Musical Instruements From Around The World Explored In Children’s Literature
(Joni Mitchell playing the dulcimer for a young girl at her home in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, CA, 1970—photograph by Henry Diltz)
Play Your Heart Out! Instruments from around the World:
- The Dulcimer is a stringed instrument where the strings are actually beaten with tiny hammers! They originated from Persia around the 15th century.
- The Didgeridoo is a wind instrument from Northern Australia; it was widely used by the Aboriginal peoples in the area and is now widely regarded as a stunning instrument with a unique and unparalleled sound.
- Tibetan singing bowls are meditative instruments that, like a bell, create clear resounding noises and vibrations. Used with a striker, a singing bowl can be used for spiritual purposes and stress relief.
(Leon Theremin performing a trio for theremin, voice, and piano, c. 1924)
- The Theremin is one of the most whimsical, fun instruments that children absolutely love! This instrument is actually played without physical contact; the musician stands in front of the theremin and moves his hands around two antennas. For louder notes, the musician moves his or her hand farther away from the volume antenna.
- The Rabāb (also known as the “Arab fiddle”) is an instrument very similar to a lute and is native to Afghanistan. It has been around since the tenth century!
- The Harpsichord is a Baroque-era instrument that is very similar to a keyboard.
(Young children learn to play a “gathering drum,” arts4all.org)
Simple, Popular and Fun! Instruments for Children in Primary School
- The Triangle is a fun, easy instrument to strike and create sharp metallic “dings”!
- The Autoharp is a special instrument that children (depending on their musical education) may remember from primary school. It is a very popular instrument in music classes and always a real treat to create sounds with (usually in a circle with lots of other students).
- A Tambourine is a full body instrument; it can be danced with as it is shaken to create lively music.
- Bongo drums are incredible as they have a deep tribal heritage and, although they appear to be simple, are actually sacred. Drum circles are a vital part of African as well as Native American culture.
- The Kazoo: when hummed into, this creates a buzzing sound. It’s not only fun but a precursor to the harmonica.
- Maracas are a joy to all who shake them!
(Orpheus surrounded by animals: ancient Roman floor mosaic from Palermo, now in the Museo archeologico regionale di Palermo, picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto)
Greek Mythology: Orpheus and his Lyre
Greek Myths are usually taught to young adult readers and are some of the most inventive, magical texts that a young person can discover. The story of Orpheus and his lyre is a well-known one of great complexity and beauty. Taught by Apollo, Orpheus mastered the lyre and was able to charm the animals and even make the trees dance. Orpheus even softened the heart of Hades, the god of the underworld, with his beautiful music.
Children’s Literature: Books about Music and Sound
For corresponding children’s literature, check out these wonderful books about maracas, tambourines, didgeridoos, drums, kazoos and the rabāb!
- Do you Do a Didgeridoo? written by Nick Page, illustrated by Sara Baker, 2008
- Ernie Dances to the Didgeridoo: For the Children of Gunbalanya by Alison Lester, 2001
- Spartan and the Green Egg: Adventure at Wadi Allaqi written by Nabila Khashoggi, Illustrated by Manuel Cadag, 2016
- To Be a Drum by Evelyn Coleman, 1998
- The Duck Who Played the Kazoo written by Amy E. Sklansky, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke, 2008
- The Tambourine Queen: Moving Home written by Deborah Bradley and Barbara Shagrin, illustrated by i Cenizal, 2013
- Alpacas with Maracas by Matt Cosgrove, 2018
For more information on the instruments and literature mentioned in this blog, consult the websites below:
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