Musical Instruments in Japanese

Musical Instruments in Japanese: picture of a drum (鼓)Welcome to our guide on musical Instruments in Japanese. We will be covering the typical music instrument that can be seen all over the world such as the guitar, piano and more.

Various instrument types in Japanese

There are many musical instruments in the world which is why there are categories. Some of these common categories that these typical instruments belongs can be seen below. Try look up each kanji and understand word better.

Instrument type Kanji Kana Romaji
Keyboard instruments 鍵盤楽器 けんばんがっき kenbangakki
Brass instruments 金管楽器 きんかんがっき kinkangakki
Woodwind instruments 木管楽器 もっかんがっき mokkangakki
Percussion Instruments 打楽器 だがっき dagakki
  • Music instrument – 楽器 (がっき)
  • Keyboard – 鍵盤 (けんばん)
    These two kanji have the meanings of: key and board. 鍵 (かぎ) means key and 盤 (ばん)means board.
  • Brass – 金管 (きんかん)
    These two kanji (金 and 管) has meanings of gold and pipe. Now in some contexts 金 also means metal which seems appropriate here since brass is metal alloy made of copper and zinc. 管 (くだ) simply means pipe.
  • Woodwind – 木管 (もっかん)
    First kanji in this word we all know, is the meaning of wood (木). The other kanji has the meaning pipe (as previously learned). Which makes the meaning of 木管 simply wooden pipe.
  • Percussion – 打楽器 (だがっき)
    打 Has meanings of strike, hit, knock, pound, dozen (according to jisho.org). This makes perfect sense. 打楽器 can be literally translated  as hitting instrument. 打つ (うつ) means to hit.

How to say you play an instrument

man-1070403_1280Depending on what kind of instrument you play, you will be using different verbs to explain how you play it. You don’t just simply say “I play the guitar” or “I play the drums” in Japanese as you do with English.  Let’s take a look at some of the common instruments and how to say that you play that instrument.

Sentence Japanese Hiragana Romaji
Play the guitar ギターを弾く ひく gitā o hiku
Play the piano ピアノを弾く ひく piano o hiku
Play the trumpet トランペットを吹く ふく toranpetto o fuku
Play the bagpipes バグパイプを吹く ふく bagupaipu o fuku
Play the flute フルートを吹く ふく furūto o fuku
Play the drums ドラムを叩く たたく doramu o tataku
Play the triangle トライアングルを演奏する えんそう Toraianguru o ensō suru
Beat a gong 銅鑼を鳴らす どらをならす dora o narasu

As seen in the list there are several ways to explain that you instrument you play. You will have to learn a few extra verbs to differ what you play, as for example: beating a drum. No shortcuts saying you play the drums. For piano you have to use 弾く which essentially translates as play for piano and guitar (among most other string and keyboard instruments). To play a brass instrument you have to blow air in (吹く), so this is the verb you must use to say you play this instrument, since that is what you do with a brass instrument. 演奏する is another verb that has it usage for saying to perform or to play, in our example: to play the triangle. Can be used on other instruments too such as ホルンを見事に演奏する which translates to play [perform] the horn beautifully.

Keyboard instruments – 鍵盤楽器

Meaning Japanese Romaji
accordion アコーディオン Akōdion
grand piano グランド・ピアノ gurando piano
electronic keyboard (often abbreviated to keyboard) 電子鍵盤楽器, キーボード denshi kenban gakki, kībōdo
organ オルガン orugan
piano ピアノ piano

Brass instruments 金管楽器

Meaning Japanese Romaji
bugle ラッパ rappa
cornet コルネット korunetto
horn or French horn ホルン horun
trombone トロンボーン toronbōn
trumpet トランペット toranpetto
tuba チューバ chūba

Woodwind instruments 打楽器

Meaning Japanese Romaji
bagpipes バグパイプ Bagupaipu
bassoon, fagott ファゴット fagotto
clarinet クラリネット kurarinetto
flute フルート furūto
harmonica or mouth organ ハーモニカ hāmonika
oboe オーボエ ōboe
piccolo ピッコロ pikkoro
recorder リコーダー rikōdā
saxophone サクソフォーン sakusofōn

Percussion Instruments – 打楽器 (だがっき)

Meaning Japanese Romaji
bass drum 大太鼓, バスドラム Daitaiko , basu doramu
cymbals シンバル shinbaru
drums 太鼓, ドラム taiko, doramu
drum kit ドラムセット doramu setto
gong ゴング、どら gongu, dora
snare drum スネアドラム suneadoramu
tambourine タンバリン tanbarin
triangle トライアングル toraianguru
xylophone 木琴, シロホン mokkin, shirohon