The metallic playing surface is concave with a skirt attached. The playing surface is divided into convex sections by channels grooves and/or bores. Each convex section is a note tuned to a definite pitch. The convex section are played by striking with pan sticks to produce musical tones. Source: The Renegades.

Stone chimes – Ancient percussion instrument. China.

Strackharpa – Bowed harp. Sweden.

Strancica – A transverse flute made out of wood. Croatia.

Subang – Large and long wooden Bidayuh drum, usually cut from a tree between 5 to 10 feet high and 1 foot in diameter. It is struck with either the fingers, hands or sticks. Usually the drumhead is covered with the skin of a monkey. Sarawak, Malaysia. Source: Sayu Ateng.

Sulim – transverse bamboo flute from Sumatra. Indonesia.

Suling – End blown bamboo flute used in Balinese Gamelan orchestras and across Southeast Asia: Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.

Supriñu – An ancient Basque double-reed horn made from hazelnut tree bark rolled into a cone. The cone is bent at one end to form the mouthpiece and is then rolled to constitute a long tube. Also known as trompa de corteza. Spain.

Suona – A double reed shawm with eight holes. The two ends made of copper and the body made of wood. China.

Surbahar – A large lute known as a bass sitar. India.

Surdam – Bamboo flute from Sumatra. Indonesia.

Surdo – Large bass drum used to mark the beat of samba, axé and other forms of music. Brazil.

Surdulina – Calabrian bagpipe with two chanters and two drones. Italy.

Surnai – A shawm with two cane pipes, a conical channel, finger holes and a bell. It’s made out of apricot or mulberry wood. Kyrgyzstan.

Suzu – A round Shinto bell that contains pellets that jingle when agitated. Japan.

Svirala – A six-hole shepherd’s flute from Dalmatia. Also known as frula or jedinka. Croatia.

Svirel – A small flute made from a hollow reed or wood. Russia.

Svirka – A Bulgarian shepherds’ flute, consisting of one wooden tube 25 to 50 cm long with six or seven holes. Aslo known as tsafara, svorche, or small kaval. Bulgaria.

Sygyt – Tuvan style of whistling. It’s high overtone singing that sounds like a flute. Russia.