Music and instruments

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The Music of South Korea has evolved over the course of the decades since the end of the Korean War, and has its roots in the music of the Korean people, who have inhabited the Korean peninsula for over a millennium. Contemporary South Korean music can be divided into three different main categories: Traditional Korean folk music, popular music, or K-pop, and Western-influenced non-popular music. ("Music of South Korea," 2018). The music of Korea refers to music from the Korean peninsula ranging from prehistoric times to the division of Korea into South and North in 1945. It includes court music, folk music, poetic songs, and religious music used in shamanistic and Buddhist traditions.[1] Together, traditional Korean music is referred to as gugak (Hangul: 국악), which literally means "national music." ("Music of Korea," 2018). [2]

Vocal music is an important facet of the Korean tradition. One of the longest and rarest older forms is the kagok, which consists of 26 five-section solo songs and one duet. Accompaniments and interludes are provided by a small ensemble that usually consists of a kŏmungo (six-stringed zither), a se’piri (a small double-reed aerophone), a taegŭm (large bamboo flute), a haegŭm (two-stringed fiddle), and a changgo (hourglass drum). Sijo is a three-line form of classical Korean lyric poetry that may be sung to the sole accompaniment of an hourglass drum; in formal settings, however, the drum is normally joined by a double-reed aerophone, a flute, or a fiddle. Narrative songs are found in the genre called kasa accompanied by a flute and drum. ("Korean music," n.d.) Kagok, sijo, and kasa are all types of court music. The dominant narrative form of music performed today, however, is the folk genre p’ansori. It is traditionally performed by a singer-narrator (kwangdae) and a drummer (kosu), who marks phrases with rhythmic patterns on a barrel drum (puk) and with vocal interjections (ch’uimsae). Spoken narration and dialogue (aniri) are balanced with songs (ch’ang), body movements, and fan gestures as hours of epic drama unfold. It may be that p’ansori emerged from ancient shamanistic entertainments of the gods before it became popular with the aristocracy. The earliest written records of it date to 1775. Of the many stories noted in later sources, five have survived both in written form and in popular folk tales. In the late 20th century, government support revived the tradition, so that p’ansori epics are available on recordings and in professional performances. P’ansori is also celebrated in such films as Sŏp’yonje (1993), which depicts the lives of two p’ansori singers in the 1950s, and Chunhyang (2000), which is an adaptation of the love story recounted in the Ch’unhyangga song cycle; both were by film director Im Kwon-Taek. ("Korean music," n.d.)


  • 가수 <> - a singer
  • 보컬 - a vocalist
  • 랩퍼 - a rapper
  • 작곡가 <> - a composer
  • 작사가 <> - a lyric writer
  • 편곡자 <> - a arranger
  • 프로듀서 - a producer


  • 오디오 - Audio
  • 스피커 - Speaker
  • 헤드폰 - Headphones
  • 이어폰 - Earphones
  • 마이크 - Microphone

Genres and types of songs

  • 트로트 / 뽕짝(informal) - Trot

Trot: pronounced as "teuroteu" in Korean (sometimes called ppongjjak (뽕짝), due to its distinctive background rhythm), is the oldest form of Korean pop music. It was developed in the years before and during World War II around the early 1900s. Famous interpreters of this genre are South Korean singers Tae Jin Ah and Song Dae Gwan.("Music of South Korea," 2018).

  • 발라드 - Ballade, Slow love songs

Ballad: Influenced by Western melodies and the sentimental ballad, ballad-style songs were initially introduced into the mainstream market in the 1960s[7]. The Korean ballad style of music rose into popularity in the 1980s to become a staple genre in modern Korean music. Its song style is meant to capture the feelings of love, unrequited love, or heartbreak.

  • 팝 - Pop
  • 포크 - Folk

Folk: T'onga guitar (or tong guitar) is a form of Korean folk and folk rock music developed in the early 1960s and '70s. It was heavily influenced by American folk music, and artists in the genre were considered Korean versions of American folk singers, such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. ("Music of South Korea," 2018).

  • 뉴에이지 - New age
  • 동요 <> - Children's song
  • 락 / 록 - Rock

Rock: Rock music is said to have spread to Korea from the Eighth United States Army (EUSA) bases after the Korean War. Shin Jung-hyeon, frequently referred to as the "Godfather of Korean Rock," got his start playing popular rock covers for American servicemen in the 1950s,[4] particularly being noted for his take on Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.

  • 블루스 / 브루스 - Blues
  • 레게 - Reggae
  • 일렉트로니카 - Electronica
  • 재즈 - Jazz
  • 컨트리 - Country
  • 힙합(랩) - Hip-hop(rap)

Hip-Hop(rap): In South Korea, hip hop expanded into a cultural phenomenon in Seoul, Busan and Daegu. The movement has been growing since the mid-90s, especially after the success of Seo Taiji and Boys' smash hit Nan arayo (난 알아요), or "I know," and has been gaining attention internationally, as Koreans have won various championships around the world since the early 2000s.

Traditional Korean musical instruments comprise a wide range of string, wind, and percussion instruments. Traditional Korean musical instruments derived from Chinese musical instruments; examples of this include the Korean pyeonjong (derived from the Chinese bianzhong), pyeongyeong (from bianqing), banghyang (from fangxiang), ulla (from yunluo), eo (from yu), chuk (from zhu), bu (from fou), and guhyeon (from kouxian). ("Traditional Korean musical instruments," 2018)


Korean string instruments include those that are plucked, bowed, and struck. Most Korean string instruments use silk strings

  • - Strings
  • 현 - Chord
  • 피아노 - Piano
    • 피아니스트 - Pianist
  • 바이올린 - Violin
    • 바이올리니스트 - Violinist
  • 첼로 - Cello
    • 첼리스트 - Cellist
  • 비올라 - Viola
  • 콘트라베이스 - Double bass, Contrabass
  • 기타 - Guitar
    • 통기타/어쿠스틱기타 - Acoustic guitar(steel)
    • 클래식기타 - Acoustic guitar(nylon)
    • 전자기타/일렉트릭기타 - Electric guitar
    • 베이스기타 - Bass guitar
    • 기타리스트 - Guitarist
  • 우쿨렐레 - Ukulele
  • 하프 - Harp


  • - Woodwinds
  • 플룻 - Flute
  • 클라리넷 - Clarinet
  • 오보에 - Oboe
  • 바순 - Bassoon


  • - Brass
  • 트롬본 - Trombone
  • 색스폰 - Saxophone
  • 트럼펫 - Trumpet
  • 튜바 - Tuba
  • 호른 - Horn


Korean Percussion instruments include Chimes, Drums, Gongs, and Cymbals.

  • - Percussion
  • 드럼 - Drum set
    • 드러머 - Drummer
  • 큰북 - Low drum
  • 작은북 - Small drum, Side drum
  • 마림바 - Marimba
  • 실로폰 - Xylophone
  • 팀파니 - Timpani
  • 탬버린 - Tambourine
  • 캐스터네츠 - Castanets

Korean Traditional Instruments

  • Percussion
    • 꽹과리
    • 북 - drum
    • 장구
    • 소고
  • Strings
    • 거문고
    • 가야금
    • 아쟁
    • 해금
  • Woodwinds
    • 대금
    • 소금
    • 단소
    • 피리