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Thailand Traditional Musics

Located in Southeast Asia, Thailand is a country that is as rich in culture as any other.  Although they are considered to a "minority within a minority", the Thai people feel the need to promote and educate the richness of their culture with the other communities of the world.  Since ancient times, music has been a major component of daily life for the Thai people.

Located in Southeast Asia, Thailand is a country that is as rich in culture as any other.  Although they are considered to a "minority within a minority", the Thai people feel the need to promote and educate the richness of their culture with the other communities of the world.  Since ancient times, music has been a major component of daily life for the Thai people.  The music has traditionally been transmitted from master to student aurally.  Rather than providing a history and theory to the music, as is done in Western music, the masters simply played short melodic patterns which the student was expected to reproduce and memorize.  As such passages were learned and mastered, more music would be added, eventually, creating a lengthy replication of one of many traditional Thai melodies.  Nonetheless, musical notation of music has grown over the past century, but still, the more traditional schools of teaching both teach and practice through the process of memorization.

Thai classical music is considered to reflect identity, prestige, and values central to being Thai.  The whole idea of memorization for the sake of knowledge is found in the Thai religion of Buddhism, as well as in the teaching of the music.  In Buddhism, knowledge is "a frozen Dharmasastra... that is, a fully  developed yet static system of the right formulae and the appropriate rules (Pamela Myers-Moro, essay 'Thai Music in Thai Society')."  When asked about the importance of music in the temples in Thailand, Pong Ky (Paul), a graduate of the Chulalonghorn University in Thailand, explained how music and religion work hand in hand with one another in the Thai society.  Not only is the music used in religious ceremonies and rituals, but it is also built on the same fundamental standards.  As they were practiced long ago, both Thai music and the Thai Buddhism continue to reflect many similarities.


Although the Thai people are the creators of many of the instruments indigenous to the country, influences are thought to have come from the Indians, through contact with the culture.  By the Ayutthaya period (1350-1765 A.D.), the instrument ensemble had grown to about four to eight musicians.  Songs were longer in length, and singing technique had improved from the past. Many songs were composed in forms of musical suites called the Pleng rua, simply meaning a series of songs.  The lyrics were usually written in the form of short stories by various poets of that time period.  These Ayutthaya songs are still being used today, centuries later, in Thai play settings.  From this contact, the Thais created several new musical instruments.  The Bangkok period began, after a long period of war, and revived the arts in Thailand, especially music and drama. 

At this period in time, the instrumental ensemble had grown to as many as twelve musicians.  Also, composition writing was also at a high point, and several masterpieces were written during this period.  Later, Western influences began to blend into the already existing Thai musical format, and instruments such as the bass drum, violin  and organ were being added to the music.  Now, there are about 50 types of Thai musical instruments used for all kinds of occasions, including culture shows, marriages, funerals, and social evenings after harvesting.

The Thai scale system is thought to have been derived originally from the Javanese tuning system.  The current pentatonic scale consists of seven notes, each being precisely equidistant from one another.  In such a tuning system, there is never a perfect fourth or perfect fifth.  In fact, besides the octaves, not one note in the Thai scales system can be tuned with the European/Western notes.  When Western classical music was introduced to Thailand before the turn of the century, and became incorporated into the Thai culture.  Phra Chen Duriyang began teaching many young Thai musicians this "new" form of music, and later established Thailand's first orchestra in the Royal Entertainment Department.  By the late 1920s, the formation of orchestras began to spread throughout the country, and Thai musicians' style and technique began improving, and continued to do so in later generations.  Popular Western music was later accepted in the 1950s, and continues to be heard throughout Thailand.  Some modern popular groups in Thailand combine Thai traditional musical elements with the new pop ideas.  In attempt to keep traditional Thai music alive, The Music Association of Thailand, under royal patronage, works to promote Thai music and safeguard the welfare of the musicians.

Types of Thai Musical Instruments

Klui Flute - recorder style thai flute 
Jakhay - Floor standing string Instrument 
Saw - U - Stringed Instrument 
Saw - Duang - Stringed Instrument 
Seung - Four stringed Instrument
Sa Lor - Two String bowed Instrument
Pi Saw - Long bamboo flute
Kim - Struck String Instrument
Ranat Ek - Wooden Xylophone
Ranat Thum - Bass Xylophone
Ching - Small cymbals 
Chap - Flat round cymbals 
Kong Mong - Thai style Gong 
Ta Phon - Barrel shaped Drum 
Thon Cha Tri - Single head Drum 
Klong Kaak - Bongo Style Thai Drum 
Klong Yao - Long Thai Drum 

thai traditional music instruments

ranat ek

 
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