A Japanese musical instrument, the koto is a long zither with movable bridges and usually 13 strings. It lies on the ground or a low table, and the strings are plucked by picks worn on the fingers of the right hand while the left hand alters the pitch or ornaments the sound of individual strings by pressing or manipulating them. It is played solo, in chamber ensembles, especially with the shakuhachi (a bamboo flute) and the samisen (a three-stringed instrument resembling a banjo), and in gagaku music, the traditional court and religious music of Japan. The koto is Japan's national instrument.
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