Bavarian way of life Feb 22, 2021

Bavarian musical instruments: with traditional melody throughout the state

Culture and years of tradition flow through the veins of Bavaria. In addition to a rich history and important cultural works in art and literature, music plays a major role in the overall picture of Bavaria. Familiar sounds and certain instruments immediately evoke the mental image of a certain region – it is not for nothing that people associate the Oktoberfest with music, among other things. What is played particularly often in the Bavarian districts, are there regional peculiarities? You can read all about this in this article.

Bavarian brass music instruments – brass music creates a great parade mood

Anyone who has already experienced parades or folk festivals in Bavaria is bound to have been carried away by the festive atmosphere. The fancy festivities are accompanied by loud fanfare processions that give the whole event the feel of a parade. Brass instruments such as the trumpet or flugelhorn resound through the streets, while the drums echo. Although these instruments can be heard throughout Bavaria, Lower Franconia, Middle Franconia and Upper Franconia in particular show their attachment to Bavaria’s folk instruments with the joint Forschungsstelle für Fränkische Volksmusik (Research Centre for Franconian Folk Music).

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Harmonious sounds of the parlour musicians in the alpine region

In the Bavarian alpine area, on the other hand, parlour music is the usual harmonious accompaniment. Originally, the line-up consisted exclusively of stringed instruments and served as background music to create the ambience. In parlours in Swabia, for example, the quieter sounds of the harp, double bass or dulcimer were heard. Today these are supported by other instruments such as the Styrian harmonica and the button accordion. Outside the parlour, the alphorn enjoys great popularity in the Bavarian Alps. The horns, some of which are several metres long, are usually painted with folkloric motifs and are often accompanied by yodelling.

Dance music creates a mood with a variety of Bavarian instruments

The complete opposite of the quiet parlour is the Oktoberfest in Upper Bavaria, when the music is allowed to drown out almost any conversation, then dance music is the order of the day. As the name suggests, it is used for ceremonial occasions such as weddings, birthdays or other celebrations. The instrumental line-up is highly variable, but of all the Bavarian instruments, wind instruments are predominantly used to encourage dancing and clapping. The Styrian harmonica was able to assert itself here as well due to its powerful and floating sound.

From folkloric to royal expertise – Mittenwald violins

The violin is seen in some musical circles as the queen of instruments, as it requires a great deal of skill and ability. It is even harder to master but their sound is worth the effort. But as gifted as a musician may be, a major sound factor lies in the instrument itself. One historic site for the construction of this instrument is in the Upper Bavarian town of Mittenwald. A violin from Mittenwald is considered one of the most prestigious musical instruments in Bavaria and promises quality that is linked to the professional workshops’ many years of experience. They have been practising their craft to perfection since the 17th century, which can be retraced in the Geigenbaumuseum (Violin Making Museum).

Musical tradition remains intact

In the meantime, instruments such as synthesizers and keyboards are used in addition to the Bavarian musical instruments. But Bavarian folk music is characterised by traditional handmade compositions with classical string and brass instruments. As a result, the acoustic guitar or zither find their way into the music as lead instruments, while electrically amplified instruments do not fit in with the sound.

Traditional Bavarian sounds continue to be heard and therefore the historical instruments are also preserved. In addition, a large number of institutions are committed to the research, preservation and development of typical Bavarian instruments, for example, the Musikantenfreundliches Wirtshaus initiative (musician-friendly inn). It began in Lower Bavaria and the Upper Palatinate, where folk musicians are rewarded with a meal and a drink in the participating inns. In return, guests are entertained by music and are happy to stay longer. The project has been very well received and has meanwhile become established throughout Bavaria.