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A piphat (Thai: ปี่พาทย์, pronounced [pìːpʰâːt]) is a kind of ensemble in the classical music of Thailand, which features wind and percussion instruments. It is considered the primary form of ensemble for the interpretation of the most sacred and "high-class" compositions of the Thai classical repertoire, including the Buddhist invocation entitled sathukan (Thai: สาธุการ) as well as the suites called phleng rueang. It is also used to accompany traditional Thai theatrical and dance forms including khon (Thai: โขน) (masked dance-drama), lakhon (classical dance), and shadow puppet theater.
The most common form of piphat is called piphat mai khaeng (ปี่พาทย์ไม้แข็ง). This ensemble uses an oboe called pi (after which the piphat ensemble is named), in combination with xylophones, gong circles, and other percussion instruments, with the xylophones and gong circles using hard mallets, creating a very bright, loud sound. A quieter variety of piphat ensemble, called piphat mai nuam (ปี่พาทย์ไม้นวม), uses a vertical flute called khlui phiang o in place of the pi, and soft mallets are used in place of hard mallets. Because the piphat mai nuam produces a relatively soft, mellow sound, the large glawng thad drums are not used. Also, the ensemble may include saw u, to enhance its soft sound.
The smallest piphat, called piphat khrueang ha, is composed of six instruments: pi nai (oboe); ranat ek (xylophone); khong wong yai (gong circle); taphon or other Thai drums; glong thad, a set of two large barrel drums beaten with sticks; and ching (small cymbals). Often other small percussion instruments such as krap or chap are used.
A slightly larger piphat ensemble is called piphat khrueang khu, and consists of eight musical instruments. The other two instruments are the ranat thum (xylophone), which produces a deeper sound than the ranat ek, and khong wong lek, a gong circle that is higher in pitch than the khong wong yai.
The largest form of piphat ensemble is the piphat khrueang yai, which consists of ten musical instruments. Another ones are ranat ek lek and ranat thum lek; these are almost the same as their ancestors, the ranat ek and ranat thum, but they have keys made from metal instead of wood.
Wong piphat khrueang khu (Thai: วงปี่พาทย์เครื่องคู่, Thai pronunciation: [woŋ pìːpʰâːt kʰrɯ̂əŋ kʰûː]) is developed from piphat khrueang ha, by arranging instruments in pairs of treble-bass. It consists of:
Wong piphat khrueang yai (Thai: วงปี่พาทย์เครื่องใหญ่, Thai pronunciation: [woŋ pìːpʰâːt kʰrɯ̂əŋ jàj]) is arranged by adding ranat ek lek (ระนาดเอกเหล็ก; treble metallophone) and ranat thum lek (ระนาดทุ้มเหล็ก; bass metallophone) to the wong piphat khrueang khu.
Wong piphat nang hong (Thai: วงปี่พาทย์นางหงส์, Thai pronunciation: [woŋ pìːpʰâːt naːŋ hǒŋ]) is an ensemble used in funerals. It is arranged by replacing the pi nai and pi nok with a pi chawa. The name nang hong comes from name of its main song.
Wong piphat duek dam ban (Thai: วงปี่พาทย์ดึกดำบรรพ์, Thai pronunciation: [woŋ pìːpʰâːt dɯ̀k.dam.ban], literally "ancient ensemble") was proposed by Prince Naris for using in Thai opera. It consists of:
The piphat mon is believed to derive from the Mon people, an ancient Mon-Khmer-speaking people of mainland Southeast Asia, and uses special instruments such as an upright gong circle called khong mon. Wong piphat mon (Thai: วงปี่พาทย์มอญ, Thai pronunciation: [woŋ pìːpʰâːt mɔːn]) has three sizes:
Wong piphat mon khrueang khu (Thai: วงปี่พาทย์มอญเครื่องคู่, Thai pronunciation: [woŋ pìːpʰâːt mɔːn kʰrɯ̂əŋ kʰûː]) is arranged by adding ranat thum and khong mon wong lek to the piphat mon khrueang ha.
Wong piphat mon khrueang yai (Thai: วงปี่พาทย์มอญเครื่องใหญ่, Thai pronunciation: [woŋ pìːpʰâːt mɔːn kʰrɯ̂əŋ jàj]) is arranged by adding ranat ek lek and ranat thum lek to the piphat mon khrueang khu.
The piphat mon ensemble is usually used in funerals, as it generally plays slow pieces. However, it can also be used for other events.
The piphat ensemble can be mixed with the khrueang sai ensemble to create a new ensemble called khrueang sai prasom piphat (เครื่องสายประสมปี่พาทย์ or เครื่องสายผสมปี่พาทย์).
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