Japanese Music

Japanese music culture dates back over 2000 years, however it is around the 8th century where it began to be more clearly documented. As with western music, early Japanese music developed through religious practices, with music being used for Shinto ceremonies and events. Within Japanese tradition, however, there were various musical customs: folk music (known as min’yō), court music (gagaku) and theatre music (Noh and Kabuki). Early folk music was often unaccompanied and passed down through the generations orally. This led to regional styles, however, as court music became more prominent and musicians travelled to main cities be employed, these styles influenced court music trends. Court music encompassed instrumental, singing, dance and ceremonial music. This music was performed exclusively for aristocracy and so was elegant in style. Japanese theatre music developed to accompany the highly stylised and elaborate theatrical performances. Noh typically contains a smaller group of performers and a choir that sings text whereas Kabuki is larger scale with on and off-stage ensembles. Typical sonic characteristics of traditional Japanese music are long, flowing melodic lines, less defined structure, and no chordal harmony. Individual songs or pieces are often based around a particular scale or mode. Instruments to listen out for are the biwa (a four-string melody instrument similar to the lute), the koto (a long, plucked zither-like instrument), the hichiriki (a double-reed bamboo flute similar in sound to an oboe), the sho (a mouth organ), and the Kakko and Taiko (small and large drums respectively).

Notable artists:

Yoshida Brothers

Nanae Yoshimura



If you want to commission your own music in this style, or would like more information or help, please contact us.