Are you a crazy lover of traditional and folk music? Then you are going to love Vietnam. The Vietnamese culture adores traditional music that blends into folk songs with authentic musical instruments playing harmony to the glorious beats. However, Vietnamese pop music is also popular amongst a larger audience. And if you are traveling to Vietnam soon, you are sure to encounter unique and distinct types of music and musical instruments played by the locals that will stun you at first sight. Thus, to make you acquainted with some basic Vietnamese music vocab, this blog has prepared a long list of traditional music instruments and music combinations in Vietnamese that you should be aware of.
If you are interested, keep reading the table of content below and feel the Vietnamese music culture in a native style. Learning these will help you identify different music genres and strings in Vietnamese, which are sure to revert a blissful response from the locals alongside a wonderful journey to a great country.
In the Vietnamese music culture, traditional music or folk music takes up a major branch. The traditional music played with percussion instruments, classical drama, string instruments, and bands of people indeed display the culture and customs of the Vietnamese people. Such music was birthed way back in ancient times, and since then, the Vietnamese music industry has not let the tradition die, considering it an integral part of their life. Making it such an innate part of their lives, many instruments and band performances found their place in the culture, which became a way of expressing emotions, feelings, and even lullabies for children.
Unlike random western pop music, traditional music in Vietnam has a special significance to the Vietnam war, religious music, traditional festivals, and even glory to different historical periods. Thus, the music is played with a divine intention. Even outside the realm of tradition and custom, there are numerous singing contests that people take part in and play western music of Vietnam, sweet songs, contemporary music, and musical instruments like guitar, drums, and even keyboards. However, authentic musical instruments such as dan bau, dan co, dan nguyet, etc., can never be overruled in any part of Vietnam.
Moreover, different classifications of traditional Vietnamese music combine lyrics that mean different in different situations. Some ethnic groups use it for lullabies, some sing it for national heroes, and some for worshiping the goddess. That is to say, the music culture is huge, and some of them can be identified as Royal court music, Royal family music, Don Ca Tai Tu, Cheo, Ca Tru, Tuong, and many more. Even there are regional classifications with unique musical accompaniment.
Reading about the Vietnamese music culture, we are sure enlightened that once you land in Vietnam, you will undoubtedly get to encounter and witness such beauty through your senses. And while doing that, you will not want to miss out on some Vietnamese vocabulary related to music that will help you natively express your thoughts. Thus, to fill that void, this section will talk about some musical instruments and related words commonly used in Vietnamese pop culture.
English Translation: Guitar
Without any doubt, Đàn ghi ta will always be a dominant instrument in every music culture. Đàn ghi ta means "guitar," It is a string instrument that gives out melodies that can go from shrill to base depending on the type. While it is not very popular in the traditional band performance of Vietnam, Instrumental music in the western music videos does give a place to Đàn ghi ta.
English Translation: Drums
As said, drums have been with all of us since the dawn of humankind. Drums, called Trống, are a part of the intangible world cultural heritage of music, and even the Vietnamese music culture cannot avoid the potency that drums bring into the flow of beats. There is a native version of drums that are used in Vietnam.
English Translation: Keyboard
Another major part of the instrument family is the Bàn phím. Bàn phím is the translation of the word "keyboard," and as we very well know, since the age of ancient music, keyboards that play harmonious tunes with keys have come up as a marvelous invention that a musician cannot let go of.
English Translation: Violin
Violin, known as Đàn vi ô lông, is also widely used in the western music in Vietnam. It is used primarily for hight pitched elegant music or orchestral music. However, more than Violin, the traditional 2-stringed Violin in Vietnam is seen more in royal music and different musical genres.
English Translation: Flute
When it comes to cultural, traditional beats, flutes always make up our minds. Ống sáo, which means "flute" in Vietnam, is another instrument you should know. The bamboo flute is used in both traditional and modern music in Vietnam, and the native design can beat the western flute anytime.
While we learned some of the basic instrument names in Vietnamese, it is essential to know the traditional musical instruments used by Vietnamese musicians. This section will cover some of the original instruments that musicians across the south and north Vietnam play.
When we talk about traditional music, dan ty ba and Dan tranh hold a very high position in the Vietnamese music culture. Dan tranh is a 16-stringed zithers music instrument that is heavily influenced by Chinese culture. Similarly, Dan ty ba also belongs to the string family. It is a 4-stringed lute and is beautifully shaped like a water drop.
There are more traditional string music instruments such as Dan tam, Dan tu, Dan day, Dan ho, Dan tinh, etc.
Ken Bau is a trumpet-like instrument usually used on wedding occasions and in Vietnamese court music. Even the trumpet can have several types, from low to high, used in different regions for different purposes. These are quite difficult to play, and thus, the trumpet is mostly played by a male instrumentalist.
While we already discussed flutes, Sao Truc is Vietnam's traditionally known wind instrument. It is made of bamboo and usually has six holes. It is popularly used in orchestras and solo performances.
Now Dan Da is something that western musicians will hardly understand. It is a pure ethnic instrument, a series of diverse-sized stones played skillfully through unique techniques. It is reportedly 3000 years old and is popular for its sweet and clear sounds.
Coming back to drums, Trong Com is a traditional drum shaped like an oval with highly flat surfaces at each end. It is also known as the rice drum, as before using it, the musicians have to put rice mash onto the flat surfaces to adjust the sound. It is national pride, primarily an orchestral instrument.
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