Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Finding harmony in South Korea

By Pamela Boykoff, CNN
Click to play
Passion for music in South Korea
  • Gayageum is a 12-string traditional musical instrument from Korea
  • CNN's Paula Hancocks was given a quick lesson
  • Instrument dates back to 6th century

(CNN) -- The gayageum is probably the best known of South Korea's traditional musical instruments.

It's certainly the most familiar one for CNN correspondent Paula Hancocks, who despite a lack natural musical talent, managed to pull off a decent rendition of the Korean folk song Arirang on it.

After a 15-minute lesson from the concert mistress of the Seoul Metropolitan Traditional Music Orchestra, Paula earned herself a bit of applause, even if it was from her tutor.

The gayageum, for those unfamiliar with it, consists of 12 strings with 12 moveable bridges. It is often played sitting on the floor, with the instrument rested on one knee. You use your index finger to pluck or flick the strings and you can use your other hand the make the string vibrate while you play. The moveable bridges can be adjusted to change the sound.

The gayageum is a very old instrument, believed to date back at least as far as the Kingdom of Gaya in the 6th century.

The concert mistress told us it is the easiest instrument to learn because you can just pick it and it will make a sound, unlike other traditional instruments that require the use of bows or learning specific techniques.

She says anyone, including foreigners and children, can start playing. As well it seems CNN correspondents, musically talented or not.