What Instruments Are in a Polka Band?

By Caitlynn Lowe ; Updated September 15, 2017
Many types of folk music, particularly those of Eastern European origin, use the accordion.

The instruments used in a polka band vary from band to band and song to song, partially due to preference and partially to tradition. The most traditional instruments used to play music for this Bohemian dance include trumpets, tubas and clarinets, but contemporary bands also mix in guitars and percussion.

Brass Instruments

The most traditional and common polka instruments belong to the brass family. Polka music from the vaudeville period usually consisted primarily of a tuba, two trombones and two trumpets or cornets, and these instruments carry over into contemporary polka music, as well.

Wind Instruments

Most polka music does not use many instruments from the woodwind family. The one exception, however, comes as the clarinet. Traditional strains of polka and contemporary polka bands frequently have one or two clarinet players.

String Instruments

Polka music from the vaudeville period rarely used string instruments, but contemporary polka bands often do. One instrument, called the zither, actually has roots in East Asian culture, but made its way to Slovenia and Germany over time. Other string instruments used for polka include the Polish fiddle, semi-acoustic guitar, and bass guitar.

Aerophone Instruments

The accordion makes an appearance in most polka bands as the sole free-reed aerophone instrument. This 19th Century European folk instrument works by compressing and expanding a bellows, causing air to rush across interior reeds.

Percussion Instruments

Many polka bands have no percussion instruments, but some choose to use a drum kit. A drum kit has a collection of drums and cymbals, and may include tambourines, triangles or other percussion instruments.

About the Author

Caitlynn Lowe has been writing since 2006 and has been a contributing writer for Huntington University's "Mnemosyne" and "Huntingtonian." Her writing has also been in "Ictus" and "Struggle Creek: A Novel Story." Lowe earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Huntington University.