Andean Musical Instruments

Whereas most South American percussion and wind instruments date back to Inca or pre-Inca times, stringed instruments were initially introduced by the Spanish, though later they may have been adapted to local conditions or materials.


This is a small 10-stringed guitar most commonly played in Bolivia. The soundbox of this instrument is traditionally made from the shell of an armadillo, which gives it a unique “voice”.


This is the panpipe, known as siku in the Aymara language. The unusual feature of zampoñas is that a complementary pair is needed to play a melody as each instrument has only certain notes. Zampoñas are made and bound with reed.


This is a large wooden drum found throughout the Andes. It is hollowed out from the trunk of a tree, and is sometimes covered in animal skins.


One of the oldest flutes in the Americas, the quena is a simple vertical flute with 5-6 finger-holes and one thumb hole, but no mouthpiece. It can be made from reed, wood, clay, metal – or even from a condor’s wing bone.

Other instruments can include:
Pinkillo (flutes), cascabeles (bells), guacharaca (scraper), caja (snare drum), maracas (wooden rattles), cajones (box drums) and concha (conch shell).

The illustrations at the top and bottom of this page are based on Mochica ceramics.