Skip to content Skip to footer

14 World Instruments Worth Knowing

Did you know that the yangqin is a Chinese hammered dulcimer? Or that the shakuhachi is a Japanese flute? Knowing the ins and outs of different instruments can help you create new sounds and broaden your musical horizon. Here is a list of world instruments worth knowing.


The koto is a traditional Japanese stringed instrument that has been around since the 8th century. It resembles a wooden harp with 13 strings, which are plucked with three bamboo plectra attached to the player’s fingers. Kotos come in various sizes, from small ones that fit in one hand to larger ones requiring two people to play them. It has an ethereal sound that can be used to create beautiful melodies or provide accompaniment for more complex pieces.


This small hand drum is used in Indian classical music, but is also popular in indie rock and pop music as well. Its two drums are tuned differently so they produce two distinct pitches when played together or separately.  


Commonly referred to as “Chinese violin” due to its resemblance to the stringed instrument, erhu is an ancient Chinese bowed stringed instrument capable of producing hauntingly beautiful melodies and harmonies that give music a unique flavor. If you’ve ever listened to and enjoyed Shogun’s track “Erhu,” you might be surprised to learn this is an instrument you can use in your own productions.


Another stringed instrument from India similar to the erhu but much larger in size, sitar creates mesmerizingly complex sounds by plucking strings while pressing down on frets like a guitar or banjo—but without using picks or fingers! 


The cajón is a box-shaped percussion instrument generally used in Latin American music genres such as flamenco and salsa. It consists of a wooden box with an open top covered by thin strings or strips of wood called tapas. The player sits on top of it and strikes it with their hands or with sticks to produce different tones and rhythms. Cajóns are usually made out of wood but they can also be found in metal or plastic versions.


A Japanese bamboo flute used in traditional Zen Buddhist ceremonies, shakuhachi has become increasingly popular within modern music production thanks to its soothing soundscapes which add warmth and depth wherever needed most! 


This traditional Indonesian percussion ensemble consists of several kinds of drums and gongs arranged in different patterns depending on the region it comes from, creating an incredibly varied yet melodic soundscape with lots of depth and texture. I personally use a lot of sampled Gamelans from Omnisphere in breakdowns and layered with ambient mallet or pluck sounds.


The bansuri is an Indian transverse flute most commonly associated with classical Hindustani music styles such as raga and dhrupad. It typically has six finger holes and one thumb hole for producing different pitches, as well as two additional holes for adjusting the resonance or timbre of its sound. Bansuris come in various sizes ranging from 12 inches up to 24 inches long, each size producing its own unique tone quality when played. 


This steel drum-like instrument originated in Switzerland and produces a beautiful, soothing sound. It’s perfect for adding a calm atmosphere and texture to your music. 

Hang Drum

Another drum-like instrument that was invented in Switzerland, this one has a distinctive shape that helps it produce a unique, clear sound with lots of overtones. It’s perfect for creating intricate rhythms and melodies.


The zarb is an Iranian drum traditionally used in Persian classical music for accompaniment purposes. It consists of two skin-covered drums connected together at their edges; one side features higher pitched jingles while the other side has lower pitched jingles which creates a distinct sound when struck by hand or stick. Today, it’s becoming increasingly popular among Middle Eastern folk musicians who use it to create complex rhythms and captivating beats during live performances or recordings. 


An African instrument sometimes known as the thumb piano due to its construction style, the kalimba produces bright sounds that are perfect for adding some extra color to any track or beat. 


Originating in Brazil, berimbau is an easy-to-play bow-shaped musical instrument made out of wood and metal wires which produces hypnotic sonic textures reminiscent of birdsong or running water when played correctly! 

Go Forth, Rebel Artist.

These 14 world instruments are just scratching the surface! There are many more interesting instruments out there waiting to be explored by curious musicians like yourself. Whether you’re looking for new sounds to incorporate into your existing musical style or just want to expand your knowledge of global musical culture, these 14 instruments are definitely worth knowing about! So get out there and start exploring!