Category Archives: Shawms



Name: Shenai.
Type: Aerophones > Shawm > Reeds.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.112
Vadya: Mangal Vadya.
Specimens: 2 in collection.
Country: India.
Region: South Asia.
Acquisition Source: Ian MacKenzie, trip to Rajasthan, India.

Description: The shehnai, shenoy, sanai, shahnai, shenai, shanai or mangal vadya or sahanai [in Hindi: शहनाई, Bengali: শানাই, Marathi: सनई, Odia: ଶାହାନାଇ, Kannada: ಸನಾದಿ] is a member of the conical double reed family. The shenai is common to North India and over all South Asia.

The variant names of this instrument including Sahanai [Nepal] are virtually the same type of instrument they may differ in tuning due to over all size and length. The shenai is used in religious events but in recent times it became an instrument of virtuosity. The introduction of the shenai to western audiences was by George Harrison’s “Wonderwall” album. Furthering a passion for Indian Classical Music in the west since the 1960s.

Techniques: In the hands of a great player the shenai creates a fluid tone rich in subtleties and expression. The shenai is played with the pads of the second joint of the finger rather than the finger tips to enable the fingers to be slowly rocked off the holes to produce a flawless unbroken portamento of up to almost a full octave. The shenai is usually played with another shenai [sur] holding a drone.

Construction: The shenai has a reed that is folded multiple times, this allows for the embodiment of four or six reeds. The reeds are made from folding a leaf and cutting it in shape, so that when its bound to the mouth piece, the reed spreads with equal amount of tongues on both-sides. Usually the shenai has a small piece of wool around the reed so that when tightened it can splay the reed further.

Citations: Bibliography: Ranade, Ashok Damodar 2006 ; Music contexts: a concise dictionary of Hindustani Music. Bibliophile South Asia – ISBN 81-85002-63-0 ; Hoiberg, Dale – Indu Ramchandani 2000 Students’ Britannica India. Popular Prakashan ; Websites:


Name: Sharnai.
Type: Aerophones > Shawms > Reeds.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.112
Country: Sindh, Pakistan.
Region: South Asia.

Description: A small oboe of Sindh, Pakistan. The body of the instrument of very old “kiraar” wood. The Sharnai belongs to the Northern Sindh and Multan [lower Punjab areas]. There are two other sizes are found in the region; the ghazi about 15 cm in length it is used for mourning tunes [osara] during the shiite lamentation of Muharram; the mutta is 25 cm in length. The sharnai often accompanies the dhul a double barrel drum.

Construction: The sharnai has eight finger holes and a thumb hole and a canonical bell. The mouth piece consists of a double reed of kangor cane tied with thread to a brass staple which carries a round lip disc of shell and it is inserted into the pipe.

Citations: Bibliography: N. A. Baloch, Musical Instruments Of The Lower Indus Valley of Sindh, Hyderabad India, 1966 Alastair Dick, Stanley Sadie ~ New Grove Dictionary of Music, Vol 3, Book P to Z, Page 364 ;


Name: Algaita.
Type: Aerophones > Shawms > Reeds.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.112
Country: Nigeria.
Region: West Africa.

Description: The algaita [also, alghaita, algayta or algheita] is a double reed wind instrument from West Africa, especially among the Hausa and Kanuri peoples. Its construction is similar to the oboe-like rhaita and the zurna. The algaita is distinguished from these other instruments by its larger, trumpet-like bell. Instead of keys, it has open holes for fingering, similar to the zurna.

Citations: Bibliography; Discography; Music rom the Villages of North Eastern Nigeria [Folkways, 1971] ; Music of the Cameroon – The Fulani of the North Lyrichord 73334 ; Use in Jazz Recordings by Yusuf Lateef, In Nigeria – YAL Records, 1983 ; Yusuf Lateef, The African-American Epic Suite 1984 ;


Name: Srnaj.
Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Shawms.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.112
Country: Southern, Iraq, Gulf States.
Region: Middle East & North Africa.

Description: The srnaj is an oboe with a conical bore, belonging to the shawm category of reed musical instruments. It is used by black musicians in Southern Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain and the gulf states. The srnaj is the only aerophone used in the musical ceremonies of the black population. It appears only in the Al Haywa [or leiwa] ensembles where it is accompanied by two msondo, a path [tanaka] and pipa.

In Some gulf states the tanaka is replaced by a barrel drum. The bright tone of the srnaj is suited for out-door gatherings. In the Al Haywa The srnaj is played in pairs, accompanied by a choir of singers. The melodies of the srnaj are often cyclic and quite long in repertoire, circular breathing is often used during performance.

Construction: The body is assembled in three sections, two of the sections are made of walnut [Juglans regia] or a similar hard wood. A large bell [hawān; or judges cap] between 7 cm to 16 cm in length, and about 10 cm wide and a middle section [mtāko], about 25 cm in length with six large finger holes one of which is often closed in Iraq and a thumb hole. The third section [manāra; minaret] is of metal and it is 20 cm in length. The reed of the srnaj is fitted with a broad reed of coconut stem, palm or tamarind, held in place by a pirouette of metal or coconut shell.

Citations: Bibliography: P. Rovsing, Olsen: ‘La Music africain dans le Golfe persique’, JIFMC, xix 1967, 28; A. A. Sarrai; Tubal al-Haywa [the drums of haywa] Baghdad, 1975 ; S. Qassim Hassan Les instruments de musique en Irak et lleur róle dans la société traditionelle Paris, 1980 Scheherazade Qassam Hassan ; Stanley Sadie ~ New Grove Dictionary Of Music, Book P to Z, Page 442 ;


Name: Hne.
Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Shawms.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.112
Country: Myanmar [Burma].
Region: South-East Asia.

Description: The hne [in Burmese: နှဲ; also spelled as hnè] is a conical shawm of double reed used in the music of Myanmar. The earliest extant written occurrence of the word hne dates to 1491 AD and is likely a Middle Mon loan word, derived from sanoy. The hne is used in an ensemble together with xylophone, tuned gongs, and tuned drums.

There are two distinct types of hne: the smaller form is called the hne galay [နှဲကလေး] whilst the larger is called the hne gyi [နှဲကြီး]. The former is used for songs in the ordinary key of the diatonic major scale, while the latter is used for grand style songs in the subdominant mode.

Construction: The hne has a sextuple reed [called hnegan], made from the young leaf of the toddy palm [Borassus flabellifer L.] which is soaked for six months. The body of the hne is made of wood, with a conical bore and seven finger holes at the front, set in a straight line, with a bell [ချူ, chu] hung at the top. It has a flaring metal bell and has a loud tone.

Citations: Bibliography: Okell, John 1971 The Burmese Double-Reed “Nhai”. Asian Music. University of Texas Press. 2 : pp 25–31 ; Khin Zaw 1940. Burmese Music [A Preliminary Enquiry]. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. School of Oriental and African Studies. 10 -3: 738 ;


Name: Mizmar.
Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Shawms.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.112
Country: Many.
Region: Middle East & North Africa.

Description: In Arabic music, a mizmār [Arabic: مزمار‎; plural مَزَامِير mazāmīr] is any single or double reed wind instrument. In Egypt, the term mizmar usually refers to the conical shawm that is called zurna in Turkey. Mizmar is also a term used for a group of musicians, usually a duo or trio, that play a mizmar instrument along with an accompaniment of one or two double-sided bass drums, known in Arabic as tabl baladi or simply tabl.

Mizmars are usually played in Egypt at either weddings or as an accompaniment to belly dancers. In Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, and Syria, it is influenced by the Turkish zurna, a higher-pitched version of the mizmar, and may also be known in those countries as a zamr [زمر] or zamour, as well as mizmar.

In North Africa from Libya Algeria to Morocco a similar instrument is called ghaita or rhaita [غيطة]. Along with belly dancing, the mizmar may accompany the dabke, a folkloric line dance done in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Iraq.

Citations: Bibliography: Berger, Shlomo; Brocke, Michael; Zwiep, Irene 2003; Zutot 2002, Dordrecht Kluwer Academic Publishers. p. 133. ISBN 1402013248 ;

Oboe Da Caccia

Name: Oboe Da Caccia.
Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Shawms.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.112
Country: Italy.
Region: South Europe & Mediterranean

Description: The oboe da caccia, pronounced as [in IPA: ˈɔːboe da ˈkattʃa]; literally means “hunting oboe” in Italian. It is also sometimes referred to as an oboe da silva. It is a classified as a shawm having double reeds. It is pitched a fifth below the oboe and it was used primarily during the Boroque period of European classical music. It has a curved tube, and in the case of instruments by Eichentopf [and modern copies of same], a brass bell, unusual for an oboe.

The oboe da caccia is thus a transposing instrument in F. The notated range is identical to that of the soprano baroque oboe. Johann Sebastian Bach tended to favour the middle and lowest registers, however, perhaps because they are the most characteristic ones for this instrument. Its range is close to that of the cor anglais, that is from the F below middle C notated in C4 sounding in F3 to the G above the treble-staff notated to be D6 but sounding G5.

History: This instrument was likely invented by J. H. Eichtentof of Leipzig, Germany. The first dated reference to the oboe da caccia dates back to 1722. When composer Johann Friedrich Fasch ordered “Waldhatbois” from Leipzig for the court at Zerbst. The first recorded use of this instrument was on the 24th of June 1723. When the Bach aria BWV 167/3 Gottes Wort, das trüget nicht [lit trans. English: “God’s Word, that does not deceive”]. from the cantata Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe, BWV 167, was performed.

Construction: The oboe da caccia has a leather-covered wooden body terminating in a large wooden bell, or in the case of Eichentopf’s instruments, a flaring brass bell. There are typically two brass keys, E-flat and C. The E-flat key is normally doubled for the left hand. There are usually two twin finger-holes, G / A-flat and F / F#, similar to the soprano baroque oboe. The construction differs from that of practically all other woodwinds.

The bore and outward profiles are first created on the lathe, then a series of saw kerfs are made through the bore from the side, which is to become the inner curve. Then the instrument is bent over steam and a slat glued onto the inside curve to fix it. Any remaining lacunae in the kerfs are filled and the curved section is covered with leather. The da caccia is played with a double reed; the sound is very mellow and supple.

The oboe da caccia stands in a rather unusual relationship to the rest of the oboe family. It cannot rightly be called the precursor of the English horn, being the predominant name in North America and German-speaking countries or cor anglais – the name as used in England and France. The Oboe Da Caccia developed around the same as the English Horn.

The evolution of the English horn is more complex and less straightforward. The da caccia sounds like none of the other members of the oboe family, and no other instrument may legitimately substitute for it—although the English horn is routinely used for this purpose.

Citations: Bibliography: Cary Karp, “Structural Details of two J.H. Eichentopf Oboi da Caccia” and Reine Dahlqvist, “Taille, Oboe da Caccia and Corno Inglese”, Galpin Society Journal May 1973 ; Bruce Haynes, The Speaking Hautboy, draft 21 April 1998, pp. 72–74 ; Christoph Wolff et al., “Bach Family”, 1983 ;


Name: Rhaita.
Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Shawms.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.112
Country: Morocco.
Region: North Africa.

Description: The rhaita or ghaita [in Arabic: غيطة rhaita‎] is a double reed instrument from North Africa. It is nearly identical in construction to the Arabic mizmar and the Turkish zurna. The distinctive name owes to a medieval Gothic-Iberian influence. In southern Iberia, various sorts of wind instruments, including the related shawm, are known as rhaita, but in northern Iberia gaita refers only to bagpipes.

Citations: Bibliography: Dictionnaire des musiques et danses traditionnelles de la Mediterranée, Paris, Fayard, 2005 articles on gaita and ghayta ; Pierre Bec, Les instruments de musique d’origine arabe, sens et histoire de leurs désignations, Toulouse, Isatis, Conservatoire Occitan 2005 ;


Name: Sarunai.
Type: Aerophones > Shawms > Reeds.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.112
Country: Bengkulu, Sumatra, Indonesia.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The Sarunai is a shawm, belonging to the multiple reed group of reed aerophones. It is primarily played in Sumatra Indonesia and neighbouring Malaysia. It is related to the Arabic zurna in it basic design.

Varieties: In Minangkabau, West Sumatra, the sarunai consists of a double reed of palm leaf lamellae inserted into a metal ring. The reed assembly is then fitted into the top of the instrument. The bell is made of water buffalo [Bubalus bubalis] horn attached to the front end of the instrument. Two conically bored pipes are fitted with a wooden or metal ring. Alternatively a piece of rice stalk is fitted into an open piece of bamboo about 23 cm in length. A u shaped slit is cut into the top of a stalk t serve as a reed. Four finger holes are cut into the bamboo tube.

Citations: Bibliography: New Grove Dictionary of Music by Stanley Sadie Volume 3, P to Z pages 301 / 302 Sarunai ; A.D. Jansen: Gonrang Music: Its Structure and Functions in Simalungun Batak Society in Sumatra [diss. University of Washington, 1980] ; Margaret J. Kartomi ; Dualism in Unity: the Ceremonial Music o the Mandailing Raja Tradition, Asian Music, xii/2, 1981 ; Lyn Moore with Jack Percival Baker Dobbs ;


Name: Piri.
Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Shawms.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 422.112
Country: Korea.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The piri [in Hangul; 피리 piri] is a Korean double reed instrument, used in both the folk and classical [court] music of Korea. It is made of bamboo. Its large reed and cylindrical bore gives it a sound mellower than that of many other types of oboe.

In the typical piri, there are eight finger holes on the bamboo body. Seven of the finger holes are on the front and one is on the back for the thumb. The piri’s equivalent in China is the guan [also known as bili] and its counterpart in Japan is the hichiriki.

History: Piri is thought to have been introduced to Korea from a country bordering west of China before Goguryeo period. According to Suseo [수서; 隋書] the piri was also known as gagwan [가관; 笳管] and it originates from Kucha. During the reign of King Yejong of Goryeo dynasty, another double-reed cylindrical instrument was imported from Song dynasty China, and to disambiguate, the former was named hyang piri and the latter dang piri. Se piri is smaller than hyang piri but has the same structure and range. Se piri appears to be invented much later than hyang piri.

Types: There are four types of piri; each type of piri has a use specific to the music being performed. The Hyang piri is the longest and most common out of all piris. Because of its loud and nasal tone, it usually plays the main melody in an ensemble. The se piri is the smaller, thinner, and much quieter one. Additionally, because of its quiet tone, it is used along with voices or soft stringed instruments. The Dang / Tang piri is wider and is similar to the Chinese guanzi instrument. Additionally, the dae piri is a modernized piri, with keys and a bell, looking much more like a western oboe.

Piri Type
Type In Hangul in Hanja
Hyang piri 향피리 鄕–
Se piri 세피리 細–
Dang piri 당피리 唐–
Dae piri 대피리

Citations: Bibliography: “Piri – Korean tubular double reed”. World Instrument Gallery. Retrieved 17 September 2012. – 《국악개론》, 전인평, 현대음악출판사 “Introduction to Korean Music”, Jeonin Inpyeong, Hyundai Music Publishing Co.,283p《국악통론》, 서한범, 태림출판사, Korean Traditional Songs”, Seo Han Bum, Taerim Publishing Co. p.195 ;