The instruments used in Noh and Kyogen are: one
woodwind\a flute (fue), and three percussion instruments\a
shoulder-drum (ko-tsuzumi), a hip-drum (o-tsuzumi),
and a stick-drum (taiko), and together they are
often referred to as the "four beat-makers."
The flute is also known as the no-kan ("Noh
flute"), and is the only one of the instruments
that is capable of creating a melody. Made out
of bamboo, it has a mouthpiece and 7 holes, and
it partially wrapped in strips of rattan or birch
bark to strengthen it. It is especially used in
sections in which the shite dances.
The shoulder-drum consists of a cherry-wood
main body with two heads (horse leather stretched
on iron hoops) attached by means of a linen cord,
which is also used to regulate the sound. During
a performance, the player can often be seen to
breathe upon the heads, for it is necessary to
maintain a certain degree of humidity and to prevent
the head from becoming over dry.
The hip-drum is a larger version of the shoulder-drum,
and as its heads are dried over a charcoal fire
just before the performance, and as its cord is
tied very tightly, it produces a louder, harsher
sound than the shoulder-drum.
The stick-drum is also used in certain plays.
Its main body is of zelkova elm, and its heads
consist of horsehide stretched over iron hoops
and attached by means of a linen cord. It is played
by being struck with two large sticks (bachi)
of hinoki cypress. The drum is often used in tales
in which the shite is the spirit of a non-human
being, and the stick-drum is used in Act 2, serving
to lead the action.
As three out of the four instruments are percussive,
it is easy to see that that the main characteristic
of Noh music is that it is built upon rhythmic
patterns. All of the drum players can produce
various sounds by changing the strength with which
the drum is struck, and they also produce various
unique shouts (kake-goe), which help to create