Woodblock (instrument)


A wood block (also spelled as a single word, woodblock) is a small slit drum made from a single piece of wood. The term generally signifies the Western orchestral instrument, though it is descended from the Chinese woodblock. Alternative names sometimes used in ragtime and jazz are clog box and tap box. In orchestral music scores, wood blocks may be indicated by the French bloc de bois or tambour de bois, German Holzblock or Holzblocktrommel, or Italian cassa di legno.[1]

Wood block
Dos bloques.JPG
Percussion instrument
Other names
  • Woodblock
  • clog box
  • tap box
Classification Percussion
Hornbostel–Sachs classification111.242.1
(Individual bells)
Related instruments
The sound of a wood block

The orchestral wood block of the West is generally made from teak or another hardwood. The dimensions of this instrument vary, although it is either a rectangular or cylindrical block of wood with one or sometimes two longitudinal cavities. It is played by striking it with a stick, which produces a sharp crack.[2] Alternatively, a rounder mallet, soft or hard, may be used, which produces a deeper-pitched and fuller "knocking" sound.

On a drum kit, a wood block is traditionally mounted on a clamp fixed to the top of the rear rim of the bass drum.

Related instrumentsEdit

Log drums made from hollowed logs, and slit drums made from bamboo, are used in Africa and the Pacific Islands.

The muyu (simplified Chinese: 木鱼; traditional Chinese: 木魚; pinyin: mùyú) is a rounded wood block carved in the shape of a fish and struck with a wooden stick. It is made in various sizes and is often used in Buddhist chanting, in China as well as in other Asian nations including Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Also, in China, a small, rectangular, high-pitched wood block called bangzi (梆子) is used. Typically used in sets of four different pitches, they are sometimes called "skulls" by jazz players because of their globular shape.[3]

Temple blocks are a set of four or more wood blocks. Modern versions may be made of plastic instead of wood where they are known as granite blocks. Similarly, the jam block is a modern, plastic version of the wood block.


  1. ^ Blades, James, and James Holland. 2001. "Woodblock". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  2. ^ Montagu, Jeremy. 2002b. "Woodblock", The Oxford Companion to Music, edited by Alison Latham. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-866212-9.
  3. ^ Montagu, Jeremy. 2002a. "Temple blocks", The Oxford Companion to Music, edited by Alison Latham. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-866212-9.

External linksEdit

  •   Media related to Woodblocks (percussion instrument) at Wikimedia Commons