Annie Lennox – A Christmas Cornucopia of Instruments

Annie Lennox’s most recent album, A Christmas Cornucopia, has revealed the extent of Annie’s musicianship, claiming no less than 20 different instruments to her credit.

Many of the instruments are familiar, but there are several interesting variants, as well as a number of  African instruments Annie has obviously experimented with while spending time in South Africa.

They all go to create the masterpiece and atmospheric that this album has, so with the thanks of Wikipedia mainly, here’s a brief description of all the instruments Annie plays.


The accordion is a box-shaped musical instrument of the bellows-driven free-reed aerophone family, sometimes referred to as a squeezebox. A person who plays the accordion is called an accordionist.

It is played by compressing or expanding a bellows whilst pressing buttons or keys, causing valves, called pallets, to open, which allow air to flow across strips of brass or steel, called reeds, that vibrate to produce sound inside the body.

The instrument is sometimes considered a one-man-band as it needs no accompanying instrument. The performer normally plays the melody on buttons or keys on the right-hand manual, and the accompaniment, consisting of bass and pre-set chord buttons, on the left-hand manual.

The accordion is often used in folk music in Europe, North America and South America. It is commonly associated with busking. Some popular music acts also make use of the instrument. Additionally, the accordion is sometimes used in both solo and orchestra performances of classical music.

The oldest name for this group of instruments is actually harmonika, from the Greek harmonikos, meaning harmonic, musical. Today, native versions of the name accordion are more common. These names are a reference to the type of accordion patented by Cyrill Demian, which concerned “automatically coupled chords on the bass side”.

African Drum

The majority of African music relies heavily on the playing of drums. It is also characterized by an intense rhythmic playing style. This style of fast-paced, upbeat rhythmic drum playing can be found in many of the drum playing of tribes all over the continent of Africa.

It is especially true of the people and tribes of Western Africa. However, there are music styles that do not rely so heavily of on the use of the drum, such as Township music, which is prevalent in South Africa. The uses of the drum music are not limited to entertainment and dance, however.

In many tribes, they serve a purpose to the local community and help in the conduct of daily routines. The beats and sounds of the drum are used in communication, as well as cultural expression.

Some examples of popular African drums:

Djembe, Dunun, Atumpan, or the Talking drum, Ingungu, Entenga, Udu, Slit Drums, Frame Drums, Bata Drum, Double-Bells and Skakers

African Percussion

The culture of Africa is full of traditions that are rich and vibrant. Music is one of the oldest and most symbolic African traditions, as it is used as a form of communication and expression. An important part of African music is percussion, as it provides rhythm and helps to keep time. From drums to bells, there are several different types of African percussion instruments.

Sakara Drum – This hand-held drum is native to Nigeria. This drum is fashioned by stretching a piece of goat skin over a ring of red clay, which is secured to the ring with twine. The Sakara drum is made in three different sizes–small, medium and large. To play this drum, a small stick is pounded on the goat skin, while the fingers on the hand holding it are run along the inside of the skin to change the tone of the drum. The sound emitted from these drums is similar to that of stand-up drums.

Sekere – This percussion instrument is made from a variety of different-sized gourds. The gourds are laid out in the sun so the seeds inside will dry. Once dried, the seeds are removed, and the gourds are wrapped with yarn that has been strung with decorative shells, beads or stones. To play the instrument, the musician shakes and taps the gourd, making the shells, beads or stones move about, creating a unique sound as they tap and scrape the gourd.

Udu – The Udu, also known as the side hole pot drum, is a drum fashioned from a clay pot. It originated with the Ibo and Hausa of Africa and was discovered when a second hole was accidentally struck in the side of a clay pot, and the villagers found that the pot made a lovely sound. The drum is played in a variety of ways, the most popular of which is to place one hand over the side hole while opening and closing the hole on the top of the drum with the other hand. Moving your hands in different ways will produce different sounds. Other ways to play the drum is by tapping it with the fingers or with a soft stick.


The dulcimer is an old stringed instrument. It’s ancestor, the scheitlot, was found in the late 1700’s in Pennsylvania. The appalachia people changed this instrument and came up with the dulcimer in the 1800’s. Why? It is not known. The word dulcimer means “sweet song”, and that describes it well.

There are many different shapes of dulcimers. The appalachia dulcimer is shaped like an hourglass, or like a woman, as many say. In those days women playing a stringed instrument were not allowed to stand in front of the men. So, they played the dulcimer, which was played on the lap. It was considered to be a woman’s instrument. Today men and women alike play the dulcimer.

The dulcimer is used to play many different types of music. Blues, jazz, folk, Celtic, Elizabethan, classical, ragtime, Cajun, gospel, and rock and roll and more are played with this instrument. The dulcimer can be fretted, bowed, fingerpicked etc. to bring out different sounds. There are 3 atring, 4 string, 5 string, 6 string and even 8 string dulcimers. There is a 4 string equidistant dulcimer and bass dulcimers too. Over the years many dulcimer music festivals have begun. There is the popular Mardi Gras dulcimer music festival every year. Many universities have dulcimer classes which will teach you how to play the dulcimer or even how to build the dulcimer. In a Carolina university they dedicate a week to the dulcimer. Many of the top dulcimer players and teachers get together for workshops and classes and jams. Everyone is invited, from beginner dulcimer players to people who just love the music.

Originally the dulcimer was strummed with a quill. Now a pick is used or it is fingerpicked. A small piece of polished bone was used to bar the dulcimer. Today a short piece of dowel or your thumb is used. The dowel is called a noter. Many chords can be played on this instrument.

Many modes of tuning bring out different sounds. The most popular modes are the Ionian mode and the Mixolydian mode. They are popular modes for the mountain dulcimer. The Ionian mode is tuned in D-A-A and the Mixolydian mode is tuned in D-A-D. Tuners of different kinds are used to tune the dulcimer. Many tune it by ear. Musical notation can be used to learn to play or you can learn to play by ear. Dulcimers are one of the easiest string instruments to learn. You can go as far as your imagination will take you in playing the dulcimer.

Ewe Drum

These are peg drums with antelope skin from the Ewe tribe in the Volta region of Ghana and are played with stick and hand. They are played either individually or in a set of up to six drums.

The atimevu or master drum is very tall (up to 5’!). Next in size are the sogo and kidi which have a wooden base giving a distinctive warm tone. These two, are often played as a set with the kagan, the smallest of the set which adds a high tone.

Also may be added the kroboto and kroboti which are without wooden bases and have less of a distended shape.


Flute names both a family of instruments and a single instrument. It is a member of the woodwind group. The various flutes are the only non-reed woodwind instruments found in the orchestra, all the rest being either single reeds, like the clarinet, or double reeds, like the oboe and bassoon.

The standard members of the transverse flute family are as follows, arranged from lowest pitched to highest pitched. Each of the various flutes has a several-octave range. They are all written at more or less the same place on the staff, but their sounding pitches are different. Notice that there are two that extend the flute’s range downwards, and two that extend it upwards.

The flute is used in both band and orchestra. In both ensembles, one of the flute players usually doubles on piccolo. The flute is also a member of the wind ensemble, woodwind ensemble, and the woodwind quintet, in which it performs along with clarinet, oboe, bassoon, and French horn. It is also characteristically found in woodwind trios and quartets, though these do not have fixed membership, as the woodwind quintet does.

The flutes are the oldest category of woodwind instrument. There were flutes as early as the ninth century BCE. The basic design is a tube with an embouchure hole into which the player blows and finger holes to control the pitch. The modern flute was developed in 1830 by Theobald Boehm and incorporates his fingering system. Flutes and piccolos were both originally made of wood, but now they are generally metal.

Guitar Keyboard

A keytar is a relatively lightweight keyboard (with or without a built-in synthesizer) that is supported by a strap around the neck and shoulders, similar to the way a guitar is supported by a strap. Keytars allow players a greater range of movement compared to conventional keyboards, which are placed on stands.

The instrument has a musical keyboard for triggering musical notes and sounds. Controls for pitch bends, vibrato, portamento, and sustain are placed on the instrument’s “neck”. The term “keytar” is a portmanteau of the words “keyboard” and “guitar”. Keytars may either contain their own synthesis engines, or simply be controllers, triggering notes on another MIDI capable synthesizer.


A harmonium is a free-standing keyboard instrument similar to a reed organ. Sound is produced by air, supplied by foot-operated or hand-operated bellows, being blown through sets of free reeds, resulting in a sound similar to that of an accordion.

In North America, the most common pedal-pumped free-reed keyboard instrument is known as the American Reed Organ, (or parlor organ, pump organ, cabinet organ, cottage organ, etc.) and along with the earlier melodeon, is operated by a suction bellows where air is sucked through the reeds to produce the sound. A reed organ with a pressure bellows, that pushes the air through the reeds, is referred to as a harmonium.

In much of Europe, the term “harmonium” is used to describe all pedal-pumped keyboard free-reed instruments, making no distinction whether it has a pressure or suction bellows.


A kora is built from a large calabash cut in half and covered with cow skin to make a resonator, and has a notched bridge like a lute or guitar. The sound of a kora resembles that of a harp, though when played in the traditional style, it bears a closer resemblance to flamenco and delta blues guitar techniques. The player uses only the thumb and index finger of both hands to pluck the strings in polyrhythmic patterns (using the remaining fingers to secure the instrument by holding the hand posts on either side of the strings). Ostinato riffs (“Kumbengo”) and improvised solo runs (“Birimintingo”) are played at the same time by skilled players.

Kora players have traditionally come from griot families (also from the Mandinka nationalities) who are traditional historians, genealogists and storytellers who pass their skills on to their descendants. The instrument is played in Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Senegal, Burkina Faso and The Gambia. A traditional kora player is called a Jali, similar to a ‘bard’ or oral historian. Most West African musicians prefer the term ‘jali’ to ‘griot’, which is the French word.

By moving leather tuning rings up and down the neck, a kora player can retune the instrument into one of four seven-note scales. These scales are close in tuning to western Major, Minor and Lydian modes.

Increasingly koras are made with guitar machine heads instead of the traditional leather rings. The advantage is that they are much easier to tune. The disadvantage is that it limits the pitch of the instrument as the string lengths are more fixed and lighter strings are needed to lift it much more than a tone. Learning to tune a traditional kora is arguably as difficult as learning to play it and many people entranced by the sound while in Africa, buy a kora and then find themselves unable to keep it in tune once they are home, relegating it to the status of ornament.


The marimba is a musical instrument in the percussion family. Keys or bars (usually made of wood) are struck with mallets to produce musical tones. The keys are arranged as those of a piano, with the accidentals raised vertically and overlapping the natural keys (similar to a piano) to aid the performer both visually and physically.

The chromatic marimba was developed in southern Mexico and northern Guatemala  from the diatonic marimba, an instrument whose ancestor was a type of balafon that African slaves built in Central America.

Modern uses of the marimba include solo performances, woodwind ensembles, marimba concertos, jazz ensembles, marching band (front ensembles), drum and bugle corps, and orchestral compositions. Contemporary composers have utilized the unique sound of the marimba more and more in recent years.


The pan flute or pan pipe (also known as panflute or panpipes) is an ancient musical instrument based on the principle of the Closed tube, consisting usually of five or more pipes of gradually increasing length (and, at times, girth). The pan flute has long been popular as a folk instrument, and is considered the first mouth organ, ancestor of both the pipe organ and the harmonica. The pan flute is named for its association with the rustic Greek god Pan. The pipes of the pan flute are typically made from bamboo or giant cane; other materials used include wood, plastic, and metal.

Another term for the pan flute is syrinx, from Greek mythology, the story of Pan. The plural of syrinx is syringes, from which the modern word syringe is derived. (Pan pipes is both singular and plural.) Other names for the instrument are mouth organ, Pandean pipe, and the Latin fistula panis.

The tubes comprising it are stopped at one end, at which the standing wave is reflected giving a note an octave lower than that produced by an open pipe of equal length. In the traditional South American style, pipes are fine-tuned to correct pitch by placing small pebbles or dry corn kernels into the bottom of the pipes. Contemporary makers of curved Romanian-style panpipes use wax (commonly beeswax) to tune new instruments. Special tools are used to place or remove the wax. Corks and rubber stoppers are also used, and are easier to quickly tune pipes.


The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in Classical music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal. Although not portable and often expensive, the piano’s versatility and ubiquity have made it one of the world’s most familiar musical instruments.

Pressing a key on the piano’s keyboard causes a felt-covered hammer to strike steel strings. The hammers rebound, allowing the strings to continue vibrating at their resonant frequency.[1] These vibrations are transmitted through a bridge to a sounding board that more-efficiently couples the acoustic energy to the air. The sound would otherwise be no louder than that directly produced by the strings. When the key is released, a damper stops the string’s vibration. See the article on Piano key frequencies for a picture of the piano keyboard and the location of middle-C. According to the Hornbostel-Sachs method of music classification, pianos are grouped with chordophones.

The word piano is a shortened form of the word pianoforte, which derives from the original Italian name for the instrument, clavicembalo [or gravicembalo] col piano e forte (literally harpsichord capable of playing at the normal level, and more strongly). The musical terms “piano” and “forte” are usually interpreted as “soft” and “loud”, but this is not strictly what they mean in Italian. “Piano” means here a plane or level, suggesting the normal level of playing. “Forte” would mean a stronger, more powerful level of playing, effectively louder than usual. This refers to the instrument’s responsiveness to keyboard touch, which allows the pianist to produce notes at different dynamic levels by controlling the inertia with which the hammers hit the strings.

Pipe Organ

The pipe organ is a musical instrument that produces sound by driving pressurized air (called wind) through pipes selected via a keyboard. Because each organ pipe produces a single pitch, the pipes are provided in sets called ranks, each of which has a common timbre and volume throughout the keyboard compass. Most organs have multiple ranks of pipes of differing timbre, pitch and loudness that the player can employ singly or in combination through the use of controls called stops.

A pipe organ may have one or several keyboards (called manuals) played by the hands, and a pedalboard played by the feet, each of which has its own group of stops. The organ’s continuous supply of wind allows it to sustain notes for as long as the corresponding keys are depressed, unlike the piano and harpsichord, the sounds of which begin to decay the longer the keys are held. The smallest portable pipe organs may have only one or two dozen pipes and one manual; the largest may have over 20,000 pipes and seven manuals.

The origins of the pipe organ can be traced back to the hydraulis in Ancient Greece in the 3rd century BC, in which the wind supply was created with water pressure. By the sixth or 7th century AD, bellows were used to supply organs with wind. Beginning in the 12th century, the organ began to evolve into a complex instrument capable of producing different timbres. By the 17th century, most of the sounds available on the modern classical organ had been developed. From that time, the pipe organ was the most complex man-made device, a distinction it retained until it was displaced by the telephone exchange in the late 19th century.

Pipe organs are installed in churches, synagogues, concert halls, and other public buildings and are used for the performance of classical music, sacred music, and secular music. In the early 20th century, pipe organs were installed in theatres to accompany films during the silent movie era, in municipal auditoria, where orchestral transcriptions were popular, and in the homes of the wealthy, equipped with player mechanisms. The beginning of the 21st century has seen a resurgence in installations in concert halls. The organ boasts a substantial repertoire, which spans over 400 years.

Reed Organ

A reed organ, also called parlor organ, pump organ, cabinet organ, cottage organ, is an organ that generates its sounds using free metal reeds. Smaller, cheaper and more portable than pipe organs, reed organs were widely used in smaller churches and in private homes in the 19th century, but their volume and tonal range are limited, and they were generally confined to one or two manuals, with pedal-boards being extremely rare.

The reed organ was popular in the late 19th century, replacing the melodion. Advances in piano manufacturing technology in the early 1900s made pianos more affordable, causing reed organs to fall out of favor. Other reasons for the replacement of reed organs were their wavering status somewhere between a sacred pipe organ surrogate and a secular home instrument and the lack of original compositions for reed organs.

A handful of instruments continued to be made until about 1950, some with innovations such as electric blowers; the last US company making reed organs was Estey, which closed down in 1957. Some of the companies also made pianos—Mason & Hamlin, Baldwin, and Steinway, for example—and are still in business. Another, Kimball, made both pianos and reed organs, but is no longer in the music business; it now makes furniture.

A small number of self-playing reed organs (often called ‘organettes’) were built in the early 20th century. These used a pin-hole music roll and a pneumatic action as used on player pianos. These often had a much higher number of stops than normal reed organs, since the player’s hands were freed from the need to operate the keyboard. This allowed more complex stop arrangements. However, by the time these instruments reached their developmental peak, the market for reed organs in general was starting to decline.


The Rhodes piano is an electro-mechanical piano, invented by Harold Rhodes during the fifties and later manufactured in a number of models, first in collaboration with Fender and after 1965 by CBS.

As a member of the electrophone sub-group of percussion instruments, it employs a piano-like keyboard with hammers that hit small metal tines, amplified by electromagnetic pickups. A 2001 New York Times article described the instrument as “a pianistic counterpart to the electric guitar” having a “shimmering, ethereal sound.” Artist D’Angelo described it has having a “thick, almost gooey sound.”

Listen: Video highlighting the Rhodes Piano sound.

The Rhodes piano enjoyed a resurgence of popularity beginning in the 1990s — with contemporary artists highlighting the instrument, including Portishead, D’Angelo, Erykah Badu,Chick Corea, Jamiroquai, Herbie Hancock, Steely Dan and Stevie Wonder.

In the late 1960s, along with other electric pianos from Wurlitzer and Baldwin, the Rhodes piano had allowed music classes for the first time’ to incorporate the piano — with earphones enabling multiple students in the same room to effectively learn the instrument without disturbing each other.

The last model, the MkV, was released in 1984, when the factory in Fullerton was closed down. Rhodes Music Corporation re-introduced the instrument in 2007.


The Santur is a hammered dulcimer, of Persian origin. It is a trapezoid-shaped box often made of walnut or different exotic woods. The original classical santur has 72 strings. They can be roughly described as one hundred strings in Persian. The oval-shaped mallets (Mezrabs) are feather-weight and are held between the index and middle fingers.

A typical Santur has two sets of bridges, providing a range of approximately three octaves. The right-hand strings are made of a combined mixture of copper and brass, while the left-hand strings are made of stainless steel. Two rows of 9 articles called “Kharak” (18 kharaks) divide the santur into three positions. Each lead four unitone strings to the right and left side of the instrument. Each note repeats three times in three positions [making (9*3) 27 tones all together and doubles in frequency going to the left. As four notes are repeated in tonation there are 23 tones in Santur. The santur is primarily tuned to a variety of different diatonic scales which utilize 1/4 tones (semi-tones).

There are 12 modes of Persian classical music, known as the “Radif” which consists of 12 Dastgahs or Modes. Each Dastgah has its own tuning and character which derives from the different parts of Iran (Persia) which dates back thousands of years and was only preserved through performance until the late Ostad Abol Hassan Saba the legendary Master of Persian classical music, notated and categorized 3500 years of Persian music into the “Radif of Saba.”


The triangle is an idiophone type of musical instrument in the percussion family. It is a bar of metal, usually steel but sometimes other metals such as beryllium copper, bent into a triangle shape. The instrument is usually held by a loop of some form of thread or wire at the top curve. It was first made around the 16th century.

On a triangle instrument, one of the angles is left open, with the ends of the bar not quite touching. This causes the instrument to be of indeterminate or not settled or decided pitch. It is either suspended from one of the other corners by a piece of thin wire or gut, leaving it free to vibrate, or hooked over the hand. It is usually struck with a metal beater, giving a high-pitched, ringing tone.

Although the shape is today generally in the form of an equilateral triangle, early instruments were often formed as isosceles triangles. In the early days the triangles had jingling rings along the lower side.

Most difficulties in playing the triangle come from the complex rhythms which are sometimes written for it, although it can also be quite difficult to control the level of volume. Very quiet notes can be obtained by using a much lighter beater — knitting needles are sometimes used for the quietest notes. Composers sometimes call for a wooden beater to be used instead of a metal one, which gives a rather “duller” and quieter tone. When the instrument is played with one beater, the hand that holds the triangle can also be used to damp or slightly modify the tone. For complex rapid rhythms, the instrument may be suspended from a stand and played with two beaters, although this makes it more difficult to control.

It is historically associated with calling people to dinner, especially in nineteenth century depictions.


The vibraphone, sometimes called the vibraharp or simply the vibes, is a musical instrument in the mallet subfamily of the percussion family.

It is similar in appearance to the xylophone, marimba, and glockenspiel although the vibraphone uses aluminium bars instead of the wooden bars of the first two instruments. Each bar is paired with a resonator tube having a motor-driven butterfly valve at its upper end, mounted on a common shaft, which produces a tremolo or vibrato effect while spinning. The vibraphone also has a sustain pedal similar to that used on a piano: When the pedal is up, the bars are all damped and the sound of each bar is quite short; with the pedal down, they will sound for several seconds.

The most common uses of the vibraphone are within jazz music, where it often plays a featured role, and in the wind ensemble, as a standard component of the percussion section.


The tin whistle also called the penny whistle , English Flageolet, Scottish penny whistle, Tin Flageolet, Irish whistle and Clarke London Flageolet is a simple six-holed woodwind instrument. It is an end blown fipple flute flageolet, putting it in the same category as the recorder, American Indian flute, and other woodwind instruments. A tin whistle player is called a tin whistler or whistler. The tin whistle is closely associated with Celtic music.

The modern penny whistle is indigenous to the British Isles particularly England when factory-made “tin whistles” were produced by Robert Clarke from (1840–1882) in Manchester and later New Moston, England. downto 1900, they were also marketed as “Clarke London Flageolets” or “Clarke Flageolets”. The whistle’s fingering system is similar to that of the six hole, “simple system English flutes” (“simple” in comparison to Boehm system flutes).

The six hole, diatonic system is also used on baroque flutes, and was of course well known before Robert Clarke began producing his tin whistles circa 1843. Clarke’s first whistle, the Meg, was pitched in high A and was later made in other keys suitable for Victorian parlour music. The company showed the whistles in The Great Exhibition of 1851. The Clark tin whistle is voiced somewhat on an organ-pipe with a flattened tube forming the lip of the fipple mouthpiece and is usually made from rolled tin sheet or brass. Manufactured tin whistles became available no earlier than 1840, and were mass produced and widespread due to their relative affordability.


The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company, usually referred to simply as Wurlitzer, is an American company, formerly a producer of stringed instruments, woodwind, brass instruments, theatre organs, band organs, orchestrions, electronic organs, electric pianos and jukeboxes.

Over time Wurlitzer changed to producing only organs and jukeboxes, but it no longer produces either. The factory, in the same complex as that of the Eugene DeKleist company (another maker of band organs and orchestrions, acquired by Wurlitzer), is in North Tonawanda, New York, USA. The building is now home to a wide array of tenants ranging from an indoor batting cage to private apartments to various light industrial and commercial businesses. The building’s current owner is in the midst of a vast restoration project and has recently replaced the original Wurlitzer sign with a new one.

The Wurlitzer piano is usually a 64-note instrument whose keyboard range is from A an octave above the lowest note of a standard 88-note piano to the C an octave below the top note of an 88-note piano. Tone production in all models comprises a single steel reed for each key, activated by a miniature version of a conventional grand piano action and forming part of an electrostatic pickup system using a DC voltage of 170v. A mechanical sustain pedal similar to that of a conventional piano is fitted.