Folk Music Instruments You Need to Know About

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Folk music is a genre that has been around for centuries. It’s a style of music that is passed down from generation to generation, and often has a strong connection to the culture and history of the people who play it.

There are a wide variety of folk music instruments, from the well-known (guitar, fiddle, mandolin) to the lesser-known (bouzouki, bodhran, Appalachian dulcimer). In this blog


Folk music is a genre of music that is typically passed down from generation to generation orally. Folk music is often associated with countries and regions, and it often has a regional or national identity. Folk music can be divided into two categories: traditional folk music and contemporary folk music. Traditional folk music is passed down from generation to generation and often has a strong connection to the culture and customs of a particular region or country. Contemporary folk music is Folk music that has been updated or modernized, often by adding elements from other genres of music.


Drums are an important part of many folk music traditions, from the pow-wow drums of Native American tribes to the bodhrans of Celtic bands. Here are some of the most popular types of drums used in folk music today.

Frame drums are perhaps the most versatile type of drum, appearing in a wide variety of folk music styles from around the world. The drumhead is stretched over a circular frame, and can be played with the hands or with sticks. Djembes are a type of frame drum originating in West Africa, while tablas are commonly used in Indian music.

Hand drums are another popular type of folk drum, and can be played either solo or in a group. Hand drums come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from the small tambourine to the large bass drum. Bongos are a type of hand drum originating in Cuba, while congas are commonly used in Afro-Cuban and Latin American music.

Percussion instruments are also widely used in folk music. Percussion instruments can be anything that makes a noise when it is hit, shaken, or rubbed, such as cymbals, triangles, and gongs. These instruments add an extra level of rhythm and sound to any performance.


The fiddle is one of the most important folk music instruments, particularly in Celtic and old-time music. Fiddles come in many different shapes and sizes, but they all have four strings and are played with a bow. The fiddle is also known as the violin, although there are some differences between the two instruments.

Fiddles are usually played with a light, fast touch, and the player often uses vibrato (a rapid shaking of the bow) to add expressiveness to the music. Fiddlers will often tune their instrument to a particular key to make it easier to play with other instruments.

There are many different regional styles of fiddle music, including Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, Swedish and old-time American. Many of these styles have been influenced by classical music, and some fiddlers use classical techniques such as double stops (playing two notes at the same time).


Guitars are one of the most popular folk music instruments, and there are many different types to choose from. Acoustic guitars are the most common type of guitar used in folk music, and they come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Classical guitars, which are also acoustic, have a wider neck and body than other acoustic guitars and are typically played with a pick.

Electric guitars can also be used for playing folk music, although they are not as common. If you want to use an electric guitar, you will need an amplifier to make it loud enough to be heard over other instruments. Bass guitars are another type of electric guitar that can be used for folk music. They have a lower range than other types of electric guitar and are typically played with a pick.

Banjos are another popular type of folk music instrument. They have a unique sound that is created by the strings vibrating against the animal skin that forms the head of the banjo. Banjos typically have five strings, although some players prefer four-string banjos.

Mandolins are another type of stringed instrument that is often used in folk music. They have a similar sound to guitars, but they have a much higher pitch. Mandolins typically have four strings, although some players prefer eight-string mandolins.

Fiddles are also commonly used in folk music. They are similar to violins but have a heavier sound that is well suited for upbeat tunes. Fiddles typically have four strings, although some players prefer five-string fiddles.


Harmonicas are small, handheld instruments that are played by blowing air into them. The most common type of harmonica is the diatonic harmonica, which has 10 holes that create different notes. Harmonicas are commonly used in folk and blues music, and they can be played solo or in a group.


The mandolin is a small, stringed instrument that is played with a pick. It has a pear-shaped body and a set of strings that are tuned in fifths. The mandolin is a very versatile instrument and can be used for various genres of music, including bluegrass, jazz, and classical.

Other Folk Music Instruments

In addition to the instruments already mentioned, there are a few other folk music instruments you might encounter. These include:

-The accordion: A portable keyboard instrument with air-filled bellows, commonly used in polka and zydeco music.
-The banjo: A four- or five-stringed instrument with a membrane stretched over a frame, played with the fingers or a pick.
-The dulcimer: A stringed instrument with a trapezoidal sound box, held in the lap or on a stand, played with light hammers.
-The fiddle: A bowed string instrument, similar to a violin, typically used in Celtic or old-time music.
-The mandolin: A small, plucked string instrument related to the lute family, often used in bluegrass and Italian folk music.
-The ukulele: A small four-stringed guitar originating in Hawaii, commonly associated with island music.

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