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Top 7 Peruvian Musical Instruments

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Peruvian instruments

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For centuries, Peruvian instruments have been a massive part of the country’s culture. The most famous are the charango and huancaras, two-stringed guitars that have captivated listeners worldwide. Despite their popularity for many years, these two instruments are not even close to being Peru’s only musical treasures.

Peru is a country with rich culture, history, and music. Peru has an ancient tradition of making musical instruments using unique materials like wood and copper. Visitors to the country are often amazed at seeing so many different types of Peruvian instruments at once. Here is a list of 7 top Peruvian musical instruments you might want to know about!

3 Types of Instruments in Peruvian music

Stringed instruments

The Charango is the instrument that not only dominates the stringed scene but is actually the most prominent instrument in Peru. It is, in fact, the national instrument of the country. It was developed during Spanish colonization and was an imitation of the Spanish vihuela. It is used as part of the local courtship ritual in a few regions of Peru. While it was mainly limited to the rural poor until the 1960s, it became more prominent across the regions and classes after the indigenismo movement promoted greater inclusion of indigenous groups.

Peruvian stringed instruments

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The Spanish guitar is common across the country. The bandurria is another Spanish stringed instrument prevalent across Peru, but unlike the Spanish guitar, the bandurria has been dramatically changed by Peruvian musicians. It now features between 12 and 16 strings in four courses, whereas the original bandurria had 12 strings in 6 courses. Other stringed instruments of European origin that are popular in Peru are the harp and violin.

Percussion instruments

The most important and prominent percussion instrument of Peru is the Cajon. African slaves developed it. Even the cowbell originates in Africa. The bombo was another imported percussion instrument; it was originally from Europe.

The percussion instruments that are of Peru origin (or Andean origin, to be more precise) are the tinya and wankara.

Wind instruments

Flutes and panpipes are the two significant types of wind instruments in Peru. These musical instruments are typically built to play on the hexatonic, pentatonic, and tritonic scales, although modern musicians play them in European diatonic scales. Siku is the most common panpipe, while pinkillu and tarka are the common flutes. In addition to these, ocarina and wakra phuku are two wind instruments that cannot be properly segmented.

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7 Top Musical Instruments of Peru

1. Cajón

This is a percussion instrument that’s kind of like the Latin American version of a drum set. They have their own particular sound and texture, which makes them great for playing various styles of music from across South America! They are also called a “box drum.”

Cajons are shaped like a cube and have the same dimensions on all sides. They also can come in different sizes, but they’re always composed of three boards that form the box, which is then covered by some kind of material—ranging from wood to metal sheeting. Nowadays, cajon dimensions are mostly around 48 x 30 x 30 cm in size. Read this article to know everything about Cajon history and Basics.

peruvian instrument

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The Cajon has been around for centuries; it originated in Peru during colonial times (about 1580). In fact, there’s even evidence to suggest that their origin might date back as far as 1150 AD! It’s still unclear exactly who invented this musical instrument or where because people were using drums long before Europeans introduced them into South America. However, we know that these instruments became popular among African slaves due to their construction and size.

The cajon still plays a big part in Peru’s music scene today; it can be found alongside other acoustic instruments such as the guitar, Charango, ukulele, and quena (traditional woodwind). It also features prominently on more modern sounds like Afrobeat or reggae because of its ability to produce deep bass tones.

They’re now commonly seen accompanying bands playing everything from traditional folk songs to contemporary styles of music.

2. Ocarina

The ocarina is a small, spherical flute. It has six finger holes and one thumb hole in the instrument’s body, which also acts as an air channel. The word “ocarina” comes from the Italian term for “little goose.”

An early form had five finger holes instead of six, but this was found to be too awkward to play with sufficient skill. Ocarinas are made primarily from ceramic or plastic today.

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There have been few changes in technique such that most ocarinas can still be played either way; some players prefer using five fingers rather than risking injury to their thumbs by covering two adjacent holes at once.

Ocarinas come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from small, palm-sized instruments to larger instruments capable of producing a more resonant sound. They are often used as children’s toys and for light entertainment in parties or gatherings.

3. Charango

The Charango is a small stringed national instrument in Peruvian music. It was invented during the Viceroyalty of Peru by musicians imitating the Spanish vihuela.

It is traditionally made from an armadillo shell, but it can also be made from wood. Modern charangos are predominantly made from wood, and nowadays, there are many different types of woods available. It will have five courses with two strings each for a total of 10 strings. However, there are other variants too.

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Nowadays, there are electric and hybrid acoustic-electric charangos. There are many variants of Charango, and typically, each variant is named after the town or region it originated in. Some examples are Walaycho, Ronroco, and Charangon.

The Charango belongs to the lute family and originated in the Andean populations post-colonization. The introduction of European stringed instruments by the Spanish is what led to the development of it.

The Charango forms a significant part of traditional Andean music but is increasingly being adopted by other Latin American musicians.

4. Tarka ( Flutes)

The Tarka is a rectangular flute. It is typically made from wood and has six holes. The mouthpiece is kind of like a whistle and has a small air hole. There is also a free hole at the end. The Tarka takes a lot of breath to play and has a primitive sound that is much darker and penetrating than other block flutes.

There are three variants of the tarka: big, medium, and small. These are usually played together as part of a large ensemble with percussion instruments like the tinya.

It is typically made by artisans from the western regions of Peru. Sometimes these artisans make really intricate pieces with color that just look and sound phenomenal. The Tarka was a part of tribal ceremonies and was used to mimic bird sounds.

5. Siku

The siku (or antara) is a panpipe that forms the core of a music genre called the sikuri. The siku has two rows of pipes and is traditionally placed by two musicians, with each musician taking one row. However, nowadays, just one musician will play both rows.

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Sikus typically have 13 pipes, but there are varieties with a higher or lower number of pipes. Many communities have developed their own siku primarily due to the mountainous landscape that’s hard to navigate. Some examples of siku types would be the malta, ika, and toyo. Toya has the longest pipes, with some up to 4 feet long!

It is usually made out of bamboo shoots, but people have used condor feathers and bones, among other materials to make it too. The material a siku is made of dramatically affects its sounds. A shallow-walled siku made from bamboo is louder and more resonant than a deep-walled one. However, deep-walled sikus are more common as they are sturdier.

While there are many varieties of Siku, there is now a standardized version that is used in western music forms.

6. Tinya

The tinya (also known as kirki) is a small percussion instrument that is made out of leather. This instrument was developed before the colonization of Peru. It is handmade and is used in traditional Peruvian music, especially during dances. In the town of Los Danzanetes de Levato, a single musician will play the Tinya along with a siku simultaneously.

7. Pinkillu

The pinkillu is another small flute. It is a pretty small musical instrument and is typically played with just one hand, with the other hand being used to play percussion instruments like the tinya. It is played during the early rainy season to celebrate agriculture. It is believed that playing the pinkillu will cause rain. Musicians also moisten it with alcohol or water before playing; this is said to help fertility.

It is typically made out of cane but can also be made out of bone, bamboo, or tree branches. It can be up to 1.2 meters long and has six finger holes. The pinkillu is tied together with the nerves of sheep or llama.

What is the typical music in Peru?

Peru has a wide range of music styles and musical instruments, from Cumbia to Andean Folk. But cumbia is considered to be Peru’s favorite music throughout the country.

Hi, my name is Erick Ycaza. I have a BA in Advertising & Graphic Design. This blog is to provide you with daily music news and share my personal style.

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