Folk music can refer to two totally separate, but highly related, branches of music. One of these is the traditional folk music, which comprises of music that has been handed down over the generations via oral transmission, and which is popularized among the masses with nobody specific having been attributed with the composition of the music. The other genre would be the folk music revival of the 20th century, wherein instrumental music with touches of traditional folk music, with some vocals as well, came back on the scene in what is known as an evolution of traditional folk music.
When a person thinks about these two genres of music, what are the most popular types of folk music instruments?
- Bagpipes and chanters – Scotland is highly associated with bagpipes and the kilt, which is often portrayed in cartoons as a skirt that men wear and other people make fun of! But Scottish folk music is rich in tradition and meaning, and many people nowadays are starting to appreciate the challenge of learning to play the bagpipe, especially since it is considered one of the toughest musical instruments to master. For amateurs, expert instrumentalists would recommend getting formal lessons, and starting off with a chanter for practice in blowing, as it is apparently different from other wind instruments. A good practice chanter is the Rosewood Practice Chanter. Although some music enthusiasts claim that they can learn to play the bagpipe via video lessons online, it is still wiser for serious pursuits to look for a real, live teacher, as he can give more real-time comments and corrections.
- Shofar or ram’s horn – This folk instrument is a mainstay in Hebrew culture, and it is used more for cultural and religious reasons rather than musical. For example, during important festivals, the ram’s horn is sounded to signal certain milestones, such as when the Passover lamb has been slaughtered and the partying can begin. Many Christians are becoming interested in these Jewish feasts as they find interesting foreshadows of their Savior’s work on the cross, increasing the popularity of ram’s horns and other aspects of Hebraic life, such as the talith or prayer shawl. A good object for visual aid and actual playing purposes are those that are authentically made in Israel and give the user a rich and captivating sound. But if you are not really after the musical quality and only intend to use it for visual aid purposes, you can just look for any nice rendition.
- Banjos – Banjos are fun stringed instruments to learn, especially for someone who enjoys the guitar and wants another challenge. If you are not familiar with banjos, they are stringed instruments 4 or 5 strings, although some models, like the Dean Backwoods Banjo, Six String actually comes with six strings and makes it even easier for guitar-players to learn.
- Harmonicas – The harmonica is an interesting first instrument for young children, as they can play any random music simply by blowing and inhaling through the tiny metal reeds. It usually comes in the key of C, making it very easy to use with just about any other instrument, and it can play a variety of genres, including rock, country, blues, and folk music. The Hohner Old Standby Harmonica is a reliable piece that anybody can surely enjoy, especially with its allowing other techniques like over-blowing and bending the musical notes.
Apart from these most popular types of folk music instruments, there will still be limitless choices as you go across the various cultures. After all, since traditional folk music has to do with local culture, each nation will likely have its own collection of indigenous music that is distinct from others. In fact, you may even notice that they do not always follow the scale of music that contemporary music adheres to. If you want to introduce folk music to children, for example, you will do well to find indigenous percussion instruments, including the rain sticks and other types of drums, as they will likely find these to be the most entertaining given how even the youngest child can learn to play them with very little effort. From there you can proceed to introduce the more complicated instruments, like wind and stringed instruments.