Idiophones – Lithuanian folk musical instruments that create sound primarily by the instrument as a whole or by its part vibrating. Often they were used not only for playing music, but for a few other everyday life purposes. For example, idiophones served as signal among herdsmen or hunters, as well as could be used during different rituals. This group of instruments includes skrabalai, tabalai, džingulis, kleketas, terkšlė, dambrelis (Jew’s harp) etc.


Skrabalas is a traditional bell-like Lithuanian instrument made out of wood or metal. Herdsmen put those little instruments around the necks of cattle so in case they wander away they would be easy to find. Skrabalai were used to play music as well. For example, in the region of Lithuania called Dzūkija these instruments were played in choirs to diversify the sound and maintain the rhythm.


Ethnographic sources brought to our attention that tabalai otherwise called lentos (planks) were hung on the edge of a village in an anteroom ar obelyje. Villagers would beat tabalai to inform others of someone’s death, to invite to a gathering or other social event.


Džingulis was a signaling wedding instrument made of triple wood branch.


Kleketas was also a signaling instrument used in various rituals and believed to draw away evil unnatural spirits. After its religious meaning slowly faded away, kleketas became a rhythmic instrument, bringing its unique tone to a group ensemble.


Another rattling signaling instrument used during Maundy Thursday, Lithuanian analogue of Mardi Gras etc. Terkšlė was also used to herd cattle or chase away the birds. In group musical performances it was used as a rhythmic instrument with a distinct tone.

Dambrelis (Jew‘s harp)

Played both as a solo instrument and in the ensemble dambreliai in Lithuania were mostly made of metal, sometimes – from wood. The sound is produced by placing the harp into musician’s mouth, pressing it against the teeth and plucking the metal tongue of an instrument.


Download notes for Jew’s harp.