The world’s most breathtaking reed instruments — do you think you know them?

Whether you do or don’t, these little tidbits of information will give you a few conversation starters for those awkward family get-togethers!

Duduk

Without a doubt, the duduk or Armenian oboe is one of the world’s most breathtaking reed instruments.

It comes with either a single or double reed that has been crafted from ghamish or yegheg (a plant that grows along the bank of the Arax river). If you are ever lucky enough to hear the delightful sound that comes from the duduk, you will undoubtedly remember the experience for life!

The body of the instrument is carved from the apricot tree which is naturally very soft and therefore perfect for producing the soft, glowing timbre that the duduk is so famous for. After all, it wouldn’t be classed as one of the world’s most breathtaking reed instruments if it didn’t sound great, would it?

If you know your music, you’ll be familiar with the fact that instruments usually come in different types and styles. Well, the same can be said for this one. There are four major kinds of duduk which have sizes between 28 and 40 cm. Of course, they each produce varying sounds, but you will have to hear it to believe it.

 

Zurna

The zurna is another of the world’s most breathtaking reed instruments and for good reason too.

You will find this beautiful instrument played in Central Asia and the Balkans to create comforting folk music for their listeners. If ever your soul needs a little pick me up, the zurna will take care of it for you.

Much like the duduk which we chatted about earlier, this guy is a conical oboe and again, is usually made from the apricot tree. It’s as if these trees were put on this earth solely for the production of reed instruments! Today it’s often made from the plum or mulberry tree.

Of course, there are major differences that set the zurna apart from the duduk; one of these being that this one emits a piercing sound instead of a soft, warm tone. No wonder it is used primarily for folk music — the sharpness lends itself perfectly to this genre.

Even though there are several variations of this instrument, they all share the same short, tight double-reed known as the kalem. The higher the level of tautness, the shriller the sound will be (which makes a lot of sense, don’t you think?). Interestingly, zurnas are played mostly in weddings and happy events. So don’t forget to get one for your next best friend’s wedding party!

Although many cultures enjoy the alert, piercing tune, those who reside in Turkey and Bulgaria usually opt for the Kaba zurna which contains a much longer reed.

The most important thing to remember is this: if you see a random instrument that is conical and carved from wood, you shouldn’t be shy to state that it is indeed a zurna. You never know, you might just impress your friends!

Ney

Middle Eastern music would not be complete without the ney, which is why it has been awarded the coveted status of one of the world’s most breathtaking reed instruments.

It is akin to the flute except played from the end of it like a recorder and is made from a cane or reed (as long as it is hollow, otherwise it would be pointless).

Fun fact: “ney” is a Persian word for “reed“, it just isn’t used so much anymore. 

Straightening the ney
Making sure the reed is straight

Only those who have an innate talent for playing the ney will reach three octaves all by themselves. Typically, it takes a group of musicians who can play the instrument to a good standard to come together and supplement the song.

As you may imagine by now, there are varying versions of the ney (7 kinds, to be precise) on the market which all produce differing notes. Typically, players choose based on their specific preferences, although if they are a true audience pleaser, they’ll stick to the most loved ones. Wouldn’t we all?

While there are a plethora of beautiful woodwind instruments out there, these are by far the world’s most breathtaking reed instruments you will ever find. If you are ever blessed with a chance to hear one in action, grab it with both hands (and profusely thank the person who gave you the opportunity!).

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