Instruments Used in Original Jewish Music

Written by tessa holmes
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Instruments Used in Original Jewish Music
Shofars are ancient Hebrew instruments. (Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

Original Jewish music was often performed with singing and dancing, and most songs used various musical instruments. As early as the establishment of the Hebrew nation, musicians used instruments for religious worship, entertainment and festivities. Percussion, string and wind instruments were all used.

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Percussion Instruments

Traditional Jewish music used cymbals which were usually made of brass. Different types of cymbals were used for accompaniment, one set of small metal plates and the other a larger set made of bronze.

Sistrum and Tambourine

The sistrum and the tambourine were used as well. The sistrum is a sort of rattle that is held upright when played. If shaken up and down, small rings slide against a brass structure, creating a tinkling sound. Tambourines are made of a drumhead that is ringed with minuscule metal cymbals. When played, either by shaking or striking, the tambourine creates a tinkling sound.

String Instruments

The harp was played by ancient Hebrews and was found on an ancient Hebrew coin, suggesting that the instrument may have been invented by the Jewish people. Psalteries, very similar to harps, have 10 strings, though the shape of the original instrument is unknown. Another string instrument found in Jewish music is the sackbut. Made out of brass, the sackbut resembled a large harp and emitted a shrill noise when played.

Wind Instruments

The shofar also has a shrill sound and was used to commence feasts and other celebrations. It was often made from the horn of the ram and is still often played during Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday. Among other wind instruments are trumpets, flutes and cornets. Each of these instruments has a different shape and produces a different hornlike sound.

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