Armenian music instruments are an integral part of the Armenian culture. Armenians have their unique folk music and music instruments, such as kamancheh, shvi, duduk and many more that have been transmitted from one generation to another over thousands of years.
Armenian music instruments are among the most ancient and unique attributes of the Armenian music.
All the nations of the globe have their national, specific music. The Armenians, being one of the most ancient nations in the world, are not an exception. They have their folk music and national instruments.
We can assure you that Armenian national instruments are very specific, just like their folk music is. Here we will present you the history and some interesting information on Armenian music instruments and the Armenian amazing musical art, in general.
Basics on Armenian Music Instruments
Armenian music instruments history and origins
Armenians have their ancient traditions of folk music. As Armenians like to say, their musical culture origins come from the ancient times, from the Armenian Highlands,where people traditionally sang popular folk songs.
The information on historical background of Armenian music instruments comes from such ancient Armenian historians’ works as Movses Khorenatsi and Faustus of Byzantium. According to their history, Armenian musical art has originated in the II millennium BC.
In the 8th century, one of the most significant achievements in the development of the Armenian music instruments and musical art itself was the creation of the Armenian musical notes,called “khaz”, a form of indigenous musical notation. Today, there are more than 2000 manuscripts about khazes preserved.
Under the influence of time, the Armenian antique music has changed a lot but in the 19th and the 20th century Komitas purified, collected and passed down true and pure Armenian music to the new generations.
Armenian Religious music
The basis for the development of the Armenian Christian church music was created after Armenia officially adopted Christianity as state religion. In Armeian schools (vardapetarans), religious music started to be taught.
In the beginning of the 5th century, the creation of the Armenian alphabet also influenced the process of the development of the Armenian music instruments and songs.
Religious songs were called “sharakan” and were first created by Mesrop Mashtots (the creator of the Armenian alphabet in 405). Today, the best performances of Armenian sharakans can be heard at the Holy Cathedral of Etchmiadzin.
Armenian secular music
The most popular genres of the Armenian secular music are “tagh”-s, “gusanakan” music, “ashughakan” music (“gusans” and “ashughs” were Armenian folk singers, not very popular nowadays) and, currently, jazz, pop music, rock, hip-hop, etc.
All of these genres are unique, specifically beautiful and popular among the Armenians and the people, interested in Armenian culture.
Most popular Armenian music instruments
Armenian Music Instrument #1: Duduk
Duduk is also known as tsiranapogh (literally, apricot pipe) in Armenia. It is one of the most popular and favorite Armenian music instruments, even abroad. There are Armenian musicologists that prove that duduk has been in use for already more than 3000 years.
Today, duduk is exclusively made of wood, with a large double reed and the body, made from aged apricot wood. Duduk has a warm, soft timbre.
The instrument is mentioned in numerous Armenian manuscripts of the Middle Ages. The duduk accompanies popular Armenian traditional songs and dances of the various regions and is played at social events, such as weddings and funerals.
In 2005, the UNESCO recognized the Armenian duduk and its music as a Masterpiece of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
Duduk music has been used in a number of movies, most notably in “The Gladiator”.Today, there are such famous duduk soloists performing, as Jivan Gasparyan, Gevorg Dabaghyan and Vache Sharafyan.
The duduk is usually played by two musicians: one of them creates the musical environment, while the other player develops complex melodies and improvisations.
Armenian Music Instrument #2: Kamancheh
Kamancheh (or qamancha) is mostly known in the Armenian culture by a very famous Armenian musician and kamancheh player, Sayat-Nova. He was one of the most popular Armenian ashughs (folk singer) of the 18th century.
Kamancheh belongs to the violin music instruments family and is one of the most beloved Armenian music instruments. Kamancheh is also widely used in the music of Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kurdistan regions.
Traditionally, kamancheh had three silk strings but modern ones have four metal strings. The kamancheh body has a long neck as the upper part and a low chamber, which is resonating. It is shaped like a bowl and made from wood.
Armenian Music Instrument #3: Qanon or Kanun
One of the most interesting Armenian music instruments is qanon (also known as kanoon, kanon). The origin of the word comes from Arabic, in which, as well as in Armenian, “kanon” means “rule”.
The qanon is a string instrument, widely spread in the Middle East, Southeastern Europe and Central Asia.
You can hear and enjoy the amazing sound of this instrument in any Armenian folk music concert. Solo players of qanon will make the Armenian national culture atmosphere unforgettable.
Armenian Music Instrument #4: Dhol
One of the most outstanding Armenian music instruments is dhol (Armenian drum).These drums are commonly used in folk music of many nations, including the Armenians.
Dhol has both deep bass sound and thin treble sound. This is due to its construction and playing style. While playing, different heads and sticks are used to create and produce different sounds on the same drum.
In Armenia, the dhol is one of the most popular music instruments. You can see this traditional music instrument in Armenian national events. Dhols are usually played with hands. But, there are types where a wooden, spoon-shaped drumstick is also used.
The dhol is frequently heard in Armenian folk music. This instrument is used not only in folk music, but also is considered to be one of the modern Armenian music instruments.
Armenian Music Instrument #5: Zurna
Zurna, just like the Armenian duduk, is a woodwind instrument, played in Armenia. This instrument is widely spread in Anatolian, Middle Eastern and Central Asian nations’ folk music.
The zurna is a conical oboe, made from the wood of apricot tree. Zurna generates a sharp and shrill sound.
Zurna has eight holes on the front, seven of which are used during playing, and, one hole provides a range of one octave.
Traditionally, for its unique and sharp sound, zurna is played during outdoor events, such as weddings and holidays.
Armenian Music Instrument #6: Shvi
Shvi is commonly made of wood. In Armenia, it’s usually apricot tree wood, as well as ebony or bamboo.
Shvi length reaches up to 12 inches (about 30 cm).
The “tav shvi” (variation of traditional shvi) is also made from apricot wood and is up to 18 inches (around 46 cm).
Shvi produces very nice and lyrical sound. If you want to listen and enjoy the real sound of shvi, you should go to an Armenian folk music concert or visit a traditional Armenian village!
Armenian Music Instrument #7: Sring
Sring is one of the most beautiful Armenian music instruments.The sring in Armenia is made of apricot wood but it can also be made from bamboo and other types of woods.
Generally speaking, the sring, like a typical end-blown flute, has 8 finger holes. It emerged from the Eastern Armenia. It is said to be a “Shepard’s flute”.
Armenian Music Instrument #8: Parkapzuk
Parkapzuk (literally, bagpipe) is a brass instrument, made from small animals’ skin. Musicians, while playing the parkapzuk, keep it under their arm. By doing so, they are regulating the sound (airs regulation).
There are several types of parkapzuk around the world. In Armenia, the most common type is the parkapzuk made from lamb skin.
Parkapzuk has shrill sound and it is a very popular Armenian music instrument, used during many celebrations.
Armenian Music Instrument #9: Tar
Tar is a stringed musical instrument. It was traditionally used in Armenian musical art and, today, is used for solos and ensembles.
Tar is a string music instrument, widely spread in Iran, Caucasus and Central Asia. It is very popular in Armenia. Various Armenian musicians, such as B. Melikian, S. Seyranyan and many others, had significant contribution to the development of the tar performance in different art arenas of the world.
Armenian Music Instrument #10: Dap or dahira
Dap or dahira is a striking musical instrument. It consists of a round wooden frame, one side of which is covered with leather sheath. Its various types were and are still used by both Eastern and Western nations up to date.
In certain types of dap, there are metal rings, silver coins and several other attributes inside the wooden frame that produce the sound.
Dap isn’t that widespread, especially when compared to other Armenian music instruments, for example, duduk and dhol. But still, it is used in various traditional ceremonies and different types of events.
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