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It’s all too easy to forget that there is a wide variety of musical instruments outside mainstream instruments like the guitar, piano or the drums! The more traditional instruments have taken a backseat and it’s hard to even imagine where these instruments would fit in the modern electronic world. These traditional instruments have great history behind them and offer an insight into the unique cultures of their countries of origin.

Shamisen, Japan

The Shamisen is a three-stringed instrument that is played with a plectrum. It was derived from the Chinese sanxian and evolved over time to share many tonal and construction similarities with the banjo. The construction is based off a drum-like rounded rectangular body that is covered with skin. It is often seen accompanying street buskers and is common with popular folk music.

Danso, Korea

The Korean Danso is a vertical wind instrument with four finger holes and a thumb node at the back. It is used in as an educational tool in Korean schools in a similar fashion as the recorder in western societies. Traditional forms of the instrument are made from bamboo but more modern versions have used plastic.

Langeleik, Norway

This Norwegian string instrument is played flat on the ground and has one melody string with an additional eight drone strings. However, it is unlikely that the Langeleik will be seen in Norway’s latest ‘Black Metal’ craze, due to its limited ability to accompany other instruments.

Balalaika, Russia

This folk instrument stands out of the crowd with its triangular shaped body and three stringed composition. The Balalaika ranges in size from contrabass (very large) to piccolo (very small and rare!) and their pitch changes accordingly.

Ocarina, Latin America

For any of you who have reveled in the world of the Legend of Zelda Nintendo series, you may be familiar with this instrument. Surprisingly enough, the Ocarina is actually a real instrument and can be found throughout Latin America and China. It was first discovered over 12,000 years ago!

Glass Armonica, North America

The Glass Armonica is unique as it produces sounds when rubbing a wet finger around the rim of the glass goblet. This mechanical version of the original European design was crafted by Benjamin Franklin and enabled the musician to simultaneously play 10 glasses at once. Unfortunately, its large size makes it a definite ‘no-no’ for the space conscious.

Tsabouna, Greece

Made from goatskin, this inflatable instrument dates back over 2,000 years. Similar to a bagpipe it features a long reed mouthpiece, but, with a range of about six notes creating a masterpiece may prove difficult.

Kora, West Africa

This 21-sting harp lute from West Africa is arguably harder to tune than it is to play. Make sure you learn these skills if you want your Kora to be anything more than an ornament. About Jestin Hendry Justin Hendry is a travel writer for InsureandGo and currently completing his Bachelor of Media at Macquarie University. At other times he enjoys escapism through the spheres of travel writing, reading and music, in an attempt to fend off the natural progression of maturity and responsibility.
Photo credits: Francisco Javier Arge, Wikimedia, jmtimages, Paul Chenoweth, bobistraveling, naturalgas, wollas.