Discover the Beauty of Korean Folk Music with These Instrumental Tracks

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Discover the beauty of Korean folk music through these instrumental tracks. From the serene and calming sounds of the gayageum to the lively and exciting rhythms of the janggu, these tracks will transport you to another world.

Introduction to Korean Folk Music

Korean folk music (Minyo) has a long history and is varied and rich in form. It is often compared to the music of North America’s indigenous people or that of Eastern Europe’s Roma (Gypsies). Korean folk music is sometimes called “roots music” because it retains strong links to the past.

The two main types of Korean folk music are work songs, which were usually sung while performing farm or fishing tasks, and shaman ritual songs, which were sung during shaman rituals designed to cure the sick or bring good luck. Folk songs can also be classified by their function: some are love songs, others are children’s songs, drinking songs, or seasonal songs.

Korean folk music often uses simple instruments such as the gayageum (Korean zither), haegeum (two-string fiddle), danso (vertical bamboo flute), and janggu (hourglass drum). In addition, farmers would often sing while working in the fields, and women would sing while performing domestic tasks such as weaving.

With the advent of modernity and Westernization in Korea from the late 19th century onwards, traditional Korean folk music began to decline. However, in recent years there has been a renewed interest in Minyo among both musicians and the general public. This has led to a revival of traditional Korean instruments and styles of playing.

If you’re interested in exploring Korean folk music further, we’ve put together a list of 10 beautiful instrumental tracks for you to enjoy.

The Various Instruments Used in Korean Folk Music

There are a wide variety of instruments used in Korean folk music. From the traditional Korean string instrument, the gayageum, to the more modern drums, these instruments provide the perfect way to relax and enjoy the beauty of traditional Korean music.

The Gayageum

The gayageum is a traditional Korean zither that has twelve strings. The strings are stretched over a rectangular soundboard, and the instrument is played with both hands, with the right hand plucking the strings and the left hand pressing down on thestrings to change the pitch. The gayageum is often used in folk music, as well as in more modern genres such as pop and rock.

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The Geomungo

The geomungo is a six-stringed zither-like instrument that is unique to Korea. It has a rectangular wooden body with two sound holes and raised bridges on either end. The strings are stretched over the length of the body and tuned to different notes. The performer sits cross-legged on the floor and strikes the strings with a pick, or by plucking them with their fingers.

The geomungo is often used to play traditional Korean folk songs, or pansori, which are lengthy vocal and instrumental narratives. These songs can tell stories of love, loss, injustice, or everyday life in Korea. The geomungo accompanies the singer and provides a variety of textures and rhythms that help bring the story to life.

If you’re interested in exploring Korean folk music, be sure to check out some tracks that feature the geomungo. You’ll be transported to another world by this beautiful and unique instrument!

The Haegeum

The haegeum is a traditional Korean string instrument that dates back to the Goryeo dynasty. It has a rectangular body with two strings made of silk or horsehair. The instrument is held vertically and played with a bow. The haegeum produces a clear, bright sound that can be both melancholic and cheerful.

There are many different regional variations of the haegeum, and it is commonly used in folk music and shamanistic rites. It is also sometimes used in Pansori, a form of Korean traditional narrative singing. The haegeum is one of the most popular instruments in Korean music, and its unique sound has charmed listeners for centuries.

The Jing

The jing is a percussion instrument used in Korean folk music. It is a handheld instrument made of brass or bronze, and it is played by striking it with a wooden stick. The jing has a very distinctive sound, and it is often used to keep the beat in folk songs.

The jing can be either small or large, and it comes in different shapes and sizes. Smaller jings are known as yeom jings, while larger ones are called dae jings. There are also different types of jings, such as the buk jing ( which has a bowl-shaped body) and the seyong jing ( which has a cylindrical body).

Jings are often used in ensembles along with other instruments such as the buk (drum), the haegeum (fiddle), and the piri (oboe).

The Piri

The piri is a Korean traditional oboe that is made of bamboo. It is about 30 cm long and has 6 holes in the front and one in the back. The piri has a reed attached to the mouthpiece, and the player blows into this reed to produce sound. The instrument’s range is about two octaves.

Piri music originated in the court music of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). During this time, only the upper class had access to culture and art, so most of the music from this period was created for the royal family and their guests. In folk music, the piri is often used to play melodic phrases or Ah Yangjeong gut, which are fast, happy tunes.

The Yanggeum

The yanggeum is a hammered dulcimer that originates from China. It was introduced to Korea during the Goryeo dynasty and became very popular in folk music. It has a rectangular body with two sets of strings stretched across it. The yanggeum is played with two soft-headed mallets.

The sound of the yanggeum is very gentle and soothing, making it a perfect instrument for slow, beautiful tracks. It is often used in traditional Korean wedding ceremonies, as well as in many other important events and festivals.

The Different Genres of Korean Folk Music

Korean folk music has a long and rich history, dating back to ancient times. There are many different genres of Korean folk music, each with its own unique sound and style. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular genres of Korean folk music, and we’ll also recommend some of our favorite tracks for you to listen to.


Pansori is a unique genre of Korean folk music that is characterized by a solo singer telling a story to the accompaniment of a single drummer. The singer is known as the sorikkun, and the drummer is called the jangguwŏn.

Pansori songs are typically long and narrate epic tales, often involving tragic heroes. The most famous pansori song is “Simcheongga,” which tells the story of a blind man who sacrifices his own eyes to save his daughter from being sold into prostitution.

Pansori music was traditionally passed down orally from generation to generation, and it was not until the 20th century that it was transcribed into sheet music. Today, pansori is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and there are many recordings and live performances of this unique genre of Korean music.


Sanjo is a genre of folk music that originated from the mountainous regions of North and South Jeolla Province in South Korea. The music is characterized by its use of traditional Korean instruments such as the gayageum (12-string zither), haegeum (two-string fiddle), piri (oboe), and janggu (hourglass-shaped drum). Sanjo tracks are typically very long, sometimes lasting up to an hour, and often feature only a single instrument.

Sanjo was traditionally performed by farmers during their downtime from working in the fields. The music was used as a way to relax and forget about the hardships of daily life. These days, sanjo is still performed by traditional Korean musicians, but it has also gained popularity among contemporary artists who often fuse it with other genres such as jazz and rock.

If you’re looking for something soothing and calming, then sanjo is the perfect genre for you. These instrumental tracks will transport you to the beautiful mountains of Korea and help you relax after a long day.


Sinawi is a genre of Korean folk music that is performed with a combination of traditional Korean instruments, including the piri (oboe-like instrument), the haegum (two-stringed fiddle), and the gayageum (zither). This type of music is often accompanied by singing and dancing, and it is typically performed at festivals and other special occasions.

The Different Regional Styles of Korean Folk Music

Korea is a peninsula located in East Asia. It’s bordered by the Yellow Sea to the west, and the Sea of Japan to the east. The country is divided into North and South Korea. Korean folk music is the traditional music of Korea. There are many different regional styles of Korean folk music, each with its own unique sound.

Jeju Island

Jeju Island is home to a unique type of Korean folk music called Jeju Sinawi. The music is characterized by its use of the haegum (a two-stringed fiddle), the piri (a flute-like instrument), and the janggu (a hourglass-shaped drum). Traditional Jeju Sinawi songs are often about love, nature, and the island’s history.

Gyeongsang Province

Gyeongsang Province is located in the southeast of South Korea and includes the cities of Daegu, Busan, and Ulsan. Gyeongsang has a rich history of Korean folk music, which is reflected in the many instrumental tracks that come from this region.

Some of the most popular Gyeongsang folk songs include “Arirang,” “Chunhyangga,” and “Heungbuga.” “Arirang” is a slow, beautiful song that is often played on the gayageum (a traditional Korean zither). “Chunhyangga” is a more upbeat folk song that tells the story of two lovers who are separated by her parents. “Heungbuga” is a slower, more melancholic song that talks about the pain of love and loss.

Whether you’re a fan of slow and moving melodies or upbeat and lively tunes, you’re sure to find something you enjoy in Gyeongsang’s vibrant folk music scene.

Jeolla Province

The Jeolla Province is located in the southwest corner of Korea and is known for its beautiful countryside and traditional folk music. The Jeolla region is home to a number of different musical styles, including the popular Jeju Island folk songs, the Junghwa music of the Haenam region, and the Nongak music of the Gimje region.

Jeolla folk music is characterized by its use of traditional Korean instruments such as the gayageum (zither), geomungo (six-stringed zither), haegeum (two-stringed fiddle), piri (oboe), and sogeum (shawm). The music often features a slow, meditative tempo and is known for its soothing, healing qualities.

If you’re interested in exploring the beauty of Korean folk music, be sure to check out some of the tracks from Jeolla Province.


We hope you enjoyed our list of instrumental Korean folk tracks! If you’re interested in learning more about Korean music, be sure to check out our other articles on the subject. Thanks for reading!

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