Bulgarian folk music covers a wealth of subjects and a variety of artistic forms, rhythms and melodies. But its unique character is due primarily to its distinctive musical instruments.
Musical instruments have been part of Bulgarian life since ancient times. All sorts of tools and simple objects that could produce sounds were used as musical instruments (spoons, tongs, small bells, clappers, bird call whistles, etc.). As lifestyles evolved over the centuries, musical taste and instruments also developed along with them. The older rudimentary instruments were replaced by much improved models that satisfied new tastes.
Bulgarians play musical instruments on a variety of occasions: in taverns, at dinner, for weddings, at parties and even when they work. This diversity of use requires a diversity of instruments. Some instruments are very old while others of foreign origin were imported much later but have nonetheless found a place in people's lives.
Typically Bulgarian instruments include the caval (an end-blown flute), the duduk (whistle flute), the ga´da (bagpipe) from the family of aerophones; the gadulka and the gusla (kinds of rebecs or bowed stringed instruments) from the family of chordophones; the tupan (double-headed cylindrical drum) and the tarambuke of the membranophone family and many instruments from the family of idiophones such as bells, clappers, rattles, tongs, etc., although most of these are also known in other Balkan countries as well as the Near East.
These instruments are hand-made by artisans or the musicians themselves and reflect regional characteristics. Instruments may have different names depending on the region.