Woodblock (instrument)

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Dos bloques.JPG
Percussion instrument
Other names
  • Woodblock
  • clog box
  • tap box
Classification Percussion
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 111.242.1
(Individual bells)
Related instruments
The sound of a woodblock

A woodblock (also spelled as two words, wood block) is a small slit drum made from a single piece of wood. The term generally signifies the Western orchestral instrument, though it is descended from the Chinese woodblock. Alternative names sometimes used in ragtime and jazz are clog box and tap box. In orchestral music scores, woodblocks may be indicated by the French bloc de bois or tambour de bois, German Holzblock or Holzblocktrommel, or Italian cassa di legno. [1]


The orchestral woodblock of the West is generally made from teak or another hardwood. The dimensions of this instrument vary, although it is either a rectangular or cylindrical block of wood with one or sometimes two longitudinal cavities. It is played by striking it with a stick, which produces a sharp crack. [2] Alternatively, a rounder mallet, soft or hard, may be used, which produces a deeper-pitched and fuller "knocking" sound.

On a drum kit, a woodblock is traditionally mounted on a clamp fixed to the top of the rear rim of the bass drum.

Log drums made from hollowed logs, and slit drums made from bamboo, are used in Africa and the Pacific Islands.

The muyu (simplified Chinese :木鱼; traditional Chinese :木魚; 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. Also, in China, a small, rectangular, high-pitched woodblock called bangzi (梆子) is used. Typically used in sets of four different pitches, they are sometimes called "skulls" by jazz players because of their globular shape. [3]

Temple blocks are a set of four or more woodblocks. Modern versions may be made of plastic instead of wood where they are known as granite blocks. Similarly, the jam block is a modern, plastic version of the woodblock.

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Block or blocked may refer to:

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  1. Blades, James, and James Holland. 2001. "Woodblock". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  2. Montagu, Jeremy. 2002b. "Woodblock", The Oxford Companion to Music, edited by Alison Latham. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-866212-9.
  3. Montagu, Jeremy. 2002a. "Temple blocks", The Oxford Companion to Music, edited by Alison Latham. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-866212-9.