Kora – Africa


The Kora is an African harp that can have over twenty strings strung across its bridge.  The sound boxes of the Kora is made from half a calabash. The front of the kora usually has a cow skin draped tightly across it and can be painted for decoration.  It is called a double harp because the strings are divided into two groups across the bridge area. The sound of the kora is similar to that of a harp and played with the thumb and first finger of both hands.


The instrument is tuned by moving the leather rings up and down the large neck that comes out of the sound box area. The extra “tubes” that protrude from the front face area permit the musician to hold onto the instrument while seated.



Lamin Saho demonstrates how to play the kora.

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This video is of Mamadou Diabate, a griot (musical storyteller)

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Lira (or Lirica)

There are many variations of the Lira, or lirica, depending on which nationality you are investigating. Variations of Lira have been found in the Ukraine, Serbia and Croatia. It is a sibling to the ancient lyre. Generally the strings are pitches to d2, A1 and e2. The Ukrainian Lira can also look like a type of “hurdy-girdy” which makes sound by the right hand winding a level while the left hand plays various “keys” that press onto the different places on the strings inside the sound box.


ocarinaThe ocarina (or “okaryna” in Ukrainian) is a diatonic wind or flute instrument that is made from pottery or metal. It has a “goose head” shape, hence its Italian name “oca”.  Its small mouthpiece is attached to an oblong body that has a number of tone holes for playing different pitches. Generally, the ocarina has eight tone holes that are aligned in two rows for playing by the left and right hands. It can play notes in a range of one to one-and-a-half octaves. This instrument and its primitive variations have been found in areas of the Ukraine, Italy, China, Egypt and other countries.


Featured Videos


An ocarina trio

Video Overview: Ocarina from Ten Little Duet for Treble Instruments by Ross Edwards

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Evenstar from the Lord of the Rings on STL Hobbit Ocarina

Video Overview: This video is a music video with a featured ocarina player on the song “Evenstar” from Lord of the Rings.

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Choosing your first ocarina (by Docjazz)

Video Overview: David demonstrates how to choose your first ocarina purchase.

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Lena Plays Pokemon Bike Theme on STL Ocarinas

Video Overview: An advanced ocarina performance

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How to Play Zelda Songs on Your Ocarina

Video Overview: This video demonstrates how to play and read music for the ocarina. This is an intermediate level teaching.

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The Kobza is a wooden Ukrainian instrument with eight strings; two four-string pairs are separated by a central sound hole. The additional sound holes are found below both string pairs.  The strings are plucked by a plectrum.


Featured Videos

Fabri Geza
Video Overview:
Here is an example of Fabri Geza playing a kobza and singing in traditional Urkrainian forms.

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Antim Loan
Video Overview:
Here is another video with Antim Loan playing a kobza

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“Ion Albesteanu, Marin Cotoanta – Hora lautareasca”
Video Overview: A short video of a duet with a kobza and violin

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The husli (or husle) is part of the violin family and is one of the oldest known Ukrainian musical instruments. It has been documented by the Greeks as early as the 6th century CE. There are many different versions of the wooden stringed instrument.

The three or more strings are plucked by the fingers and can be tuned by the pegs at the top of the neck of the instrument like a violin. The stringed are secured above the wooden sound box by a wooden bridge that is located near the two sound holes.


Featured Video

Maria Pomianowska suka & Fidel orchestra Arcus Poloniae Folk melody

Video Overview: This video contains many photos of the various types of husle and other instruments found in the Ukraine.

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The Ukrainian Bandoura (бандура) has a large wooden sound box that is round. It has 12 drone strings that are plucked with the left hand. The right hand plays the 20 to 30 graduated melodic strings. Each string can be individually tuned. This is necessary because this instrument does not use a fret board.






Featured Videos


Julian Kytasty, bandoura player

Video Overview: Bandoura virtuoso Julian Kytasty playing Echo composed by his grandfather. Notice the “drone” strings are used to keep the beat going constantly while the right hand performs the meloldy on the strings closer to the tone hole. Listen to the pitches that sound from the right hand playing the strings at the bottom of the instrument.

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Video Overview: This is a French speaking video and performance on the history of the bandoura.

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М.Скорик ,Т.Шевченко “Якби мені черевики” (бандура)

Video Overview: This is a performance of a bandoura player.

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Мега хит ! Бандура !

Video Overview: This video is of a performance of bandoura quintent.

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Clareta (Renaissance Trumpet)

The Renaissance was a time of drastic change in the fundamental inter-workings of the trumpet.  The evolution of the trumpet had diverged into two main groups: horns made of metal and horns made of wood using finger holes.  The metal trumpet (specifically the clareta, or natural trumpet) will be of primary focus here.

The clareta was inspired by its predecessor, the Medieval trumpet.  Keeping a Medieval concept of metal composition, the clareta’s sound was improved by increased precision of metal workmanship and its metal alloy composition.  Using new capabilities to curve hollowed metal without altering the inner shape of its bore, air produced by the clareta performer was able to flow freely through the instrument’s chamber without obstruction.  This advancement produced a clearer sonority and the ability for the performer to obtain the upper harmonics because of the more resonant fundamental pitch.  During this period, the common range of the metal Renaissance trumpet was C below middle C to G’’.  Clareta performers were known for their incredible virtuoso playing in the upper extensions by performing up to an F’’’ (Munrow).

Understanding the usefulness of the brass flare at the end of the instrument, Renaissance trumpet makers, such as Neuschel of Nuremburg, created a smaller, although more efficient flare at the end of the trumpet.  This thickened flare continued to improve upon the brightness and articulate sound of the Renaissance trumpet (ASW).  With its tightly wound, S-shaped tubing, air was expelled faster because of the “exponential” (Monrow) curvature.  Common metal, such as silver and brass, also became determinants in the brightness and clarity of sound.

Continuing to be used for ceremonial fanfare, the clareta was also utilized in civic life.  The instrument became more common in weddings, public courts and by composers.  Monteverdi’s Toccata in Orfeo (1607) calls for a “clarino” which was a high pitched trumpet that was built in the key of D.  With the use of Renaissance mutes, the dynamic range was decreased and the sound was brought down a whole step to the key of C.

With the usefulness of the upper harmonic pitches, the clareta became an instrument useful for polyphonic performance.  As exemplified by Girolamo Fantini’s Modo per Imparare a sonare di tromba (1638), exercise books were written to develop the Renaissance trumpet player’s technique.  The Renaissance trumpet had become an instrument that was on the rise to its great virtuoso usage as documented in the Baroque period.





ASW Guide to Historical Brass Instruments.  Renaissance Brass Instruments.  February 2, 2000.  <http://www.capecod.net/aswtld/guidebr.htm>

Munrow, David.  Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.  London: Oxford UP, 1976.


Screen shot 2012-12-13 at 1.47.19 PMThe charango is a small guitar-like instrument made from an armadillo shell. It has 10 strings (5 double strings) and is of Andean origin (i.e. South America, specifically the Andean mountains of Peru). The charango is played by strumming finger tips across the strings while placing various finger placements on the fret board.


Performance Video Sample

How a charango is played

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Cajon (box drum)

CajonThe cajon (pronounced “kah-hôn”) is native to Peru. It is a box-like wooden percussion instrument with a small circular hole in the back of the drum. The player sits on the drum and plays rhythms on the drum sides with both finger tips and palm of hands.


Performance Demonstration

Here is a video by famous percussionist, Alex Acuna, demonstrating how to play the cajon.

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Extended resources

How to make a cajon (in English)

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In English – <iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/EVZN_mdz7Ks” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>


¿Cómo hacer un cajón peruano? (Espanol)

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quenaThe quena (pronounced “kay-nah”) is a single straight wooden flute that uses a divot in the end of the flute to create its unique sound. It is also known as the “ancient flute of the Incas” (Slominsky, 1945, p. 12).


Extended Learning

How to build a quena


How the Quena Flute is Made (English)

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