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Blog > May Writing Prompt: musical instruments from your country

The writing prompts invite postcrossers to write about a different topic on their postcard’s messages every month. These are just suggestions though — if you already know what you want to write about, or the recipient gives you some pointers, that’s great too!

So Eurovision isn’t happening this year… but we thought we’d stick to the musical theme nonetheless and ask everyone to share some musical instruments from your country.

In May, write about a special musical instrument from your country.

Which instruments from your country sound like “home” to you?

There are quite a few musical instruments that come to mind for us here in Portugal, but the guitarra Portuguesa (aka, Portuguese guitar) is probably the most iconic one, the one always makes us a little sentimental to hear. It’s a complicated type of round guitar, with 12 strings and tuners in the shape of a peacock tail that is commonly associated with fado and serenade songs.

The most famous artist of this instrument was called Carlos Paredes, and to this day I cannot hear him play his guitar without getting a little weepy…

What about your own country? Which instruments are part of the national heritage, and what makes them culturally significant to your people? Share them on the postcards you send out this month, and on the comments below as well, if you’re inclined to — we’d love some tips to discover new sounds! 😊

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36 comments so far

ezredax, United States of America
Hi, I only musical instrument I can think of is a The Appalachian dulcimer string instrument of the zither family. It was originally played in the Appalachian region of the United States. Demaris
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honeybee, Austria
The Styrian Button Harmonica (Steirische Knopfharmonika) is an integral part of Austrian folk music, but it is also common in Bavaria and Slovenia. It is an accordion which only has buttons to play.
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greenskull, Russia
I ❤❤❤ Postcrossing!
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koharu, Japan
This is a very interesting topic for me, as I play the koto, a traditional instrument!
The most popular Japanese musical instruments are the koto, shamisen and shakuhachi. The koto is a stringed instrument that has been around for over a thousand years.The dignified tone is attractive, and there is a technique that reproduces the sounds of nature, such as the sound of birds and waves.
Here's a video of my recommendation for a Japanese musical instrument.
https://youtu.be/29WgFkhv62w (koto&shakuhachi), https://youtu.be/HqFCgm-ybaI (shamisen)
I'm really looking forward to reading the comments and getting to know the instruments from other countries!!!
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ned44440, Ireland
The Harp is a symbol of Ireland and you will see it on all our coins.
Ireland is the only country in the world that has a musical instrument as its national symbol. The oldest known harp in existence is housed in Trinity College, Dublin. It is known as the 'Brian Boru harp'. Brian Boru was a High King of Ireland who played the harp. He died at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014.
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mounten, Italy
In Northern Italy if you want to start to learn how to play an instrument you have to start with the flute. If you are an autodidact person you can play whatever you like Harmonica Guitar Tuba Trompet ecc.just every instrument.
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Flippie, Canada
Hi, one off the native instruments of Canada is a hand-drum. They sound is very powerful. I bought one in the year that we arrived in Canada and I love it. I don't make music with it but I love to look at it in my living-room where it is.
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PIYALI, India
Lets know something about "Esraj", It is an Indian stringed instrument found in two forms throughout the Indian subcontinent. It is a relatively recent instrument, being only about 300 years old. It is found in North India, primarily Punjab, where it is used in Sikh music and Hindustani classical compositions and in West Bengal. The Esraj is a modern variant of the dilruba, differing slightly in structure.
Esraj, had been declining in popularity for many decades. By the 1980s, the instrument was nearly extinct. However, with the rising influence of the "Gurmat Sangeet" movement, the instrument has been once again attracting attention. Rabindranath Tagore made this instrument mandatory for all the students of sangeet bhavana of shantiniketan. Esraj is the main accompanying instrument for rabindra sangeet in shantiniketan.
The Esraj, have a similar yet distinct construction style, with each having a medium-sized sitar-like neck with 20 heavy metal frets. This neck carries a long wooden rack of 12–15 sympathetic strings,known as the taraf strings,and 2-3 jawari strings.By the jawari strings one can give emphasis on the vadi,samvadi, nayeshwar notes. Jawari helps in producing a more piercing sound.Sometimes there is no jawari strings. Esraj has four main metal strings which are bowed. The soundboard is a stretched piece of goatskin. Occasionally, the instrument has a gourd affixed to the top for balance or for tone enhancement.There are two variants of Esrajs played in shantiniketan, the traditional one, and the modern model developed by Pt.Ranadhir Roy, which is bigger in size. The newer model has a larger amplifier or a larger soundbox, which is perforated. An instrument maker of Kolkata, named Dulal Patra worked to develop the newer model of Esraj as per Ranadhir Roy's instructions.
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DaryaSimonenkova, Belarus
Однозначно могу сказать о национальном белорусском струнном инструменте - это цимбалы! Богатое, звонкое, мелодичное звучание! В Беларусии есть национальный оркестр народных инструментов имени Жиновича.
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Bublina007, Czech Republic
The typical national musical instrument from my region is a Moravian dulcimer:
https://youtu.be/vxlidesALRA
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valras, Lithuania
Skrabalai or wooden bells from Lithuania :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAsqXAPUX5I
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Galinarus50, Russia
The most famous Russian folk musical instrument in the world is the balalaika. Known since the end of the 17th century (first written mention in 1688). It has a triangular shape and three strings. A characteristic method of playing the balalaika is rattling - punching all the strings with a finger. All this reflects the character of the balalaika as an easy, funny and not very serious instrument. https://youtu.be/u6vKjoe9myI
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Shumasha, Russia
Great topic and great comments! Videos are amazing, thank you all!
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_samy_, India
India is abundant with instruments like the sitar and veena but I would probably nominate a not-so well known one but very unique instrument, jaltarang. Its a music instrument with water glasses and sounds amazing;) stay safe! stay at home!
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Mosshumla, Sweden
In Swedish folk music we have the "nyckelharpa", an instrument which (as far as I know) doesn't have an English name, Here you can read about it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyckelharpa
And here an example how it sounds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Kj1vtxKBW8
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pupkinter, Ukraine
Bandura is a Ukrainian, plucked string, folk instrument.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bandura
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kartuposID, Indonesia
Indonesia has different musical instrument for EVERY province (we have 34 provinces across the archipelago). In 2014, we issued two stamp sets comprising those. This full stamp listing in the link has the first 22: https://filateli.co.id/Detailproduct?c=MzI1
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mana555, Japan
I agree with Koharu who wrote about Japanese own music instruments.
For me SHAKUHACHI is impressive.
SHAKUHACHI is a kind of flute.
A wandering Zen priest, who is wearing a deep sedge hat that covers the face, often plays this kind of flute.
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NIDUSKA, Finland
thank you
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MargaretSS, China
In China,there's a traditional instrument called zheng.In ancient time,people used zheng to convey their emotion and make friends.There remains a beautiful story:Two men are best friends,one played zheng,the other can tell the direct emotion immediately.Now when we see soulmates,we will mention the story to bless them and show our envy.
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inika1123, Russia
Domra is a prototype of the Russian balalaika.
Unfortunately, it has lost its former popularity as a folk instrument in Russia; rarely can it be found in villages, among common people.
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maeli, France
The biniou is the traditional music instrument in Bretagne ( West region in France) . It sounds like the Scottish bagpipe.
Every year , there is the international Celtic musical Festival in the city of Lorient . It is world famous.
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HanaMoualla, Czech Republic
Dudy is typical musical instrument (South Bohemian pipe). Fanfrnoch is more original Czech instrument, it looks like ceramic container with membrane. You play on it pulling the horse hair (in the middle of it). Play it on Youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXqDZYRcTJk
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nm_rockhound, United States of America
Pimentel guitars have been made here in New Mexico for generations by the same family. They're known around the world as a superior musical instrument and works of art.
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paulo, Portugal
A new member (Mirnes) from Bosnia-Herzegovina which can't comment here yet has shared with us this link about traditional musical instruments in his country:

http://bhdocumentary.net/index.php/bhetno/435-musical-instruments-from-bosnia-and-herzegovina-in-the-carmentis-be-online-database
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elos, Netherlands
Nice writing prompt.
I love the Portuguese guitar (especially in the Coimbra fado); thanks for the nice video.
Typically Dutch (and Flemish) are the large street organs (barrel organs).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-mWrHgLNZQ
As originally built the organ was operated by the 'organ grinder' turning a large handle to operate both the bellows/reservoir and the card feed mechanism. Almost all examples in the Netherlands have now been converted to belt drive from a small battery powered motor or donkey engine, allowing the organ grinder to collect money.
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Bookstraveller, Germany
Two instruments, that to me are very significant or unique to Romanian culture are 1. The bucium, which doesn't have a translation in English and is a type of alpine horn. the instrument was already in use in the Dacian and Roman times, mostly as a warning tool in military conflicts, now used by shepherds in the mountains. 2. The pan flute. One of Romania's most renowned folklore musicians is Gheorghe Zamfir, also known as "The Master of the Pan Flute". https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orL-w2QBiN8
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Wolfgang_Russ, Germany
I love the organ, the queen of instruments This marvel of a very diverse instrument always touches me, a very emotional instrument (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ztq2-_Yoe78).
Also the family of brass instruments are typically for Germany:
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Xmegan, Germany
Never thought of this before...a question worth a second thought..so for me it’s the organ for Germany. In former times A mouth organ and street organs as can be seen in two lovely historic museums in Waldkirch/Black Forest and in Schloss Bruchsal.
https://youtu.be/JkwV_SdqMTM
And of course in every church there will be majestic church organs with masses of pipes. I believe the cathedral in Passau claims to have the most pipes on their large organ.
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ezredax, United States of America
Hi Again,

If you ever visit Phoenix, Arizona, USA do plan to see the Musical Instrument Museum. https://mim.org/ Closed at the moment due to covid-19 the museum houses over 7000 instruments from countries across the globe. Who knew bagpipes were played in other places than Scottland??? Plan to arrive early and stay the day.
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Schnootie, United States of America
Thank you so much for posting this video and the information on this beautiful instrument! This musical piece has such emotion, I can see how one might get a bit sentimental listening to it!
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MatildaCutting, United Kingdom
i love postcrossing
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ilda, Finland
Thank you so much for posting this video! This music is theme from a Portuguese film "Os Verdes Anos", directed by Paolo Rocha. It is one of my all time favorite films! I love it! I even took my Postcrossing-name (ilda) from that film. :-)
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manojkamat1857, India
In India We have tons of instruments, they are part of classical Hindustani music as well as Modern next gen music. Sarangi is one of them, most difficult to play and most melodious. Now In era of EDM people learn to produce more desirable sounds from gadgets but , in past artist strives to play Indian musical instruments with lot of patience and dedication. In recent years there have been very few artist that known to play sarangi . this art is diminishing gradually because of hardship to acquire skill to play sarangi.

you can find more info in link below.
https://www.sarangi.net/8-about/3-about-the-sarangi
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SS80121, Germany
For me the instrument of Germany is the horn. Certainly the horn is neither unique nor necessarily indigenous to Germany, but in the world of classical music, most of the best pieces and excerpts written for the horn are from the hands of German or Austrian composers. I believe any horn fan would think of J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 and Mahler's 1st or 5th symphonies, as well as have practised or tried to practise Richard Strauss' (not one of the Austrian Strausses but the German hornist's son and composer) horn concerti. I am an amateur horn myself and like the German and Austrian styles of horn playing and horn sounds almost equally.
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DiannaMacau, Macao
Wow, what a nice blog, enjoy reading it very much, I love the postcard, specially the one from Bangalore

thank you
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