Thai Classical Ensemble Music

Music is important to forming and reinforcing national identities, and traditional Thai classical music has existed in its present form since the 1300s. Classical music accompanies ritual ceremonies, funerals, and different forms of theater and entertainment.

There are three standard types of Thai classical music ensembles—Wong Pi Phat, Wong Khryang Sai, and Wong Mahori. “Wong” directly translated means “circle,” but in a musical context it generally means ensemble. These styles make use of four different instrument groups: woodwinds, strings, melodic percussion, and rhythmic percussion.

The Wong Pi Phat is an ensemble of percussion instruments and the oboe. Pi is the double-reed wind instrument used in ensemble, and Phat refers to instrumental music, or, literally translated, it means “to play music.” Pi Phat is perhaps the best known style among Thais. Examples of Wong Pi Phat music can be found at the following link:

The Wong Khryang Sai is an ensemble of stringed instruments, drums, hand-cymbals, and flute. However, among the string instruments, this ensemble does not include the three stringed saw sam sai. Examples of Wong Khryang Sai music can be found at the following link:

The Wong Mahori combines stringed instrument with the Mahori-sized xylophones and gong. In contrast to the Wong Khryang Sai, the most important characteristic of the Mahori instrumentation is the saw sam sai and the thon and rammana pair of drums. Examples of Wong Mahori music can be found at the following link:

Works consulted:

“Thai Ensemble,” <>.
“Music of Thailand: Folk and Traditional Styles,” Spotlight on Music, <>.