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Title: Traditional Korean Music--T’aep’yongso nungge; musicians of The National Center for Korean Performing Arts. Label: Buda Records. Format: CD. Catalogue#: 3016605. Track: II-5.

Contextual Associations

The hojŏk is a Korean double-reed aerophone (oboe) that is also known as, depending on its context of usage, t'aep'yongso, soenap, or nallari. Soenap is the Korean pronunciation of the Chinese suona, from which it most likely is derived, and nallari is onomatopoeic. It is the main melodic instrument in archaic t'aech'wit'a (royal processional music), where it is most correctly referred to as t'aep'yongso, and in nongak (farmers' music; see separate entry for ‘Nongak and Samullori Ensembles from Korea’) where it can be referred to by any of its names. It is also used in the chorachi'i, an outdoor band that accompanies special Buddhist rituals. The hojŏk is considered an outdoors instrument and is seen as the counterpart of the softer sounding p’iri used for indoor music.


The hojŏk is an end-blown, conical bore, double-reed aerophone. Its body consists of two parts: the tubular pipe section is made from any one of a number of hardwoods turned on a lathe and bored out by drilling, or from bamboo; and a metal bowl-shaped bell (p’allang). The tube has seven anterior fingerholes and one posterior thumbhole drilled into its wall. The narrow end of the tube terminates in a metal pipe of a very small diameter serving as the instrument’s staple. Much of the staple is enclosed by a somewhat ornate metal finial that is topped off by a circular metal lip disc. The double reed (hyo or so), the tied end of which is slipped over the staple, is made from either natural reed or, recently, plastic. An ornamental cord and tassel is attached to the finial and the rim of the bell.

Player - Instrument Interface and Sound Production

Being an instrument that is typically used in processions, the hojŏk is usually played by a standing, and often mobile, musician. Held nearly horizontally in front of the player’s face, the entire reed is inserted into the mouth with the player’s lips pressed firmly against the metal lip disc. A strong airstream is needed to sound the instrument, which has a robust and penetrating tone quality (listen to audio example). The fingers of both hands and the thumb of one hand are used to cover the fingerholes. The acoustical length of the tube is determined by the lowest open fingerhole. The lowest pitch is not standardized across the tradition, but if, for example, it is approximately B-flat4, the range of the instrument is from B-flat4 to F6. However, overblowing is difficult, so most of the time players stay within the octave range of B-flat4 to B-flat5 when producing melodies.


While written and oral sources agree that the hojŏk was introduced to the Korea context from China, they do not agree as to when. Some Koreans believe its introduction took place during the Koryo dynasty (918-1392 CE). The first written accounts in which the hojŏk is mentioned date to the 14th century, and a 1493 CE treatise credits military connections with China as providing the means for the adoption into Korean military practice. While the general use of the hojŏk in outdoor processional music appears to have remained unchanged over the centuries, the instrument itself seems today to be shorter than its early predecessors.

Bibliographic Citations

Hesselink, Nathan. 2006. P’ungmul: South Korean Drumming and Dance. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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

________. 2002. "Nongak (P’ungmul Nori." In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v. 7. East Asia. ed. Robert C. Provine, Yosihiko Tokumaru, and J. Lawrence Witzleben. New York: Routledge, pp. 929-940.

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

Lee, Byong Won. 2002. "Korean Religious Music: Buddhist." In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v. 7. East Asia. ed. Robert C. Provine, Yosihiko Tokumaru, and J. Lawrence Witzleben. New York: Routledge, pp. 871-874.

Provine, Robert C. 1984. “T’aep’yongso.” NGDMI v.3: 499-500.

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)

422.112.2 aerophone--single conical-bore reedpipe with double (or quadruple) reed: the pipe has a reed (usually a flattened stem) of paired lamellae which periodically open and close, controlling the flow of air; with fingerholes

Design and Playing Features

Category: aerophone

Air cavity design: tubular - conical with flaring open distal end

Source and direction of airstream: player exhalation through mouth into air cavity; unidirectional

Energy transducer that activates sound: exposed concussion (multiple) reed

Means of modifying shape and dimensions of standing wave in air cavity: opening fingerholes to reduce space or shorten length of standing wave in air cavity

Overblowing utilization: overblowing at consecutive partials

Pitch production: multiple pitches - changing length of standing wave within cavity with fingerholes and by selecting partials through overblowing


14.8 in. length

Entry Author

Roger Vetter, Toby Austin