#1 Fun Guide To Thai Music Vocabulary

If you are a music lover, it is impossible for you to visit Thailand and not be amazed by the street performers. I am sure you will want to talk about music. So, in this post, we will learn the most commonly used Thai music vocabulary and also mention traditional Thai instruments and music in Thailand.


Common Thai Music Vocabulary You Need To Know

Of course, a music lover should learn music vocabulary in the target language as well. So, here is the list of common words related to music in the Thai language. I hope these Thai words will help you express your interest in music.

Thai VocabularyPronunciationMeaning
เล่นlento play (an instrument)
เพลงป๊อบphelng-ṕxbpop music
เพลงร็อคphelng-r̆xkhrock music
เพลงคลาสสิคphelng-khlāssikhclassical music
ดนตรีแจสdntrī-cæs̄jazz music
แกรนด์เปียโนgræn-bhia-nohgrand piano
กล่องไวโอลินglàwng-wai-oh-linviolin case
ขาตั้งโน้ตเพลงkǎ-dhâng-nót-playngmusic stand
เนื้อเพลงnúuea phleenglyrics
ดนตรีอะคูสติกdon-dtrii à-khúut-dtìkacoustic music
เกี่ยวกับเครื่องดนตรีgìiao gàp khrûueang don-dtriiinstrumental
ท่อนเพลงthâawn phleengverse
ระดับเสียงrá-dàp sĭiangpitch
เสียงแตกsĭiang dtàaekbreak


Musical Instruments In Thai

Traditional Thai music has a mystical melody with unique musical instruments that are native to Thailand. Traditional festivals have a huge impact on Thai music. There are a variety of instruments ranging from colorful percussion instruments to simple flutes and strings. Most of these instruments are handcrafted and they reflect ancient cultural influences.

Traditional Thai musical instruments are the musical instruments used in the traditional and classical music of Thailand. They comprise a wide range of wind, string, and percussion instruments played by both the Thai majority as well as the nation’s ethnic minorities.

1. Ranat Ek (ระนาดเอก)

thai music vocabulary

The Ranat Ek has ancient origins dating back to the 19th century in the time of King Rama. It is kind of similar to the xylophone, but it is quite unique in terms of design. The instrument has a boat-like structure and the keys are suspended on the top. There are wooden keys that are different in size. Hard mallets produce a loud sharp sound whereas soft mallets produce softer tones.

2. Ranat Thum (ระนาดทุ้ม)

thai music vocabulary

Another instrument in Thai music is the Ranat Thum. This instrument is typically made up of bamboo and it is usually played with the Ranat Ek which we mentioned above. The design of Ranat Thum is a little different from the Ranat Ek because it is just much lower and broader.

3. Grajabpi (กระจับปี่)

thai music vocabulary

The Grajabpi, which is also called the Krachappi, is an elegant-looking instrument among others. It is a stringed instrument that is counted among the oldest Thai musical instruments. The long neck of this lute carries a few sets of double strings. The instrument is played by plucking with a plectrum.

4. Saw Duang (ซอด้วง)

thai music vocabulary

Saw Duang is a stringed instrument that is popularly played throughout Thailand. It is a two-stringed instrument played with a bow, like a cello or a violin. This instrument is believed to have been adapted from ancient Chinese instruments. The body of Saw Duang is made of hardwood or sometimes ivory, and the strings are made of nylon or metal wires. The Saw Duang is used as a lead instrument in the Thai orchestras.

5. Taphon (ตะโพน)

thai music vocabulary

The Taphon is a big percussion instrument (approximately 50 cm in length) with a drum head on both sides. These drum heads are made of animal skin, usually, calf hide. The drum is made of wood and interesting patterns are woven along its body. The Taphon is played by thumping the palm and fingers of both hands.

The Taphon is one of the core instruments played in the Phiphat orchestras and Buddhist rituals. It is also very popular among the locals so it is likely that you can see it in street performances.


Thai Classical Music

thai music vocabulary

Thai classical music emerged in the royal centers of Thailand about 800 years ago. The Thai ensembles were influenced by older practices and repertoires from India, and today they have become uniquely Thai expressions.

There are three primary classical ensembles in Thai traditional music: the Piphat, Khrueang sai, and Mahori. They have differences in some ways yet, they also share a basic instrumentation and theoretical approach. Each employs small ching hand cymbals and krap wooden sticks to mark the primary beat reference.

Let’s go over those primary classical ensembles in Thai traditional music.

Piphat (ปี่พาทย์)

Piphat is the most well-known and iconic Thai classical music that symbolizes the dancing of Thailand’s legendary dragons. It is a mid-sized orchestra that includes two xylophones (ranat), an oboe (pi), barrel drums (long), and two circular sets of gong-chimes.

There are several types of piphat orchestras that vary in size, and each one is particularly associated with specific ceremonial purposes.

Khrueang sai (เครื่องสาย)

The Khrueang Sai orchestra combines some of the percussion and wind instruments as well as a large string section including the saw duang, the lower-pitched saw u, and the three-string chakee. In addition to these instruments, the khlui in several sizes, and a goblet drum can be counted among the instruments played in the Khrueang Sai orchestra.

The Khrueang Sai orchestra is mostly used for indoor performances and to accompany the Thai hoon grabok which is a stick-puppet theater.

Mahori (มโหรี)

Mahori is the third major Thai classical orchestra. It is traditionally played by women in the courts of Central Thailand. The orchestra includes regular-sized instruments but excludes the relatively loud instruments. The Mahori performers in three sizes (small, medium, and large) including the three-string saw sam sai fiddle, and, middle-range bowed lute with silk strings.

In the Mahori orchestra, the so sam sai accompanies the vocalist. It plays a more prominent role in this orchestra than in any other classical Thai orchestra.


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