Alternative title


Physical description

The word puk in Korean is the generic term for the word “drum,” and there are several kinds of puks in Korean music. However, the most common are the p’ungmul puk used in farmer’s band music, and the sori puk used to accompany p’ansori singing (Korean traditional narrative storytelling). The puk is a shallow, double-headed barrel drum with a wooden body made of paulownia or poplar, and heads made of deer hide, horsehide, or cowhide, although cowhide is most common. The size of the puk varies from region to region and according to purpose (sori puks may by larger than the puks used in farmer’s band music), but the heads generally range from 35-40 cm in diameter (13½ to 15½ in). They are approximately 20-25 cm deep (7½ to 9½ in). The skins of p’ansori puks are permanently nailed around the body of the drum, while the skins of the p’ungmul puks are attached to each other by lacing leather strings across the body of the drum.

Musical, Cultural, and Social Contexts

The puk does not play complex rhythms like the changgo, but rather provides a strong, consistent pulse throughout a performance. It is one of the four basic percussion instruments in Korea.

Playing technique

The puk is played with a bare stick made of birch wood. In p’ansori accompaniment, the puk is situated vertically on the floor while the player (known as the gosu) is in a seated position striking one head with the bare palm and the other with the drumstick. Ornamental patterns and accentuated beats are played out on the top, over the rim of the drum. In p’ansori performances, the gosu customarily shouts out cries of encouragement know as chuimsae, to complement and support the singer as the tale unfolds.

In p’ungmul nori, the puk is usually tied to the body of the player with a sash slung across the shoulder, and like the changgo, is carried around to facilitate walking and dancing. The puk in p’ungmul music is played with the stick in one hand while the other hand braces the drum against the body. Though it is rare, there are regions in Korea where the puk is sometimes played like the changgo, with two sticks.


Traditionally, Korean percussion instruments used a notational system called the Chǒngganbo, which can be traced back to the fifteenth century. The Chǒngganbo is a framework of vertical and horizontal lines that intersect to create small boxes that are read in columns (top to bottom, right to left), with icons or symbols representing various strokes placed within each box, one box being equal to one beat. In ensemble music, one column would carry the notation for one instrument, and one line (i.e. one segment from top to bottom) would denote one rhythmic cycle. Chǒngganbo also allows for subdivision of beats within one box if necessary. The Chǒngganbo system is still in use today, although Korean percussion instruments also use western staff notation. The National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts in Korea uses and prints materials in both systems.




211.222.12 Individual double-skin barrel drums, both heads played


Korean Drumming Ensemble


Diameter: 35-40 cm (13½ to 15½ in)
Width: 20-25 cm (7½ to 9½ in)


Body: paulownia or poplar wood
Drum heads: cowhide (most popular), deer hide, or horsehide


Hahn, Myung-Hee. 1998. A Study of Musical Instruments in Korean Traditional Music, translated by Park, Il-Woo, Seoul: The National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts, Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Howard, Keith. 1988. Korean Musical Instruments: A Practical Guide, Seoul, Korea: Se-Kwang Music Publishing Co.

--------. 1995. Korean Musical Instruments, New York: Oxford University Press.

Killick, Andrew. 2002. “Musical Instruments of Korea.” In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Vol. 7. East Asia: China, Japan, and Korea, edited by Robert Provine, Yoshihiko Tokumaru, and J. Lawrence Witzleben, New York: Routledge, 821-31.

Lee, Hye-Ku. 1981. Essays on Traditional Korean Music, translated and edited by Robert Provine, Seoul, Korea: Royal Asiatic Society, Korea Branch.

Pratt, Keith. 1987. Korean Music: Its History and Performance, London: Faber Music Ltd.

Sŏng, Kyŏng-rin. 1973. “Korean Musical Instruments.” In Survey of Korean Arts: Traditional Music. Seoul, Korea: The National Academy of Arts.


Hae Joo Kim (2005)



“Puk,” Wesleyan University Virtual Instrument Museum 2.0, accessed May 21, 2024, https://wesomeka.wesleyan.edu/vim2/items/show/47.