French musical instruments and traditions

Bonjour, mes chers amis,

I am very glad to see you back for more information about French culture and language. Today we will talk about musical instruments. We have already started the conversation on music in other countries (see Singing in Germany: What is Yodeling? and What does ZITHER sound like?). Now it's time to explore musical instruments that over time gained the popularity in France 🎼

Traditional French music is as varied and unique as there are regions in France. Chansons, or songs, from South France will be influenced by Spanish tradition and will primarily use xirula and ttun-ttun, two musical instruments at the same time. How incredible is it? I know that if I were called good at doing two things at the same time, it would be reading and chewing!

In southern France, dance music is played by "xirula" while "ttun-ttuna" keeps the beat:


On the other side of France, in Paris, vibrant and exquisite music was performed by string instruments. Aside from violin music, Parisians also love such instruments as galoubet and tambourine. To hear how they sounded together, please check this amazing performance by Andres Gabriel, an expert in French musical traditions:

André Gabriel performing with a fife and a drum:


The musical traditions of Bretagne and Normandie, the western regions of France, was heavily influenced by Celtic traditions. nywhere else,

The musical traditions of Bretagne in West France, saw heavy influence by Celtic music. Thus, we will see another variation of a pipe instrument, biniao, here. The preference was given to light, portable musical instruments, such as bombarde.

Musicians playing in pairs: a talabarder (left) and a biniaouer (right)

Source: Metzner for

It will be of no surprise to say that French people oftentimes accompany traditional instruments with the piano in a more formal setting, or with the portable instrument that has its own keyboard: an accordion. As mentioned in an earlier article about German traditional music, an accordion is a portable wind instrument that has folding bellows, buttons, and a keyboard. It is a well-loved instrument around Europe for its diverse nature and sweet sounds; as a child, I was used to hearing it in folk music performances. I found this piece of performance in a French-gypsy jazz style with violin and guitar; I could not stand still for a second:

There is so many more musical instruments that French people love, such as harp and French horn, and many other variations of oboes, flutes, and bagpipes. I encourage you to explore French musical traditions further, to see the sound of what instrument will become your favorite!

In the meantime, we fast-forward to the 21st century and our times, when a French saxophonist from Lyon, France, held regular concerts from his balcony entertaining neighbors during the lockdown:

Let's stay connected! Subscribe to my blog for new posts about French culture and language as well as other languages, and I will see you tomorrow for Fun Fridays recommendations by Ms. Anna!

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