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Folk instruments of Greece

Updated on May 22, 2013

Folk instruments: a vessel in time

The Folk instruments of Greece, constructed from a mere piece of wood, a tortoise shell or the bone of an animal by the magic hands of a skillfull crafstman, are like vessels in time. Objects of art, relics of the past and at the same time a living organism conveying timeless feelings and images.

Enigmatic beings, their origins fading in the depths of time and their shapes changing throughout so many interactions, combining the beauty of shape with functionality, functionality with rhythm and melody.

Discovering the beauty of Greece's traditional music instruments

I have always loved music. I have played music for almost all my life. Only during recent years though, did I discover the charm of folk instruments of my own country. I had to make my way through a dark forest of fiestas and carnivals and navigate on oceans of fake and decadence before hearing their pure sound. Then they became my love, my passion, my fairytale camvas, a dream and a vision.

I have searched a lot. The more I searched the more doors were opening. Towards East, towards West, through history. It's such an amazing discovery how much history a single musical instrument can carry.

A crossroad between east and west

Greece, being the crossroad between East and West, therefore between two very different cultural currents, has received and assimilated creatively various influences.

The musical instruments that have been played in Greece through time represent those influences. Some of them originate in Ancient Greece itself, have made a whole journey through other countries, and maybe continents to come back to Greece slightly transformed in name and in shape. Some others have been imported from other countries to acquire a new personality by the greek melodic patterns.

Fivos Anogianakis

The man whose meticulous research and study has given Greek Folk Music the value that it worths is Fivos Anogianakis. He dedicated more than 40 years of his life in research, he studied it "in situ", he recorded and promoted it.

In 1978 he donated to the Greek State his private collection of more than 1000 greek instruments dating from the 18th century to nowadays. Under his supervision, the Museum of Greek Folk Instruments - centre of Ethnomusicology was founded in Athens.

His book "GREEK FOLK INSTRUMENTS" published by "MELISSA" has been my source of information and inspiration. So have been the CDs ON GREEK FOLK INSTRUMENTS BY PETROS TABOURIS

Division and classification of greek folk instruments

According to the system of E.von Hornbostel- C.Sachs, accepted by most ethnomusicologists, instruments are classified in four major


- Chordophones (string instruments)

- Aerophones (wind instruments)

- Membranophones (instruments with a membrane)

- Idiophones (those whose sound comes from the material that they are made of).


Aerophones or wind instruments

- shepherd's flute (floghera)

- souravli


- Clarinet

- Tsabouna (gaida)

- Zournas

The shepherd's flute (floghera)

Among the memories of my early childhood dominates the sound of the pastoral flute. The full moon, the absolute stillness and then suddenly as if the wind started to blow and thousands of moon rays started to dance, the melody of a flute was spraying from the slope of the mountain. In a little while, like an answer to an invisible command hundreds of bells accompanied the melodical line, while the nocturnal symphony was completed with the bleating of the sheep....READ MORE AND LISTEN TO THE GREEK SHEPHERD'S FLUTE




Tsabouna (gaida)


Greek chordophones or string instruments

- Kanonaki

- Sandouri

- Oud

- Lute

- Violin

- Tabouras

- Bouzouki

- Baglamas

- Lyra

- Mandoline


Outi (Oud)

The mystical sound of the oud, like an invisible companion, leads me secretly to the fascinating world of the Thousand and One nights. Dreams and visions of palaces with interior patios; water fountains streaming among orange trees full of fragrant blossoms. tiny windows carved with exquisite... . MORE ON THE OUD

Kanonaki (qanoun)

The origins of this fascinating instrument are found in Asia, many centuries before the Classical Greek Era. It was then known by the name of PSALTIRION. However, it is believed that KANONAKI owes its name to Pythagoras, the great Greek Mathematician who was a musician as well, and who observed, as it is said, the harmony of stars. As an experiment, he produced a basic musical instrument, a monochord (only one string), which he divided into seven spaces..... MORE INFORMATION ON THE KANONAKI INSTRUMENT AND VIDEOS WITH MUSICIANS PLAYING IT


There are two versions for the origins of the name sandour or sandouri. It either comes from the word "psaltery", that reminds the byzantine intsrument similar to kanonaki. Psaltery became sandir and then sandouri. A different version is that the name comes from the persian words "san tar" which mean a hundred strings......READ MORE AND LISTEN TO THE SANDOURI


The Lyras: Politiki (lyra of Konstantinople) - Cretan - Pontian (kemence)

The three daughters of the King

........and the king had three beautiful daughters whose voices competed those of the nightingales. One day they left the palace to travel to foreing countries. The first one went to READ MORE AND LISTEN TO THE GREEK LYRAS


Politiki lyra (Lyra of Konstantinople)



Pontian Lyra (Kemence)



Cretan Lyra


Membranophones or percussion instruments

- Daouli

- Defi or dahires

- Toumbeleki

- Toubi




- Zilia

- Bells

- Bourou

- Lalitsa

- Masia

Click thumbnail to view full-size

CDs with Greek Folk Instruments

A series of finely played traditional Greek instruments. An assembly of pieces of music which would have been lost in oblivion had they not been collected and interpreted by skillful musicians. They are introduced with a thorough presentation of the morphology, playing technique and origins of the instruments they are played with.


There are many more instruments to be presented. I will provide information about them too in due time. Meanwhile, I hope that you enjoy the ones already described here. Please do enter the web pages dedicated to each one of them to discover the beauty of the traditional greek instruments, played by skillfull musicians.

Have you read all my pages on the folk instruments of Greece? Which instrument do you like the most?

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    • askformore lm profile image

      askformore lm 5 years ago

      Thank you for the very interesting info about Greek music instruments

    • profile image

      ernad18 5 years ago

      great lens

    • TTMall profile image

      TTMall 6 years ago

      Great lens with excellent pictures.

    • kathysart profile image

      kathysart 6 years ago

      So beautiful. Stringed instruments are so spiritual and the ones you show here are no exception to that. Lovely lens. Angel blessed.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Returning to this masterpiece with an angel blessing....beautifully done!

    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 6 years ago


    • ViJuvenate profile image

      ViJuvenate 6 years ago

      What beautiful instruments! I love to see all the different ways that have been made to surround ourselves with music. Those chordophones are amazing. I would love to hear them being played.

    • profile image

      Noctambulant 6 years ago

      Very nice...Antipodean indeed Ysis...:)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Beautiful instruments, so interesting!

      My husband loves instruments and enjoyed looking too. Thank you so much

    • OldStones LM profile image

      OldStones LM 6 years ago

      Well done I enjoyed learning about greek folk msusic and instruments. I have been looking to try the bouzouki, they have such a great sound. I look forward to reading the rest of your lenses.

    • NoYouAreNot profile image

      NoYouAreNot 6 years ago

      Nice and systematic presentation, just the way I like it. Thank you for sharing this treasure of musical knowledge. I will certainly lensroll it once I build some lenses on Greek music. Kali Anastasi.

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 7 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Hi! Came back to say *SquidAngel blessed and featured on "Musical Instrument Angel"! =D

    • profile image

      Dinostore 7 years ago

      Wow! What a unique lens, I enjoyed reading through it. Thumbs up and fav'd.

    • kguru1979 lm profile image

      kguru1979 lm 7 years ago

      Nice info about folk instruments ... here in India also folk instruments are popular...!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      You certainly know your information and so beautifully presented.

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 7 years ago

      Lensrolled to my Greece Quiz.

    • Psycho-Gamer profile image

      MasterPsycho 7 years ago from Earth

      way too many of them and still not all of them.....lool

      thanks for sharing ysis

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 7 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      It was so interesting to read about these wonderful instruments! Thanks for your research and presentation! *SquidAngel Blessed* and featured on "Musical Angel"! =D

    • Geekgurl profile image

      Kimberly Hiller 7 years ago from Chicago

      Very interesting lens. You always see these instruments in artwork or movies. Great information and videos.

    • Krafick profile image

      Krafick 7 years ago

      Very nice lens. I love Greek music.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 7 years ago from Central Florida

      Quite an interesting topic and well-illustrated. It was great to actually hear several of them in the videos.

    • Glenn619 profile image

      Glenn619 7 years ago

      I play the guitar and also plat the flute was really awe struck with your lens Nice work

    • YsisHb profile image

      YsisHb 7 years ago

      @delia-delia: There is certainly an interaction between the cultures of different countries, and sometimes between sorts of music that are very different from each other, as I am going to show in my lens on Byzantine music very soon.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 7 years ago

      Wow what a great lens! I have not been Blessed with the talent of playing an instrument or even read music, however I love music of all kinds...interestingly one of the things I have noticed for a long time, is that I can hear the influence of different countries in certain music...I love Spanish Music and hear the influence of Turkey, Greece or even Middle-eastern...I suppose when a country invaded another and they took over for a while, the influence of music, dance and dress was blended...

    • YsisHb profile image

      YsisHb 7 years ago

      @emmaklarkins: I am glad that you appreciate my lens and our traditional music. There are great pieces for bouzouki and I hope I will be able to present them.

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 7 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Thank you for sharing about the traditional Greek musical instruments. I remember visiting Crete many years ago, and I was entranced by Greek culture at that time.

    • YsisHb profile image

      YsisHb 7 years ago

      @jptanabe: Thank you for your kind comments. Fortunately there are still places in Greece where tradition is still alive.

    • emmaklarkins profile image

      emmaklarkins 7 years ago

      A great introduction to these instruments! I was lucky enough to see a Bouzouki at a Bouzoukia (party where they play the Bouzouki) in Maryland with my Greek boyfriend.

    • Pete D profile image

      Pete D 7 years ago

      Cool images and videos :) Thumbs up