Musical Instruments of the Realms

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A bandore
A birdpipe
A cittern
A delucimer
A harp
A longhorn
A lute
A lyre
A mandolin
A pslatery
A shawm
A songhorn
A tantan
A yarting
  • Bandore
  • Birdpipe: a panpipe.
  • Cittern
  • Dulcimer
  • Glaur: A short, broad-mouthed and flaring curved horn, resembling a cornucopia in shape and fashioned of silver (which gives the clearest tone), elec- trum, or brass. A glaur is almost always fitted with a row of tubular valves like those of a trumpet, so that the sound it makes can be varied in pitch. Those glaur without valves are known as gloon, and are always played by large groups of musicians, each having a gloon that sounds a different note so that tunes may be fashioned or fanfare chords assembled. A glaur's tone is a brash, bright, metallic roar. By mouth action, a glaur-player can make it snarl. The valves of a glaur do not change the horn's sound by distinct changes of note as they are manipulated (if the horn is winded continuously), but rather cause the instrument's tone to swoop or soar from the note presently played to that newly selected. A group of glauren (the plural form of "glaur players") can make a continuous, swirling, melodic tone, somewhat reminiscent of bagpipes.
  • Hand-Drum: A cylinder of thick, polished wood, sometimes of pieces bound together with iron bands and soaked to warp into a curve before being sealed, but ideally an intact section of hollowed-out trunk of ash, ironwood, or cherry tree. Both ends of the drum, which is typically 1-2" long and 6-8" in diameter, are covered with tightly stretched hide to form an instrument like a conga drum. It is typically slung on a shoulder strap and played by beating and slapping. Its tone can be muted by clasping the instrument to the chest or in the crook of one arm. It is used to hold rhythm or sometimes to indicate danger, the sound of feet, and (by beat) emotions in the telling of tales in taverns.
  • Harp
  • Longhorn: a flute.
  • Lute
  • Lyre
  • Mandolin
  • Psaltery
  • Shawm
  • Songhorn: a recorder.
  • Tantan: a tambourine.
  • Thelarr: Also known as a whistlecane, the thelarr is a long, canelike reed cut from swamps through- out the Realms, where it grows in standing water up to 40" or more (but rarely more than a dozen feet above the water's surface). Only that portion of the reed that develops above the water's surface can be used. When severed, typically in 4-5' lengths, and dried slowly on rocks near a fire of coals (or by being laid on exposed rocks or other sunlit surface in hot weather), the reed forms a long pipe instrument. One end is blown into, producing a tone varying in pitch according to the length of the particular pipe. A player may use several pipes laid on a rack close to hand, but these are never fastened together like panpipes, as the vibration of one reed causes all the others to sound, and the resulting cacophony is painful to hear. A thelarr's tone always has a sawlike, buzzing quality, produced by the dry fibers within the reeds hollow interior. The hard outer shell of the cane always remains slightly flexible, and a skillful whistlecane- player can vary the pitch of the tone very slightly, causing a warbling effect, by clamping down on the cane with his hands at differing distances from the blown end of the instrument.
  • Tocken: A set of carved oval, open-ended wooden bells of graduated sizes, hung in a row from a section of cane or branch (which may in turn be affixed to a straight or arched pole). It is played like a xylophone, by striking the bells with a wooden rod. Tocken are sometimes fashioned of brass in the South, but such specimens are sneered at in the North (roughly, north of the latitude of Amn all across the Realms in this case, from the Inner Sea to the Sword Coast) as being "cowbells," not having the subtle tone of carved wood.
  • Wargong: Also called a shieldgong, the wargong is an instrument sometimes fashioned of the battered metal shields of vanquished enemies, but more often made of massive, beaten brass circles, varied in tone by weight, thickness, curvature, and the number and pattern of cutouts - holes of varying shapes pierced through the metal. Wargongs are hung from tripods (when in the field), suspended from overhanging horizontal beams at a minstrels' gallery of a court hall, or borne on carved wooden yokes on the shoulders of musicians in a parade or when marching to war. They are struck with wooden mallets wrapped in cloth or strips of rubber-bark, and are used for sudden effect (like our Oriental gong) or tapped lightly and rhythmically to produce a continuous, deep, rolling sound audible for miles - making them useful for signaling. A row of towers on a fortified wall in the Realms (such as those on the Wall of Giants, which defends Aglarond from Thay) employs such instruments as signal gongs.
  • Yarting: a guitar.
  • Zulkoon: A long, rectangular, wooden box that narrows at the top. Its bottom has an accordion-bellow of heavy hide that has a tendency to rupture (creat- ing an annoying whistle and loss of "wind"), which the player rests upon the ground (or litter or chariot, if mobile) and pumps with a foot-treadle. The wind thus created goes up the zuldoon's body and emerges at a number of holes, which are overlaid by ivory or bone keys and metal strings, strummed or flipped by the player to create sounds, so that the zulkoon functions something like an accordion, with an underlying droning sound. Zulkoons require five or six arms to play properly, if their controls are at all com- plex, and some permanent court specimens are larger than the norm and are played by two musicians (plus two or more bellows-pumpers). Organs are rare and treasured instruments in the Realms, and are never portable; the zulkoon serves as a rudimentary organ when a true organ cannot be found.