Country - musical instrument(s)

What instruments signify a country, either culturally/historically or stereotypically, ie used as shorthand in films?

Scotland - bagpipes of course

Ireland - harp, uileann pipes, maybe bodhrán.

France - accordion

India - sitar? tablas?

Australia - digeridoo

The Welsh might want to claim the harp, especially since the other contender (the crwth) isn’t terribly well known.

(Ancient) Greece — lyre.
Russia – balalaika
Switzerland — alpenhorn. Not terribly common in Swiss bands these days, though.
Nigeria (and elsewhere in W. Africa) — talking drums
Italy — hand-organ / hurdy-gurdy, simian optional. I don’t know if these were ever used in Italy, but certainly it became part of the stereotype in America.

The harp is on our coinage though and is used in various flags, seals etc.

USA – Slide guitar, either:

  • Upright/bottleneck style
  • Lap/Hawaiian, ‘Dobro’ style

The Hawaiians were the first in the western hemisphere to play the guitar with a glass or metal bar. They played it in the lap.

African-American musicians in the southern US adapted this to standard, upright guitar playing by using a bottleneck around a finger, which was easier to do while singing.

This led to the Dobro and electric steel guitar common in country music.

I would think the banjo’s probably more in the mass consciousness than the slide guitar.

You’re right, in the context of the OP. I was thinking more of instruments’ origins.

Since the banjo was originally from Africa, I don’t think of it as the definitive American instrument.

But while the banjo is associated with a subset of America, specifically country and bluegrass music from rural America, the slide guitar and its descendants cover country, blues, rock and Hawaiian music.

Play a few notes on an acoustic guitar with a slide, you have evoked country and blues at the same time.

Oh, sure. Rub it in that the Welsh don’t even have their own coinage.

Not to pick a second nit (other than the harp, I mean), but the accordion could be applied just as well to southern Germany as to France.

The bagpipe is fair for Scotland, but it’s also pretty ubiquitous in the Canadian Maritimes (albeit because of their Scottish heritage.)

Really, wouldn’t any electric guitar work for the US? It’s the country of rock 'n roll, after all.

I doubt the “banjo” was originally from Africa, although it may have had predecessors.

The banjo would more typify the US than the steel guitar. IMHO.

In addition to Germany and vast tracts of Slavic Europe.

Austria - zither, as in The Third Man and…uh…I guess that’s it.

Hungary - stereotypically violin, specifically the lugubrious gypsy variety. Historically cimbalom and tarogato.

Wales - lusty, hair-raisingly harmonious men’s choirs.

Uh. Wales also has the crwth, a kind of fiddle.

Spain: guitar and castanets.

Yeah I was thinking different style of accordion playing can signify lots of different countries too. France, parts of Germany, Argentina, Ireland, several Eastern European countries. Are there any other instruments that signify Germany?
Is there an instrument that represents Canada as a whole?

For the representative all-American instrument, I’d nominate the saxophone. Even though it wasn’t invented there, it is very much integral to various American musical genres, far more so than any of other countries. As the accordion demonstrates, separating out instruments from genres and styles isn’t easy.

Germany? Perhaps not a single instrument, but a Bavarian oom-pah band. The Nordic countries have the hardanger fiddle (Norway), nyckelharpa (Sweden, although fiddles are more important) and kantele (Finland).

Shrug, another vote for “USA = banjo.” Other candidates that have been mentioned are played a lot outside the US as well. I don’t identify electric guitars or saxophones with a single type of music, much less with a single country.
Banjo + dude singing through his nose worse than a Catalan with a cold, definitely US. (Catalan sounds nasal to Spanish speakers)

Mexico, Guitarrón (an overlarge cousin of the guitar), but of course that’s actually an association with Mariachi music.

Peru (or other Andean country, I suppose) - Panpipes

Japan - Koto
Brazil - Berimbau

The banjo is definitely based on African instruments & was “invented” by African slaves. They & their descendants played it here & eventually white folks picked it up. I’d be glad to call the banjo an American instrument with deep African roots.

The accordion is a fairly new instrument that is playedall over the world.

Well, duh…Hawaii–Ukulele

More “American country music” even than slide guitar is the pedal steel guitar, though most people might not know what it is by looking at one. If you’re imagining the sound of a country slide guitar, it’s probably a pedal steel.

Others thoughts (with no attempt at correct spelling): Balailaika for Russia, and bouzouki for Greece. I’m afraid I don’t know the names of the mini guitar and extra large guitar/small sideways bass used in mariachi bands, but they’re prototypically Mexican. There are also lots of ‘Chinese’ instruments, which probably even are specific to certain regions (at least to those who know more about them than I do).

The cursed Andean flutes aren’t specifically one country, but a region of three or four. Likewise steel drums I think cover a couple countries in the Carribean. More broadly belly-dancer’s finger cymbals are Middle Eastern.

The tuba isn’t really unique to one country, but it does tend to evoke Germany/Austria or a US town settled by Germans/Austrians.