About Korea > Traditional Arts

Music Styles and Instruments


Music Styles and Instruments

Throughout their long history, Koreans have nourished an ardent love of music and dance. In the distant past, villagers gathered to celebrate plantings and harvests. Such festivities were probably the origin of the folk songs and dances that are still widely enjoyed.

Korean traditional music can be divided into two major types: jeongak for the noble class, and sogak for the common people.

Jeongak, performed at court, tended to be slow, solemn, and elaborately melodic while Sogak drew from a variety of influences, including Buddhist and shamanistic rituals. The songs are often dramatic, depicting love stories and folk tales. Performances are vibrant, full of strong emotion. Western music was introduced at the end of the 19th century and gained rapid acceptance. There are a number of Korean musicians performing and competing internationally today.

There are about 60 traditional Korean musical instruments that have been handed down through the generations. Included among them are string instruments such as:

  • the Kayagum (12-string zither)
  • the Komun-go (6-string zither)
  • the haegum (2-string fiddle of Chinese origin)
  • the Taegum (a large transverse flute)
  • the Sogum (a small flute)

along with percussion instruments such as:

  • the Ching (a large gong)
  • the Kkwaenggwari (a small hand gong)
  • the P’ungmul-puk (folk drum)
  • the Janggu (hourglass-shaped drum)

The music of the common people, Sogak, tends to be loud and rhythmic with percussion instruments dominating. Jeongak, on the other hand, features more string and wind instruments. Samulnori, meaning four, was developed in the 1970’s but is now viewed as being representative of Korean music. No one who comes to Korea can leave without having enjoyed at least one Samulnori performance.

K4E Editor: Korea4Expats.com tries to ensure that the information we provide is accurate and complete, so should you notice any errors or omissions in the content above please contact us at info@korea4expats.com.

 

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