A brief description of some of the many instruments used in performances and/or in school workshops.


Bombo_sample sound
Bombo - The most important percussion instrument used in Andean music. It comes in different sizes. The skin is usually goat. It is of European origin following the arrival of military drums. Widely used in the folk music of Argentina, Peru, Chile, Bolivia for a variety of rhythms. Both the skin and the rim of the instrument are played in order to perform different rhythm patterns.

Cajon_sample sound
Cajón (front) – An instrument of the Afro-Peruvian tradition. It is a wooden box, with a hole in the centre of the non-playing side, following the idea of the guitar in terms of acting as a sound chamber. The player sits on the instrument which is regarded as a hand drum two-tone box. A low tone is obtained by playing the centre of the instrument and a higher pitch by striking the top edges normally with the finger tips.

Bongo_sample sound
Bongos Bongos are a set of two hand drums used in Latin percussion. One of the drums is bigger than the other. The larger drum is called ‘hembra’ (female) and the smaller ‘macho’ (male). The drum head can be made of animal skin or a synthetic material.

Bamboo drum_sample sound
Bamboo drums – Slit drums based on the ‘Teponaztl’, a Pre-Hispanic Mexican hollow drum.

Vibra-slap - The modern version of the ‘quijada’ (jawbone), which produces a rattling sound. It is a bent strong wire with a wooden ball at one end and a ‘box’ with small parts that rattle at the other. The sound is produced by striking the wooden ball against one hand or leg. These days the instrument is used in many Latin music styles.

Agogo bells_sample sound
Agogo bells - A typical instrument of Brazilian music. Agogo bells are pairs of bells joined by a curved metal rod, one of them tuned at a higher pitch than the other. Played using a stick (normally a wooden one).

Triangle_sample sound
Triangle - Usually a metal bar shaped as a triangle. Usually played using a metal stick. One of the angles is left open.

Chocalho_sample sound
Chocalho or Ganza – This instrument consist of a cylinder (25-50 cm) usually made of metal (tin), which is filled with sand or shot. A typical instrument in Brazilian music.

Reco reco_sample sound
Reco-reco - It is a scraper made of bamboo common to Latin percussion. The body of the instrument has been carved with a series of notches, resulting in a rasping sound when scratched with a stick.

Claves_sample sound
Claves - Claves are two wooden sticks that are struck together to produce a high piercing sound. Widely used in Cuban music, where the word clave also refers to describe a particular rhythm pattern (clave rhythm).

Tambourine_sample sound
Tambourine - The tambourine is a percussion instrument consisting of a circular frame, normally of wood or plastic, with pairs of small metal jingles. We play tambourines with a drumhead.

Rainstick-cactus_sample sound
Rain sticks (palo de agua) – An instrument that appears to originate in ceremonial traditions by cultures that occupied the north of Chile around 600AC. It resembles a long, rough tube which is made of a hollowed cactus, inside which the plant’s spikes have been fixed. The rain effect is produced by small stones inside the instrument. Just tilting the instrument is enough to produce its attractive sound.

Shajshas_sample sound
Shajshas – A percussion instrument used as a shaker. It is made of goat’s hooves which have been cleaned and polished and then put together in strings of different lengths as if they were beads and tied together.

Pacay bean pods_sample sound
Pacay Bean pods – Pacay seed pod shakers from Peru. They are natural giant beans of around 12”-16”.

Maracas_sample sound
Maracas – This percussion instrument was originally made of gourds filled with dry seeds and used in Caribbean and South American music. Shaking them creates an untuned sound. Modern maracas are usually made from materials such as plastic and wood.

Rainstick-bamboo_sample sound
Bamboo rainsticks – A similar concept to the cactus rainstick (see above) but using a length of bamboo.

– Nut shakers with a bamboo handle, made in Peru.

Quijada_sample sound
Quijadas or Cencerros – It produces a rattling sound. It is made using the jaw bone of a mule or donkey with the teeth loosened. It is played by holding the jaw by the teeth with one hand and striking with the side of the other hand’s fist on the wide side of the jaw. Typical of Afro-Peruvian music.


Guitar_sample sound
Spanish or Classical guitar – The guitar is without a doubt the most popular instrument throughout Latin America. It arrived as the vihuela, the immediate predecessor to the instrument now known as the classical guitar. The instrument is used with different temples. We use the best known tuning : E, B, G, D, A, E.

Charango_sample sound
Charango – It is like a small guitar. Originally made from the shell of the (or “quirquincho” as it is known in the Andes) to make the resonance box. It is possible to find up to a dozen types of charangos in the Andean area (from 5 strings up to 12 strings). The most popular has 10 strings tuned in pairs E, A, E (octave apart), C and G.

– A typical European string instrument that reached South America. It is extensively played in Andean music. It is used with different temples. In our case the tuning used is E, A, C and G.


Quena_sample sound
Kenas or Quenas – This is one of the most popular instruments of the Andean area with many varieties. Most “quenas” consist of a straight open pipe with a recess on one of the sides and half open on the other. There are five to six front vents and one rear vent. They are mostly made out of bamboo cane and measure 25 to 40cm.

Panpipe_sample sound
Malta panpipes – Probably the most popular panpipe (and ideal for those wishing to learn the panpipe). It normally consists of 13 tubes arranged in two rows, one of 7 pipes and one of 6. The lowest note (the long pipe in the row of 7) is D, which is about 29cm long. The highest (also in the row of 7) is B, which is about 8.5cm. As the instrument is tuned in G, the only accidental is F sharp.

Ocarinas_sample sound
Ocarina – A submarine or lentil-shaped instrument made of clay. The first type normally has up to 12 holes. They are found in various sizes and musical registers.

– An instrument similar to the kena but with a mouth piece.

(Conch shells) – A natural trumpet, with or without a mouth piece, made of the shell of a large sea snail. Pututos are used to announce community gatherings.