From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- This article is about the musical instrument. See woodblock for other meanings of the term.
A wood block is essentially a small piece of slit drum made from a single piece of wood and used as a percussion instrument. It is struck with a stick, making a characteristically percussive sound.
East Asian musics use a variety of wood blocks ranging from small hand-held instruments to enormous (often immovable) "temple blocks" which may be sounded by swinging a large log against them. Log drums (also called "slit drums"), made from hollowed out logs, are used in Africa and the Pacific Islands.
The muyu (Traditional Chinese: 木魚; Simplified Chinese: 木鱼; pinyin: mùyú) is a rounded woodblock carved in the shape of a fish and struck with a wooden stick. It is made in various sizes and is often used in Buddhist chanting, in China as well as in other Asian nations including Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.
The orchestral wood block instrument of the West is generally made from teak or other types of hardwood. The dimensions of this instrument vary considerably, although it is always a rectangular block of wood with one or sometimes two longitudinal cavities. It is played by striking it with a stick.
The wood block is conceivably the oldest musical instrument known to man (see below re: "Evolution of human music"), given that it would have been possible to construct and play this idiophonic instrument before the Bronze Age. Certain primate species from the animal world have been witnessed to beat on hollowed wooden logs.
Geoffrey F Miller in his "Evolution of human music through sexual selection" states:
"The addition of percussive instruments to the human voice could have come relatively early in the evolution of musical capacities. We do not know when the first proper drum, with a stretched skin over a resonating chamber, was invented. But, as any parent of an acoustically extroverted toddler knows, it is not difficult for a determined percussionist to improvise given ordinary objects. Strike two rocks together once, and you have noise. Strike them together twice, and you have rhythm. Rocks are not the best natural material though. Wood, bamboo, and bone are better. Bones are especially convenient, because they are natural by-products of hunting, and are often hollow. Human skulls for example, are often used to make the Tibetan ritual drum called a damaru. Many other materials work to make simple rattles, stampers, clappers, and scrapers. The San people of southern Africa make ankle rattles out of springbok ears sewn together and filled with pebbles. Clamshells can be clapped together with two hands. A scraper can be made be rasping the jawbone of a bison with its femur. The top of a gourd can be broken off and the open end pounded against the ground, as in Western Africa, or in and out of water, as in the Solomon Islands, or beaten with sticks. More complex are the slit gongs of Africa, where a log is hollowed out, carved with slits, and beaten to produce up to seven different tones."
- Jam block
- Log drum
- Slit drum