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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 the rhythm.

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