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The 10 Best Ska Instruments
Strictly speaking, most instruments can be used as Ska instruments. There are no hard and fast rules as it
relates to playing Ska and the Ska instruments used.
Of all the Ska instruments, the guitar is probably the most popular. Why? Well, it gives Ska its defining
sound. Without which Ska really would not be Ska. This is why I have it as the 1st of the Ska
instruments. Some people will disagree but that’s ok.
Any guitar can be used as a Ska instrument, but the arch top or the 335 which are popular in jazz are most commonly
used. They give a mellower, fatter and more pronounced sound. Check out Ernest Ranglin and Eugene Grey on
YouTube and you will see what I mean.
The 2nd of the Ska instruments is the bass. The upright bass was predominantly used in Ska’s
early days, but was eventually usurped by the electric bass. Like the guitar, any bass can be used as part of
the Ska instruments set up. But, the dominant brand was Fender, particularly their jazz model. A walking
bass line was normally used.
The 3rd Ska instrument is the drum. For the other Ska instruments to keep their timing, the
use of a drum becomes obvious. The drum kit doesn’t have to be extravagant. A simple quality kit will
do. Remember a workman does not blame his tools, but makes the best use of what he has.
It is almost impossible to talk about Ska instruments and not mention the Brass section. So the
4th, 5th and 6th Ska instruments are the Trombone, trumpet and
These Ska instruments are used to play intros, lead lines, instrumentals, fill in where the vocals stop and
sometimes to end a song.
At number 7 we have the organ. As a Ska instrument it is used for variety and to add dimension to the
music. It can be played along with the rhythm section or fill in intermittently.
At Number 8 is the Piano. It’s not a must as a Ska instrument but it does sound nice when used in the right
hands. These days a keyboard is normally used. I don’t know if this is good or bad, you
Coming in at number 9 are percussion Ska instruments. Again, there are no hard and fast rules here. Back
in the day tambourines, shakers and all manner of percussion instruments were used to add variety.
Now guess what number 10 will be. You probably didn’t guess this one but it’s the human voice. And yes it
is an instrument and it makes a fantastic Ska instrument too.
In fact it is the best instrument in the world. Singing in Ska is not dissimilar to singing in other genres of
music. (Though, I have heard some strange sounds in some songs – Count Prince Miller ‘Mule Train’.....lol!,
you have to listen to it).
These are the main Ska instruments, but this should not restrict you. In fact, I would encourage you to
experiment. Who knows, you could come up with something that’s new and lasting.
Well, there you have it. Have fun playing Ska!
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