Also:       solchanggo      seyogo      

Title: Musique traditionnelle de coree--Yusan'ga; Muk Kyewol, voice, changgo performer not listed. Label: Buda Records. Format: CD. Catalogue#: 3016605. Track: I-9.

Contextual Associations

The changgo is an hourglass-shaped double-headed membranophone of the Korean people. It is the most widely used Korean drum, utilized in nearly every genre of folk, religious, classical/court, and contemporary/traditional hybrid music that includes drumming. The particular type of changgo pictured here is used for nongak (folk bands, sometimes referred to as farmers' music) and is called the solchanggo.


Its hourglass-shape body is carved from a single block of paulownia wood turned on a lathe (shells made from pottery are also found) and is hollow even in the constricted center section.  Its two identically sized heads, made from dog skin (cow, goat, pig, and horse skins are also used, depending on the genre), are stretched over metal flesh hoops. The diameter of the heads is a good deal greater than the openings of the shell that they cover. The heads are held in place by the tension applied to them with a rope and a specialized type of metal hardware that is a combination eyelet and hook (eight for each head). The tension rope runs through the eyelets, and the hooks over the drumhead rims. When manufactured, the tension on the rope is sufficient to hold the two heads in place. Fine tension adjustments to the heads can be made with the aid of leather thongs (called karak chi) that surround two segments of the main tension rope, creating a ‘Y’ pattern of lacing; slide these sleeves toward the top of the Y and the tension is increased, slide them to the base of the Y and the tension is decreased.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

The solchanngo is sounded by striking its heads with beaters--a slender bamboo stick (called yol ch'ae) is held in one hand, a heftier one (called kunggul ch'ae or k'ung ch'ae) with a wooden disc head and bamboo stem in the other. Two traditional and one modern way of situating the drum in relation to the player are found: a cloth strap slung over the drummer's shoulder with its ends tied to the drum lacing situates the instrument about waist high in front of the player and allows the drummer to move while playing (for farmers' band); placed horizontally on the ground with the drummer seated cross-legged also on the ground (almost all other traditional genres); and placed horizontally on a wooden stand, often alongside other drums likewise mounted on stands, so that a single standing drummer faces it as part of a drum set (some contemporary genres). Other types of changgo use only the bamboo stick beater on one head and the performer's palm on the other. The primary musical function of a changgo drummer is to provide rhythms in regularly repeating cycles called changdan, which articulate a downbeat and are conceived of as having a set number of beats some of which are accented, others which are not.


The earliest literary mention of the changgo dates from 1076 CE, but images of this type of drum are found in paintings and reliefs dating from first millennium Korean kingdoms (Provine 1984).

Bibliographic Citations

Howard, Keith. 1995. Korean Musical Instruments. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.

Killick, Andrew P. 2002. "Musical Instruments of Korea." In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v.7. ed. Robert C. Provine, Yoshiko Takumaru, and J. Lawrence Witzleben. New York: Garland Publishing, pp. 821-831.

Provine, Robert C. 1984. "Changgo," NGDMI v. 1: 337-338.

Song Kyong-rin. 1973. "Korean Musical Instruments." in Survey of Korean Arts: Traditional Music. Seoul: National Academy of Arts, pp. 28-76.


Instrument Information


Continent: Asia

Region: East Asia

Nation: South Korea

Formation: Korean

Classification (Sachs-Von Hornbostel revised by MIMO)

211.242.12 membranophone--individual double-skin hourglass shaped drum, both heads played

Design and Playing Features

Category: membranophone

Number of drums comprising instrument: single drum

Shell design: tubular - hourglass

Number and function of membranes: two, both for sounding

Membrane design: framed with rigid flesh hoop

Membrane attachment: framed membrane hoop connected by lacing to framed membrane hoop

Membrane tension control: sliding rings joining adjacent laces

Sounding for membranophone: striking with two handheld beaters

Sound modifiers for membranophone: none


20.2 in. length of shell 10.7 in. diameter of shell openings 17.5 in. diameter of heads 17 in. length of stick beater 12.8 in. length of knobbed beater

Primary Materials

membrane - mammal skin
cord - cotton

Entry Author

Roger Vetter