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Pop Music Instruments in German

A few lessons ago, we discussed the names of classical music instruments in German. Let's take a look today at the German names of some of the most common musical instruments used in pop music.

 

We already discussed the piano in the classical instruments lesson, but there are also a number of other kinds of keyboard instruments (das Tasteninstrument) that are used in pop music. They are also called das Keyboard, plural die Keyboards. A person who plays keyboards is der Keyboarder / die Keyboarderin.

 

The Hammond organ is a popular vintage organ that is still much-loved in pop and jazz music. Although Hammond is actually a brand name, it is listed in the German dictionary as a proper German word: die Hammondorgel. Other popular electronic organs from the 1960s, which were produced cheaply by companies such as Farfisa in Italy and Vox in the UK, are often referred to casually—or deprecatingly—as die Schweineorgel, which translates literally to "pig organ"!

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Another popular Tasteninstrument that began to be widely used in the 1970s is the synthesizer (der Synthesizer). It's often referred to casually as der Synthi.

 

Diese ganzen analogen Synthesizer?

All those analog synthesizers?

Caption 115, LOTTE & Max Giesinger: Interview

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Probably the most important instrument in rock music, especially in heavy metal and punk rock music, is the electric guitar, called die elektrische Gitarre (or die Elektrogitarre), or die E-Gitarre for short. Generally, a person who plays guitar is called der Gitarrist / die Gitarristin. A common slang word for the electric guitar, especially among musicians, is die Klampfe. A very old-fashioned term for the guitar is die Zupfgeige, which translates literally to "pluck violin"!

 

So gibt es hier die elektrische Gitarre für den abgebrühten Rockstar.

Thus there is the electric guitar here for the jaded rock star.

Caption 2, Rheinmain im Blick: Musikmesse in Frankfurt

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On the bottom end of the harmonic spectrum, we find the electric bass and upright bass, called die Bassgitarre (or der E-Bass) and der Kontrabass respectively. A person who plays bass is der Bassist / die Bassistin.

 

Sie schafft Platz zu Hause und erfreut die Fans, die bald Burger unter der Bassgitarre futtern können.

She makes room at home and pleases the fans, who will soon be able to scarf down burgers under the bass guitar.

Captions 8-9, Christina Stürmer: ist reif fürs Museum

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Let's look now at the beat, an intrinsic element of most forms of pop music, with the drums at the forefront: das Schlagzeug, or the English-based derivative, die Drums. A person who plays the drums is der Schlagzeuger / die Schlagzeugerin or, perhaps somewhat old-fashioned, der Trommler / die Trommlerin. Again, the English derivative is also available: der Drummer / die Drummerin.

 

Geige ist mir zu langweilig, ich will gleich Schlagzeug spielen.

Violin is too boring for me, I want to play drums right away.

Caption 36, Sons of Sounds: Interview

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Of course, brass instruments have always played a role in pop music, but the most common horn in pop music is probably the saxophone: das Saxofon. A foreign-influenced spelling, das Saxophon, is also acceptable, though the Duden dictionary has das Saxofon as the preferred spelling. A person who plays the saxophone is der Saxofonist / die Saxofonistin, and here too the foreign-influenced spelling is allowed.

 

Ich bin Musiker. Ich spiele Saxofon.

I'm a musician. I play saxophone.

Caption 14, Melanie und Thomas: treffen sich

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Let's not neglect a major aspect of pop music, the one item that makes it possible to play so loudly: the amplifier, in German der Verstärker. A guitar amplifier is der Gitarrenverstärker, a bass amplifier der Bassverstärker, and a keyboard amplifier is der Keyboardverstärker. Vocals, horns, and other acoustic instruments are usually amplified through a microphone: das Mikrofon, or its foreign-influenced spelling variant das Mikrophon—or just das Mikro for short. All of these instruments are usually amplified on larger stages through a PA system. The proper German dictionary word is die Beschallungsanlage, but as Wikipedia will attest, in common parlance, it's most commonly called die PA-Anlage.

 

Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and watch the videos above relating to musical instruments. You can also search for the names of the instruments and find other videos. Find a tandem partner in your class and make up some sentences in German using these musical instrument words, then compare what you both came up with.

More German Pseudo-Anglicisms

There are a number of English words that have been adopted by the German language but given different meanings or used in different contexts. These are called pseudo-anglicisms, and sometimes lead to German speakers re-importing what they mistakenly think are English words into their non-native English, often with unintentionally humorous or incomprehensible results. 

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Wo man seinen Sound aufnehmen kann und den dann über den Kemper wieder abrufen kann, ohne Boxen.

Where you can record your sound and then can access it on the Kemper again, without speakers.

Captions 32-34, Rhein-Main-TV aktuell - Musikmesse in Frankfurt

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Die Box is short for die Lautsprecherbox, which means "speaker" or "loudspeaker." A native English speaker might be confused, however, if somebody told him his "boxes" are too loud.

 

Carmen Spindler leitet nicht nur ein Fitnessstudio.

Carmen Spindler doesn't just run a gym.

Caption 2, Bodybuilderinnen - Lieber zart als muskulös

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Another acceptable spelling of this word is das Fitness-Studio, which makes the English source more obvious. It's pretty clear what "fitness studio" means, but to English ears it sounds like an unnecessarily verbose word for "gym."

 

Ich hab' ihr schon dreimal auf die Mailbox gesprochen, aber nix [nichts].

I've already spoken to her three times [left three messages] on her voicemail, but nothing.

Caption 37, Großstadtrevier - Von Monstern und Mördern

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If somebody told you they were "talking to your mailbox," you'd think maybe it's time they seek professional psychological help. But in German, die Mailbox is just your voicemail or answering machine. 

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Further Learning
Review an earlier Yabla newsletter about pseudo-anglicisms and look for more examples on Yabla German to see how these words are used in a real-world context.

Adjective Declensions: Definite Articles

It's sometimes not a bad idea to make sure some of that "old knowledge" is still accurate, so let's get back to basics: adjective declensions with definite articles. To make it as easy as possible, remember the following three rules for adjective endings:

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1. All adjectives in the singular nominative case end in -e, regardless of noun gender. Here is an example with the singular masculine nominative:

 

Der alte Minister ging in den Saal.

The old minister went into the hall.

Caption 37, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Des Kaisers neue Kleider

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2. All adjectives in the dative or genitive cases, as well as all adjectives in plural form, end in -en regardless of the noun's gender. Here is an example with the plural genitive: 

 

Der Kaufmann ließ es sich schmecken und verbrachte die Nacht in einem der schönen Schlafräume.

The Merchant enjoyed the meal and spent the night in one of the beautiful bedrooms.

Captions 25-26, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Die Schöne und das Biest

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3. This is the hard one: Adjectives for masculine nouns in the singular accusative case end in -en, but adjectives for feminine and neuter nouns in the singular accusative case end in -e. Here is an example with the single masculine accusative:

 

So gibt es hier die elektrische Gitarre für den abgebrühten [Umgangssprache] Rockstar.

Thus there is the electric guitar here for the jaded rock star.

Caption 2, Rhein-Main-TV aktuell - Musikmesse in Frankfurt

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If the noun above had been feminine (or neuter), it would have dropped the -n: ...für die abgebrühte Musikerin.

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Further Learning
There is a system for remembering adjective endings that many people find easy to remember called the Oklahoma — see if it works for you. (A special hat tip to Yabla subscriber Mike S. for that!) You can also search for some of your favorite adjectives on Yabla German and review the ways the adjectives end in the different cases with different noun genders.

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