Recording guitars and pianos are great but to add a distinct flavor to the song you should record some exotic instruments.
When I say exotic instruments I mean musical instruments from Asia and Eastern countries that are not part of Western music.
I had the pleasure to play some Eastern instruments and I love the sound and how different they are. You can really make your songs distinctive if you use any Eastern or Asian instruments in your recordings.
Awesome Exotic Instruments To Record
For this post, I made a list of interesting, unique, and great-sounding exotic instruments for recording. There are various plugins for exotic instruments you can use but playing and recording real instruments is just different.
Erhu is a bowed musical instrument from China that has only two strings but is a very interesting instrument. Sometimes it’s referred to as the Chinese violin and can be used as a solo instrument or with an ensemble. It’s used in traditional music as well as in pop, rock, and jazz. It’s tuned in fifths and you can create beautiful and unique melodies with just two strings.
The sound of the Erhu is very distinctive and immediately reminds you of China and Asian culture. Has a violin-like sound but it’s different. It doesn’t have frets and you just slide your fingers across the strings and play it with a special bow. Erhu can be a great instrument to add melodies to your song and make it special and attractive.
Sitar is a very well-known exotic string instrument from India with a distinct and beautifully rich sound. It’s a stringed instrument and is played like a guitar – with fingers or a pick. Various versions of sitar exist with different numbers of strings. Some strings go over frets and these are played strings and the rest strings go underneath the frets and create additional harmonies. It’s a great instrument for folk, country, and rock music.
I love the sound of the sitar because it’s rich and beautiful. When you play it sounds like a couple of instruments playing together. Although you can play chords and arpeggios it’s best for lead playing and will make songs much more interesting. Also, vibrating is very easy with sitar which adds depth to the sound.
Panduri is a traditional Georgian musical instrument with three strings and is played with fingers. Although Georgia is not an Asian country, Panduri is a unique instrument. Made from wood, it’s an acoustic instrument but has no sound hole so it produces a mellow sound. There are a couple of tunings for Panduri – A C# E, G A C#, and E B A#. Mostly it’s an accompanying instrument for traditional Georgian folk songs
As I have said Panduri has a very mellow sound and is used to play rhythm parts but sometimes can be used for simple melody phrasing. And it can be a great addition to any pop or rock song for rhythm parts. Works great with acoustic guitar and adds depth to the sound.
Zurna is a wind instrument and is popular in different parts of the world such as Western Asia, Eurasia, and North Africa. In some countries such as Armenia, it’s accompanied by a bass drum called a davul. It is similar to duduk and kaval and is used mainly in folk music.
It has high pitch sound and is used for melodies. It’s very loud and requires high pressure. If you want to add Eastern flavor to your songs, Zurna might be a good choice. Also, recording Zurna is very easy because you need just one mic to record and that’s it. Of course, you can use multiple mics to create natural or room sounds.
Oud is an Arabic stringed instrument that is similar to the lute. It’s a fretless instrument with six grouped strings but five and seven-string versions also exist. Because of that grouped strings like on 12-stringed guitars, the sound is rich and full of harmonies. Also, it’s a very small instrument with a short neck and anyone who played any stringed instrument can play Oud.
The sound will remind you of a classical guitar but it’s still distinct. Has the flavor of Eastern culture, however, works perfectly with acoustic guitars. The tone has more low end, it’s powerful and mostly used for melodies. But you can do whatever you want and play chords. Oud can be recorded with an acoustic guitar recording method.
Recording exotic instruments from the Eastern world can sound challenging but it’s not. Most acoustic instruments can be recorded with the same method. And using Eastern or Asian instruments can make your pop or rock song unique and more interesting. So, why don’t you try?