Category Archives: Reeds



Name: Sho.
Type: Aerophones > Free > Reeds > Gourds.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 412.132
Country: Japan.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The shō [in Japanese, Kanji 笙 shō] is a Japanese free reed musical instrument that was introduced from China during the Nara period [AD 710 to 794]. It is descended from the Chinese sheng, although the shō tends to be smaller in size.

It consists of 17 slender bamboo pipes, each of which is fitted in its base with a metal free reed. Two of the pipes are silent, although research suggests that they were used in some music during the Heian period.

The shō is one of the three primary woodwind instruments used in gagaku, Japan’s imperial court music. Its traditional playing technique in gagaku involves the use of tone clusters called aitake [合竹], which move gradually from one to the other, providing accompaniment to the melody. A larger size of shō, called u [derived from the Chinese yu], is little used, although some performers, such as Hiromi Yoshida, began to revive it in the late 20th century.

The instrument’s sound is said to imitate the call of a phoenix, and it is for this reason that the two silent pipes of the shō are kept—as an aesthetic element, making two symmetrical “wings”. Like the Chinese sheng, the pipes are tuned carefully with a drop of bees wax.

As moisture collected in the shō’s pipes prevents it from sounding, performers can be seen warming the instrument over a small charcoal brazier when they are not playing. The instrument produces sound when the player’s breath is inhaled or exhaled, allowing long periods of uninterrupted play.

Citations: Bibliography: S. Kshibe and L. Traynor: ‘On the Four Unknown Pipes of Sho’, Toyo gakuho xxx, 1952 ; Sho and the Gagaku ; W. P. Malm, Japanese Music and Musical Instruments – Rutland, Vermont, 1959 ; [court orchestra music] Music of a Thousand Autumns; By Robert Garfias ; Websites: Randy Raine-Reusch @ [sho article] ;


The shawm [in IPA: /ʃɔːm/] is a conical bore, double-reed woodwind instrument made in Europe from the 12th century to the present day. It achieved its peak of popularity during the medieval and Renaissance periods, after which it was gradually eclipsed by the oboe family of descendant instruments in classical music.

It is likely to have come to Western Europe from the Eastern Mediterranean around the time of the Crusades. Double-reed instruments similar to the shawm were long present in Southern Europe and the East, for instance the Ancient Greek and later Byzantine, aulos, the Persian sorna and the Armenian duduk.

The body of the shawm is usually turned from a single piece of wood, and terminates in a flared bell somewhat like that of a trumpet. Beginning in the 16th century, shawms were made in several sizes, from sopranino to great bass, and four and five-part music could be played by a consort consisting entirely of shawms. All later shawms [excepting the smallest] have at least one key allowing a downward extension of the compass; the key-work is typically covered by a perforated wooden cover called the fontanelle.

The bassoon-like double reed, made from the same arundo donax cane used for oboes and bassoons, is inserted directly into a socket at the top of the instrument, or in the larger types, on the end of a metal tube called the bocal. The pirouette, a small wooden attachment with a cavity in the center resembling a thimble, surrounds the lower part of the reed—this provides support for the lips and embouchure.


Name: Lusheng.
Type: Aerophones > Free > Reeds > Gourds.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 412.132
Bayin: 竹 bamboo.
Country: Yunnan, China.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The lusheng is a free-reed mouth organ played by Dong, Hmong and other related minority peoples of Yunnan, China. The Chinese lusheng is a version of the Lao gaeng differing in size and construction materials.

Traditional lusheng had six bamboo pipes that were set into a bamboo or wooden wind chamber. Their size ranged from 1/3 of a metre, approx. 1 foot to 3 to 4 metres, 3 to 4 yards.

Often they were played in ensembles of unison instruments, or of varying sizes and pitches, at festivals and village celebrations. Recent innovations to the lusheng have been in response to Chinese government ideologies, resulting in more pipes in order to play more complex music, and a set pitch to play with other instruments.

As a result there are now professional lusheng players performing orchestral repertoires that bear no resemblance to the traditional village music.

Citations: Bibliography: Discography: Websites: Randy Raine-Reusch @ [keluri article] ;


Name: Mbuat.
Type: Aerophones > Free > Reeds > Gourds.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 412.132
Country: Vietnam.
Region: South East Asia.

Description: The mbuat is a free-reed mouth organ of the Mnong People of Vietnam. Played as a solo instrument or in small ensembles, it was commonly used for expressing courtship between a man and woman.

The mbuat is very similar in form to ancient Chinese free reed mouth organs. The early Chinese instruments show gourds having six or seven holes for pipes arranged in two parallel rows exactly the same as the mbuat.

Construction: Other instruments of a similar construction found in the region include the kupuot of the Raglai people of Vietnam, and the plung of the Murung people of Bangladesh. It is interesting to note that the plung is often played in large ensembles of instruments of varying sizes and the sound is surprisingly similar to the lusheng ensembles of southern China.

Citations: Websites: Randy Raine-Reusch [mbuat article] @ ;


Name: Chalumeau.
Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Single.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.211.2
Country: France, Germany & England.
Region: Continental Europe.

Description: The chalumeau [in English: in IPA: /ˈʃæləmoʊ/; in French: in IPA: ʃ]; plural chalumeau] is a single-reed woodwind instrument of the late baroque and early classical eras. The chalumeau is a folk instrument that is the predecessor to the modern-day clarinet. It has a cylindrical bore with eight tone holes, seven in front and one in back for the thumb.

The chalumeau has a broad mouthpiece with a single heteroglot reed [i.e. not a continuous part of the instrument’s body] made of cane. Similar to the clarinet, the chalumeau over blows a twelfth.

Etymology: The word chalumeau first begins to appear in writing during the 1630s, but may have been in use as early as the twelfth century. Several French dictionaries in the sixteenth century use the word to refer to various types of simple, idioglot reed-pipes all with tone holes.

The heteroglot style reed was later adopted in the seventeenth and into the eighteenth centuries. These single-pipe instruments probably evolved from earlier multiple-pipe instruments through the abandonment of the drone tube.

Usage: The use of the chalumeau originated in France and later spread to Germany by the late seventeenth century. By 1700, the chalumeau was an established instrument on the European musical scene. Around this time, well-known Nuremberg instrument maker Johann Christoph [J.C.] Denner made improvements to the chalumeau, eventually developing it into the Baroque clarinet.

The chalumeau is distinguished by two keys, thought to be added by Denner, cover tone holes drilled diametrically to each other. The position of these tone holes prohibits the instrument from overblowing, limiting its range to only twelve notes. In order to counteract the limited range, multiple sizes of chalumeau were produced ranging from bass to soprano.

Citations: Bibliography: Birsak, K. 1994 ~ The Clarinet: A Cultural History. Buchloe: Druck und Verlag Obermayer GmbH. Hoeprich, E. 2008 ; The Clarinet. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press ; Rice, A.R. 1992 ; the Baroque Clarinet. New York, NY: Oxford University Press ; Kroll, O. 1968 ~ The Clarinet. New York, NY: Taplinger Publishing Company “Tupian Chalumeaus”. Tupian Chalumeaus ;


Name: Sipsi.
Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Single.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.211.2
Country: Turkey.
Region: Aegean, Asia Minor & Mediterranean.

Description: The sipsi [pronounced in Turkish / in IPA: sipˈsi] is a Turkish woodwind instrument. It is a clarinet-like, single-reed instrument used mainly in folk music. The word “sipsi” is possibly onomatopoeic. The sipsi is one of many reed instruments in Turkey used to play lead melodies in instrumental folk music. It is generally played in the Western part in the Aegean Region of Turkey. Most folk tunes played in this area with the sipsi are in 9/8 time signature.

Definition: The Turkish Language Society lists “sipsi” as 1. Ağaç dallarından yapılan düdük – a whistle or flute made from the branch of a tree. 2. Gemici düdüğü, Sailor’s while or pipe 3. Zurnanın dudaklara gelen kamış bölümü. The reed section that fits into the opening “lips” of a zurna.

Playing Technique: Musicians who perform on the sipsi use circular breathing as one would see in parallel other similar reed instruments.

Construction: The sipsi can be made of bone, wood, or reed, though the reed variant is most common. Its size varies from region to region, but it generally contains five finger holes in the front, and one finger hole in the back.

Citations: Bibliography: Akdeniz, Tayyar “Sipsi- Turkish Music Instruments- Folk Tours”. Folk Tours. Folk Tours LLC. Retrieved 2011-09-28 ; Reinhard, Kurt; Martin Stokes ; “Turkey: II Folk Music, 4 Instrumental Music”. Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Retrieved 2011-09-29 ;