Instruments of the German Culture

By Melissa Sherrard
Teach children of German descent about traditional instruments from their homeland.

While accordions and tubas are what may come to mind when you think of traditional musical instruments of the German culture, several instruments originated in Germany. There are many musical instruments that resemble older instruments of the German culture, and many folk musicians still play traditional pieces from Germany's past. Consider learning a musical instrument of the German culture to keep the traditions of Germany alive.

Bladder Fiddle

The bladder fiddle is a large mono-chord instrument known by many names throughout Europe: the string fiddle, poispil or Devil's fiddle; but in Germany it is most often called the "bumbass." These musical instruments are crafted by securing a drum made of an inflated animal bladder or taut animal hide to the center of a long stick; then a thick string is fastened to each end of the stick, over the bladder. The bumbass is played standing upright by drawing a bow, traditionally made of animal hair, over the string. It is a primarily German tradition to add bells, cymbals and other adornments to the top of the instrument for decoration or additional sounds.

Dudelsack

The German version of a bagpipe is known as a "Dudelsack." This traditional musical instrument was perhaps the most popular version of the bagpipe used throughout continental Europe. Also known as a "Schäferpfeife," meaning "shepherd pipe," or "Sackpfiefe," meaning "sackpipe," a Dudelsack features two drones which sit leaning forward, off the player's shoulder and one chanter. Though only one authentic Dudelsack is left in existence, it is known that this old German instrument was made in at least five different sizes, featured in several period paintings and regarded as a work of art itself before it declined in popularity by the 19th century

Hackbrett

The hackbrett is a traditional German musical instrument that was also played throughout Austria and Switzerland. Hackbretts are similar to Indian santoors and hammered dulcimers, which are large, trapezoidal zithers with strings, either in pairs or groups of three or four, stretched over long bridges. Tuned chromatically, German hackbretts are played with small cane or wooden hammers on only one side of the instrument's bridges.

Nyckelharpa

The nyckelharpa is a traditional musical instrument of north Germany and Scandinavia that has been played for at least 600 years and appeared in at least four different versions. This string instrument's name literally means "key harp," but it more greatly resembles a keyed fiddle. The keys of a nyckelharpa, also known as a "Schlüsselfidel" in Germany, are secured to tangents which, when depressed, act as frets to alter the pitch of strings when strummed.

About the Author

Melissa Sherrard acquired her Bachelor of Science in public relations from the University of Florida in 2007 and has been writing professionally ever since. She also has extensive hands-on experience planning weddings and other private functions. She has created original print materials including announcements, invitations and programs for weddings, corporate events and private functions.