3 Traditional Instruments Reimagined for Contemporary Music

by Staff

Contemporary music has come a long way. From the days of soft melodies and the delicate strumming of a harp at traditional medieval meals to the complex melodies and somewhat unrecognizable rap verses of modern-day contemporary music, you could argue that there’s no similarity between the two. However, when you closely analyze the two, you’ll notice there are more similarities than first thought. 

From the musical melodies and pitches to the instruments, although it has changed massively over time, there are still resemblances of traditional music in the contemporary music we know and love today – even if the likes of Nicki Minaj have pushed us further from it. Keep reading to find out more.

The Tabor Into Drums

The tabor is one of the earliest accounts of the modern-day drums used in most songs we listen to. The tabor is the ancient name for the modern-day snare drum that appeared around 1300AD. In medieval Europe, people would make a tabor using any material they could get their hands on, but the material that seemed to work the best was animal skin. 

The tabor became a double-headed instrument that was used by the army and the fife in battle. Its uses would have also been at medieval meals and celebrations.

Now, in contemporary music, drums are most often used as part of a set involving symbols, snares, and bass drums to create a sound completely different from its medieval uses.

The Shofar Into The Trumpet

The shofar is an ancient horn that produces loud musical sounds – it’s typically made of a rock-solid ram’s horn and creates a unique tone typically heard only during Jewish religious ceremonies. There are hundreds of variations of shofar horns for sale – some are in a traditional horn shape, some twist and curl to create a unique design, but most of them produce the same sound. There’s no way of controlling the pitch other than if the player varies their embouchure – or, in other words, the force they use on exhalation.

The shofar has, in more recent years, been incorporated into music – most notably by Shlomo Gronich, an Israeli composer whose work can be heard resonating through the halls of the ballet, theatre and cinema.  

A Lute Into A Guitar

A lute sounds like much more of an elegant instrument than the guitar – and you could argue that it looks like one too. The predecessor of the guitar is still for sale in many musical shops alongside the guitar. It’s just that the lute doesn’t have a place in contemporary music, but the guitar is.

The lute comes from a family of plucked instruments, including the Saracen and the citole. The lute featured the most in European art and music – however, it originated from the Middle East. The lute plays similarly to the guitar, with players able to control the pitch using the strings. The lute has fewer strings and produces a much different sound, but there are similarities.

There’s a big difference between contemporary music and traditional tunes – there is even a huge difference between contemporary music and music made 20 years ago. Auto-tuning and sound effects mean some versions of modern-day music have moved away from instruments and traditional sounds – but there are still hints of traditional music out there.

Photo by Lucas Craig

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The New Jersey Digest is a new jersey magazine that has chronicled daily life in the Garden State for over 10 years.

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