Folk Musical Instruments

by Ferenc Sebő

“Regarding which instruments may be described using the word ‘folk,’ it depends not on the ‘primitiveness’ of the instrument, but on the depth of its roots and the role it plays in the musical and day-to-day lives of the people.  The concept of a folk musical instrument is a broad one, encompassing instruments of all types – be they ancient or modern, home or factory-made – from the leaf whistle to the clarinet, and from the jug-pipes to the double bass.

A Hungarian folk instrument is not Hungarian because it is found only in Hungary.  The types of musical instruments seen today are all of ancient origins, and have all long belonged to our shared human heritage.  Each culture has inherited, received, or borrowed them from another, as there has been no obstacle – not even language – to prevent their spread.  Thus, each instrument is only Hungarian to the extent that it has become incorporated into our folk tradition.”  (Bálint Sárosi: Folk Musical Instruments , Bp. 1981.)

According to Sárosi, the most important Hungarian folk instruments can be grouped as follows:

1. Idiophones: plank drum, ratchet (or ripped rattle), wooden cimbalom (a type of xylophone), cowbell, bells, stamping stick with chain, and reed or cornstalk fiddle.



2. Membranophones: drums, various jughorns or jugpipes (of the family of friction drums), hair comb kazoos, and reed whistles.



3. Chordophones (stringed instruments): zither or dulcimer, cimbalom (hammer dulcimer), tambura, fiddle/violin, hurdy-gurdy, koboz (cobza or lyre), and percussion cello.



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cimbalom  violin  hurdy-gurdy

4. Aerophones (wind instruments): leaf whistle, accordion, harmonica, wooden horn, trumpet, swineherd’s horn, various flutes/recorders (shepherd’s pipe, end-blown flutes, panpipes, long-necked gourd or sunflower pipes, side-blown or transverse flutes, ocarinas, willow whistles, six-holed flutes, long flutes, three-holed flutes, double flutes), instruments with reeds (reed whistles, Turkish pipe or shawm, tárogató, clarinet), bagpipe, and trump / jaw harp / Jew’s harp / mouth harp.



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swineherd’s horn six-holed flute bagpipe Jew’s harp

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