5 Instruments To Listen For In Live Raggae Music

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There's nothing quite like listening to live raggae music, whether in person or on the radio. This style of music is just so relaxing and so chill! One reason why raggae has such a unique sound is the unique combination of instruments used. Here are five to keep your ears open for the next time you listen to live raggae or you listen to a live reggae music radio station.

The Organ

Even though organs are played in a manner similar to pianos, they have a really different sound. The humming, base-heavy sound really adds dimension to many raggae tunes. The sound of the organ, when used in the rhythm-setting notes of the song, may remind you of a shuffling sound. Since playing the organ requires a lot of practice and talent, you'll see more experienced raggae bands turning to this instrument.

The Bongo

Bongos are the classic raggae instrument, especially among the Rastafarians who make a lot of raggae in Jamaica. They are somewhat less common among newer raggae traditions outside of Jamaica. Bongos have a distinct, "shallow" drumming sound and are often used to loudly set the beat over the rest of the music.


Trumpets are often used at the beginning of a raggae song to set the melody or introduce the piece. Sometimes they might be re-introduced partway through the song as a part of a horn "solo." Usually, when used later in the song, the trumpets are played softly — whereas the early, introducing trumpet pieces tend to be loud and attention-grabbing. 


Prior to 1980, a lot of raggae music was played on the piano. These days, however, musicians have largely upgraded to the synthesizer, an electronic instrument that can be used to add extra beats and riffs to the tune. Many smaller raggae bands rely heavily on the synthesizer as it allows them to add depth to the tunes without as many musicians. Some larger bands do not use it at all.


It wouldn't be raggae music without a guitar! Typically, you hear the guitar being strung along with the rhythm, which is uncommon with other musical genres. A technique called the ska is used to give the music a drum-like quality. You'll also notice this similar sound in ska music. 

The next time you listen to raggae music, don't just pay attention to the vocals. Notice each of these instruments and how they work together to create interesting tunes that everyone enjoys.