The Instruments

of the LOTR Soundtrack


I thought it might be interesting to provide some basic information on the instruments, many ethnic or unusual, used in the Lord of the Rings movies. Well, unusual in the sense that they are not, perhaps, commonly known and are not commonly found in orchestras. The original information contained on these pages was gathered from many different sites. Some required a lot of digging. Since then, more information was released in the annotated scores for the complete recordings. I felt that the list was getting unwieldy so I decided to break it down into categories. Since the annotated scores used 'culture' as a break down, I decided to do the same.

For each instrument, I provide a general description of the instrument, a sense of its use in the soundtrack, artists who played the instrument (if known), and audio samples. When appropriate, I also provide a non-score audio example of the instrument so it's easier to know what to listen for. A further note on this can be found below.

Instrumental Symphonies and Ensembles

The London Philharmonic Orchestra

This was the principle orchestra used for the score.

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra recorded the Mines of Moria music and the Breaking of the Fellowship for the FOTR Cannes preview. The Mines of Moria music remains in the film but the London Philharmonic was used when edits were required for the final FOTR scenes. The New Zealand version can be heard in the FOTR EE Fan Credits.

Plan 9 wrote and performed Flaming Red Hair (The Long Expected Party's music) and the passing Wood Elves song, "Passing of the Elves"

Instrument Pages

Army of the Dead










Tibetan Hanging Gongs


Log Drums



Ney Flute




Pan Flute

Wood Flute



Celtic Harp




Low Whistle







Bell Plate

Chains on Piano Wire

Taiko Drums


Hardanger Fiddle

Double Fiddle


LOTR Hardangers - an untold story by Andrew J. King


My original intent was to just provide a short non-score audio sample of the less well known instruments such as sarangi and rhaita so the reader could at least get an idea of what to listen for in the score. My original example for Hardanger fiddle was from a site that featured a few fiddlers from my home town (or surrounding area). There is a huge Scandinavian population in Minnesota and I was quite familiar with the Hardanger. When a search for an example of low whistle turned up another Minnesota musician, I knew I had to do it... I had to see how many audio samples I could find featuring musicians from my area (Twin Cities, Minnesota). I actually know (or know of) quite a few of these artists and I wanted to do more than note them in tiny type under their audio samples. So... here they are.


Celtic Harp sample from: Casey's Hornpipe, from the album Willow Brae Collected, performed by Willow Brae

Willow Brae is Twin Cities duo, Andrea Stern on harp and Laura MacKenzie on various wind instruments. I'm not familiar with Andrea but I am with Laura. Laura plays in many folk/Celtic music ensembles with other musicians who are also known to me. She occasionally shows up as a musician at an evening of English Country Dancing (which I do) at Tapestry Folkdance Center.

Dulcimer sample from: Reel de Mattawa, from the album The Cottage Door, performed by Greenwood Tree

Greenwood Tree is the duo of Bill Cagley (guitar, mandolin, bodhran, and limberjack) and Stu Janis (hammered dulcimer and bowed psaltery), both from St. Paul. Stu Janis is known to me primarily as the musician for the (now retired) English Rapper Sword team, Vorpal Sword. He also plays klezmer with my friend, Judith Eisner.

Mandolin sample from: Fugue in G Minor (The Little One), from the album Mando Boys Live: Holstein Lust, performed by The Mando Boys

One of the members of The Mando Boys was Peter Ostroushko, a fellow Minneapolitan who is perhaps most widely known as being a regular on the radio program, A Prairie Home Companion, for more than 25 years.

Mussette sample from: Bateau Mouche, Cinema, performed by Cafe Accordion Orchestra

Dan Newton and his Cafe Accordion Orchestra are from the Twin Cities. Dan, in some incarnation, if often playing at our local folkdance venue, Tapestry Folkdance Center, for various dances.

Low Whistle sample from: Dream at Dawn, performed by Misguided Fools

Misguided Fools is one of many groups that Twin Cities piper, Dick Hensold, is in. (Piper's Crow includes Dick and Laura MacKenzie from above.) Dick is a great musician, wonderful guy and a valuable asset to our local music and folk dance community. I fell in love with his piping on Ruth MacKenzie's Kalevala, Dream of the Salmon Maiden, production/CD. He also researches historical music and occasionally gathers a group to play for our English Country Dance community. Check out his website which has lots of sound samples.

Hardanger sample from: Mountain Man's Girl, from the album Norse Fiddle at Home, performed by Karen Solgċrd

I've never met Karen but she's almost a neighbor of mine. Another Minnesota Hardanger fiddler is Loretta Kelley but really, there are a lot of Hardanger fiddle players around here.


 A note on audio samples.


I have looked at the fair use laws. Considering that:

  • I am using samples of music under 30 seconds in length - many are as short as 4 or 5 seconds in length...

  • I am using the samples for educational purposes only...

  • I make no money from the use of the samples, nor from the site itself...

  • Other than pulling them from larger works, I am not altering the samples in any creative way. What you hear is what the artist released...

  • I provide as complete an attribution as possible, with links back to artists' sites when possible...

  • I don't believe my samples hinder sales of the artists' work...

I believe I am safely within the fair use definition. If I were making comparisons in literature I would provide quotes from appropriate sources with proper attribution. In my mind, this is the same. It is only my intent to educate and not to harm any artist. But if anyone with claim to do so asks, I will remove any clip on my site.

With regard to the LOTR soundtrack clips, I don't believe that any of my clips can substitute from owning a proper and legal copy of any of the soundtrack CDs or the movie DVDs. In fact, I suspect that most readers of my site already own these items. I myself own each OST (with a few extra copies) each Limited Edition Soundtrack CD (and one Internet Limited Edition), each Complete Recording set, the theatrical version DVDs and extended version DVDs for all three movies, Music Notes Sheet Music, two magazines with LOTR score articles, and The Music of the LOTR Films... all legal copies. I find the cost of a legal copy well worth the pleasure it provides. If you enjoy something, reward the creative talent. Buy a legit copy.