Music Reviews

Best World Music Instruments

Discover the top world music instruments that will transport you to different cultures and traditions. From the mesmerizing sounds of the sitar to the rhythmic beats of the djembe, explore a diverse range of instruments that are beloved by musicians and enthusiasts worldwide. Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of global music with these best world music instruments.

When it comes to experiencing the rich and diverse sounds of world music, having the right instruments is essential. From the enchanting melodies of the sitar to the rhythmic beats of the djembe, there is a vast array of best world music instruments to choose from. Whether you’re a seasoned musician or just starting your musical journey, these instruments offer a unique way to explore different cultures and musical traditions. The sitar, with its distinctive sound and intricate design, is often considered one of the most iconic instruments in Indian classical music. For those looking to add a touch of African rhythm to their music, the djembe is a popular choice, known for its powerful and resonant tones. Other notable instruments include the kora, a West African harp-lute, and the didgeridoo, an ancient Australian wind instrument. With so many incredible options available, finding the best world music instruments for your musical exploration has never been easier.

# Instrument Origin Playing Technique Rating
1 Didgeridoo Australia Continuous Breath 9.5/10
2 Sitar India Plucking 9/10
3 Djembe West Africa Hand Drumming 8.7/10
4 Bodhran Ireland Beater Striking 8.5/10
5 Kalimba Africa Finger Plucking 8.3/10
6 Tabla India/Pakistan/Bangladesh/Nepal Finger Percussion 8/10
7 Hang Drum Switzerland/Germany/Austria Finger Percussion, Hand Drumming 7.5/10
8 Kora West Africa Plucking 7/10
9 Bagpipes Various (Scotland, Ireland, etc.) Blowing, Finger Technique 6.5/10
10 Steel Pan Trinidad and Tobago Mallet Striking 6/10


  • Australian Aboriginal wind instrument
  • Traditionally made from eucalyptus tree trunks
  • Produces a deep, resonant drone sound
  • Played by vibrating the lips into the mouthpiece
  • Used in traditional ceremonies and contemporary music

The didgeridoo is a unique musical instrument originating from the Indigenous people of Australia. It is traditionally made from hollowed-out eucalyptus tree trunks and produces a deep, resonant drone sound. Playing the didgeridoo involves vibrating the lips into the mouthpiece while using circular breathing techniques to create a continuous sound. This instrument holds great cultural significance and is also popular in contemporary world music.

The didgeridoo is believed to have been played by Aboriginal Australians for over 1,500 years, serving as a spiritual and ceremonial instrument.


  • A stringed instrument from India
  • Features a long neck and a gourd-shaped body
  • Has movable frets and sympathetic strings
  • Played with a pick (mizrab) and finger techniques
  • Known for its rich, melodic sound and intricate ornamentation

The sitar is a prominent instrument in Indian classical music. It has a long neck, a gourd-shaped body, and movable frets. The sitar also features sympathetic strings that resonate with the main strings, adding depth to its sound. It is played using a pick called a mizrab and various finger techniques to produce melodic patterns and intricate ornamentation. The sitar’s unique timbre and expressive capabilities make it a beloved instrument in both traditional and contemporary world music.

The sitar’s distinctive sound has influenced various genres of music, including rock, jazz, and fusion, leading to its integration into global music scenes.


  • African hand drum
  • Traditionally made from a single piece of wood and goat skin
  • Played with bare hands
  • Produces a wide range of tones and dynamics
  • Used in traditional African music and popular in world percussion ensembles

The djembe is a versatile percussion instrument originating from West Africa. It is traditionally crafted from a single piece of wood and topped with goat skin. Played with bare hands, the djembe produces a wide range of tones and dynamics by striking different areas of the drumhead. Its vibrant rhythms and expressive qualities have made it popular not only in traditional African music but also in world percussion ensembles across various genres.

The djembe’s name comes from the Malinke language, meaning “gather together in peace,” reflecting its role as a unifying instrument in African communities.


  • Irish frame drum
  • Typically made with a wooden frame and goat skin head
  • Played with a beater called a tipper or cipín
  • Produces rhythmic beats and tonal variations
  • An essential instrument in Irish traditional music

The bodhran is an iconic percussion instrument in Irish culture. It features a wooden frame with a goat skin head stretched across one side. The bodhran is played by striking the drumhead with a beater known as a tipper or cipín. By varying the striking position and pressure, players can create rhythmic beats and tonal variations. The bodhran holds a significant place in Irish traditional music, providing a steady pulse and enhancing the overall sound of Irish music ensembles.

The bodhran’s distinctive sound and rhythmic capabilities have led to its incorporation into various musical genres beyond Irish traditional music.


  • Thumb piano originating from Africa
  • Consists of metal or wooden keys mounted on a resonating body
  • Played by plucking the keys with thumbs or fingers
  • Produces soothing and melodic tones
  • Used in traditional African music and contemporary world music

The kalimba, also known as a thumb piano, is an enchanting instrument with roots in African music. It typically consists of metal or wooden keys mounted on a resonating body. The player produces sound by plucking the keys with their thumbs or fingers, creating soothing and melodic tones. The kalimba’s simplicity and versatility have made it popular not only in traditional African music but also in contemporary world music, where its unique timbre adds a touch of ethereal beauty.

The kalimba’s portable size and captivating sound have made it a beloved instrument for musicians of all levels, from beginners to professionals.


  • Indian percussion instrument
  • Consists of two drums: the smaller dayan and larger bayan
  • Played with fingers and palms
  • Produces a wide range of tones and intricate rhythms
  • An integral part of Indian classical music and fusion genres

The tabla is a pair of drums that form one of the most important rhythm instruments in Indian classical music. It consists of two drums: the smaller, high-pitched dayan and the larger, low-pitched bayan. The tabla is played using a combination of fingers and palms to strike the drumheads, creating a wide range of tones and intricate rhythms. Its expressive capabilities and ability to mimic vocal patterns make it an integral part of Indian classical music as well as fusion genres that blend traditional and contemporary elements.

The tabla’s rhythmic complexity and versatility have led to its incorporation into various genres of music worldwide, transcending cultural boundaries.

Hang Drum

  • Handcrafted melodic percussion instrument
  • Consists of two metal hemispheres fused together
  • Played by striking the different tone fields with hands or mallets
  • Produces resonant and soothing sounds
  • Used in meditation, relaxation music, and world fusion genres

The hang drum, also known as the hang or handpan, is a unique melodic percussion instrument. It features two metal hemispheres fused together, creating a distinct UFO-like shape. The player produces sound by striking the different tone fields with their hands or mallets. The hang drum’s resonant and soothing sounds make it popular for meditation, relaxation music, and world fusion genres. Each hang drum is handcrafted with precision, resulting in a unique instrument with its own specific tonal qualities.

The hang drum’s ethereal sound and tranquil vibrations have made it a sought-after instrument for musicians and enthusiasts seeking a meditative musical experience.


  • West African string instrument
  • Features a large gourd resonator and 21 strings
  • Played by plucking the strings with thumbs and index fingers
  • Produces intricate melodies and rhythmic patterns
  • Used in traditional West African music and global fusion genres

The kora is a mesmerizing string instrument originating from West Africa, particularly the Mandinka people. It consists of a large gourd resonator covered with cow skin and a long neck with 21 strings. The player plucks the strings with their thumbs and index fingers, creating intricate melodies and rhythmic patterns. The kora’s enchanting sound has made it an integral part of traditional West African music as well as global fusion genres, where it adds a unique melodic and rhythmic dimension.

The kora’s complex construction and versatility have inspired musicians worldwide, leading to its integration into various musical genres beyond its West African roots.


  • Traditional wind instrument
  • Consists of an airbag and multiple pipes
  • Played by blowing air into the bag and squeezing it
  • Produces a distinct, resonant sound
  • Associated with Scottish, Irish, and other Celtic music traditions

The bagpipes are a traditional wind instrument that originated in various forms across different cultures. They typically consist of an airbag filled with air through a blowpipe and multiple pipes connected to the bag. The player blows air into the bag and squeezes it to produce a continuous sound. The bagpipes’ distinct and resonant sound is often associated with Scottish, Irish, and other Celtic music traditions. They are commonly played at ceremonial events, gatherings, and celebrations.

The bagpipes’ powerful sound and cultural significance have made them iconic symbols of Scottish heritage and Celtic music.

Steel Pan

  • Musical instrument invented in Trinidad and Tobago
  • Made from oil drums or steel containers
  • Played by striking the different notes on the pan surface
  • Produces vibrant and melodic tones
  • Used in Caribbean music, jazz, and world fusion genres

The steel pan, also known as the steel drum, is a musical instrument that originated in Trinidad and Tobago. It is made from oil drums or steel containers that are carefully tuned and shaped into a concave surface with different notes. The player strikes the different notes on the pan surface using mallets or sticks, producing vibrant and melodic tones. The steel pan is an integral part of Caribbean music, jazz, and world fusion genres, adding a distinctive tropical flavor to compositions.

The steel pan’s joyful and infectious sound has captivated audiences worldwide, making it a beloved instrument in various musical genres beyond its Caribbean roots.

What are the best world music instruments?

When it comes to world music instruments, there are several standout options that offer unique sounds and cultural significance. One popular instrument is the didgeridoo, an Aboriginal wind instrument known for its deep, resonant tones. Another notable instrument is the sitar, a stringed instrument from India that produces a mesmerizing sound. The djembe, a West African drum, is renowned for its powerful beats and rhythmic versatility.

How do I choose the right world music instrument?

Choosing the right world music instrument depends on your personal preferences and interests. Consider the type of sound you are drawn to and the cultural background that resonates with you. Research different instruments, listen to recordings, and even try them out if possible. It’s important to find an instrument that speaks to you and inspires you to explore the rich world of global music.

Are world music instruments suitable for beginners?

Absolutely! Many world music instruments are suitable for beginners. Instruments like the kalimba, a thumb piano from Africa, or the bodhran, a traditional Irish drum, can be relatively easy to learn and provide a great starting point for beginners. However, some instruments may require more time and dedication to master, such as the tabla from India or the kora from West Africa. Regardless of your skill level, there is a world music instrument out there that can bring joy and inspiration to your musical journey.

String Instruments

String instruments are an essential part of world music. They produce beautiful melodies and are widely used in various cultures. Some popular string instruments include the guitar, violin, sitar, and oud.

Percussion Instruments

Percussion instruments add rhythm and energy to world music. They come in various shapes and sizes, producing unique sounds. Examples of percussion instruments include drums, tambourines, djembes, and maracas.

Wind Instruments

Wind instruments create enchanting melodies and are found in different musical traditions around the world. Flutes, saxophones, trumpets, and didgeridoos are some examples of wind instruments that are widely used in world music.

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