Category Archives: Lutes


Saw Duang

Name: Saw Duang.
Type: Bowed > Saw > Spike Fiddle > Chordophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.313.7
Country: Thailand.
Region: South East Asia.

Description: The saw duang [in Thai: ซอด้วง, pronounced in IPA sɔː dûəŋ ; in RTGS: so duang] it is a two-stringed instrument used in traditional Thai music. The saw duang and its closest relatives were adopted from instruments of Chinese origin. Hence they resemble the Huqin family of musical instruments as played in China.

Playing Techniques: The sound is produced by the bow made from horsetail hair which goes between the strings made from silk. The bow has to be tilted to switch from one string to another. Saw duang is light and played vertically on the lap. It creates a bright tone unlike the Saw u which produces a mellow sound.

Citations: Bibliography: Yupho, Dhanit 1987 ; Thai Musical Instruments – Bangkok: Fine Arts Department ; Tunmanukun, Theerapan 2007. Production Methods of Saw Duang – Bangkok: Chulalongkorn University ; Websites:


Name: Gottan.
Type: Lute > Chordophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: Japan.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The gottan [in Japanese: ごったん gottan] also known as the hako [“box”] or ita [“board”]. It is a traditional Japanese three-stringed plucked instrument, that is found in Kagoshima prefecture and in other parts of southern Kyushu, namely such as Akira, Kokubu, Fukuyama, Keizaibu, Miyakonojo. It is also used the Satsuma region as a musical instrument of the common people. It is considered a relative or derivative of the sanshin as this instrument derived from the sanxian.

History: After being imported from China to Satsuma, it has achieved its own evolution in South Kyushu and has taken root as an accompaniment instrument of the Nembutsu religious beliefs, and has been transmitted to the present as a traditional instrument of South Kyushu.

Repertoire: The gottans musical repertoire is often light and cheerful, including many folk songs. Like the shamisen, it was used for door-to-door musical busking, known as kadozuke.

Citations: Bibliography: Henry Mabley Johnson 2010 – The Shamisen: Tradition and Diversity Brill The Shamisen: Tradition and Diversity. Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-18137-3. Experimental Musical Instruments. Experimental Musical Instruments. 1993. p. 35. Hugh De Ferranti ; The last biwa singer: a blind musician in history, imagination and performance. East Asia Program, Cornell University. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-933947-13-6 ;


Name: Danburo.
Type: Lute > Chordophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: Balochistan, Sindh Region Pakistan.
Region: South Asia.

Description: The danburo is a long necked lute that is found in Baluchistan and the Sind Regions of Pakistan. It has a full, pear-sharped wooden resonator with a flat sound table, joined to a long tapering neck with a small projecting ridge around the joint. Six copper-wire frets are bound around the neck, but only on the upper half of the neck, giving a range of a 5th from the open string.

Extra notes can be obtained from the open neck. Two or three steel strings, whose tuning pegs are inserted at the top of the neck. The strings are plucked with a wooden plectrum or pick called a [Janok]. The strings are held together by a pin at the bottom of the instruments body.

A smaller version, with a small resonator and long tail is also found, called kamāc, the damburo is played in accompaniment to a sorud a heavy double-chested fiddle related to the Nepalese Sarinda. It is accompanied by a jaw-harp, the cang.

Citations: Bibliography: N. A. Baloch: Musical Instruments of the Lower Indus Valley of Sind [Hyderabad, India 1966] ; J. Jenkins and P.R. Olsen; Music and Musical Instruments in the world of Islam [London, 1976], Stanley Sadie – Alastair Dick – Stanley Sadie New Grove Dictionary of Music, Page 541 Dang ;

Viola Braguesa

Name: Viola Braguesa.
Type: Lutes > Chordophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Tuning: C / G / A / D / G
Country: Portugal.
Region: Iberian Peninsula > Western Europe.

Description: Viola braguesa is a stringed instrument from Braga, north-western Portugal. According to Veiga de Oliveira the violas can be grouped into two large groups according to the shape of the box: the group of violas of enfranque accented in the interior lands, and the group of violas of smaller size, with the box with the shape of an “8”, but with narrower proportions than the guitar.

Although, in modern times the viola’s with proportions are nowadays similar to the guitar. Some of these viola [guitars] are in extinction, but others continue to enjoy great popularity, although they are attached to the interpretation of popular music.

From Portugal, these instruments were taken to Brazil where they became the viola caipira or viola sertaneja. The word Viola to denote guitars is wide spread in Portugal so these types of viola are often called “10-String Violas”.

Tuning: It has 10 strings arranged in 5 courses Cc Gg Aa Dd Gg. The scale length is about 500 mm (20 inches).

Requinta: Many Portuguese violas (pt), such as the Viola braguesa, have smaller requinto versions also, called ‘requinta’. The viola braguesa requinta is tuned or A / C / F / c# / E This tuning is a fifth above the standard Viola braguesa.

Citations: Popular Portuguese Musical Instruments – Oliveira, Ernesto Veiga de; Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation: Lisbon, 1982 ; Musical Instruments in Cape Verde – Brito, Margarida, Centro Cultural Português: Praia – Mindelo 1998 ;

Viola Da Terra

Name: Viola Da Terra.
Type: Lutes > Chordophones.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: Azores, Portugal.
Region: Iberian Peninsula & Atlantic Ocean.

Description: The Viola da terra [guitar of the land] it is also known by other alternate names as Viola de arame [The wire of viola] and or Viola de dois corações [Viola of Two Hearts]. It is a stringed musical instrument from the Portuguese islands of the Azores. It is believed the Viola da Terra had emerged in the Azores at the second half of the 15th century.

It was introduced by the first settlers who migrated to Azores. During this time the Viola Da Terra would have been different from the current model. The viola da terra is used in performing folk music, dances and derricos or desgarradas, desafios, despiques [singing battles]. In recent times a revival of the Viola Da Terra has taken place.

Vola Da Terra Tunings:
Names Tunings
A / D / G / B / E
A / D / G / B / D

Construction: The scale length is about 540 mm [about 21.3 inches] that is shorter than the modern classical guitar scale of about 655mm [about 25.8 inches]. Up to 22-24 metal frets are set into the fingerboard. One unusual distinguishing feature of the viola da terra is that the portion of the fingerboard which passes over the instrument’s body is set flush with the top face of the soundboard.

Another unique feature is the use of a pair heart-shaped sound holes, although the instrument is occasionally made with a single round sound hole. The instrument is much lighter in construction than the classical guitar, using thinner tone woods, which supports a considerable volume of sound, despite the instrument’s small size and light strings. There is also a smaller version about three-quarter size called a Requinto.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites:  Pieter Adriaans / Viola Da Terra [article] ;


Name: Dilruba.
Type: Bowed > Fretted > Chordophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.7
Country: India.
Region: South Asia.

Description: The dilruba is a relatively young instrument. Having a history of only 300 years. It is found in North India primarily in the Punjab. It is played in Sikh religious music and Hindustani classical music and also played in West Bengal. By the 1980s this instrument was nearly extinct. However with the rising influence of the “Gurmat Sangeet” movement, the instrument has been attracting attention.

The dilruba is played with the bow but has a neck with moveable tied frets. Animal hide is stretched over the body to complete the resonance chamber. The bridge rests over the top of the goat skin membrane. Having 12–15 sympathetic strings underneath the playing strings. Machine gear tuners are installed to the right side of the instrument.

Playing Techniques: The instrument can be rested between the knees while the player kneels. Or more commonly rested on the knee of the player while sitting. Or also on the floor just in front of the player, with the neck leaning on the left shoulder. It is played with a bow [also called a “gaz”] while the  fingering performed is done with the left hand. The player may slide the note up or down to achieve the meend [glissando].

Citations: Bibliography: Dutta, Madhumita 2008 Let’s Know Music and Musical Instruments of India. Star Publications. pp. 22–23. ISBN 978-1-905863-29-7 ;


Name: Qobuz.
Type: Bowed > Double-Chested > Chordophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.7
Country: Kazakhstan & Turkestan [Xinjiang China].
Region: Central Asia.

Description: The Qobuz [in Kazakh Cyrillic: қобыз] or qıl-qobız. The origins of this instrument are ancient. Traditionally they [Qobuz] were sacred instruments, owned by shamans and bakses (traditional spiritual medics). According to legends, the qobuz and its music could banish evil spirits, sicknesses and death.

Development: In the Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan, during the 1930’s. Development of the Qopuz occurred in a form some what resembling a violin. In construction, appearance range and tuning. Four metal strings were added.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: Kurmangazy Khazakh State Academic Orchestra [archived website] ;


Name: Balalaika.
Type: Lute > Chordophone.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Specimen: 1 in collection.
Acquisition Date: Circa 1996.
Acquisition Source: Lark In The Morning, USA.

Description: The balalaika [in Russian: балала́йка, pronounced] it is a Russian stringed musical instrument. The instrument generally has a short sustain, necessitating rapid strumming or plucking when it is used to play melodies. Balalaikas are often used for Russian folk music and dancing.

Etymology: The earliest mention of the term balalaika dates back to a 1688 Russian document. The term “balabaika” was used in Ukrainian language document from 18th century. According to one theory, the term was loaned to Russian, where – in literary language – it first appeared in “Elysei”, a 1771 poem by V. Maykov.

The Balalaika family: The balalaika family of instruments includes instruments of various sizes. Starting from the highest-pitched piccolo balalaika, prima balalaika, secunda balalaika. On the midrange to bass side of the family we have the bass balalaika and contrabass balalaika. There are balalaika orchestras which consist solely of different balalaikas; these ensembles typically play Classical music that has been arranged for balalaikas. The prima balalaika is the most common; the piccolo is rare. There have also been descant and tenor balalaikas, but these are considered obsolete.

Prima Balalaika: The piccolo [now quite rare] prima balalaika, secunda and alto are played either with the fingers or a plectrum pick, depending on the music being played, and the bass and contrabass equipped with extension legs that rest on the floor are played with leather plectra.

Construction: All have three-sided bodies; spruce, evergreen, or fir tops; and backs made of three to nine wooden sections usually maple. They are typically strung with three strings, and the necks are fretted.

Citations: Bibliography: верин, В. А. Балалаечное исполнительство в Сибири: Опыт монографического исследования. Енисейский летописец 2013. pp. 31-33 ; Шанский Н. М., Иванов В. В., Шанская Т. В. Скоморох // Краткий этимологический словарь русского языка. Пособие для учителя / Под ред. чл.-кор. АН СССР С. Г. Бархударова. — М.: Просвещение, 1971. p. 412 ; Прохоров, А. М., ed. Большая Советская Энциклопедия. 3rd ed. Vol. 2. Москва: Советская Энциклопедия, 1970. pp. 16-17 ; Ekkel, Bibs; The Complete Balalaika Book; Mel Bay Publications; Pacific, Missouri: 1997. pg. 90–92. ISBN 0-7866-2475-2


Name: Topshur.
Type: Lute > Chordophone.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: Western Mongolia, Altai & Tuva in Russian Federation.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The topshur [топшур] is a two-stringed lute played by the Western Mongolian tribes called the Altai Urianghais, the Altais, and the Tuvans.

The music played on the topshur is closely tied to the folklore of Western Mongolian people and accompanied the performances of storytellers, singing, and dancing. According to descriptions given by Marco Polo, the Mongols also played the instrument before going into battle.

Citations: Bibliography: Krader, Lawrence 1996 “Altaian” Encyclopedia of World Cultures Macmillan Reference USA ; Pegg, Carole 2014. “Inner Asia”. Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press ; Pegg, Carole 2014 “Topshuur”. Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press ;


Name: Thaboura.
Type: Lute > Chordophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: Greece.
Region: South Eastern Europe & Mediterranean.

Description: The thaboura [in Greek: θαμπούρα] It is also known as Thabouri [“θαμπούρι”], Thavouri [“θαβούρι”] and Thavoura [“θαβούρα”]. A type of string instrument, it evolved from the Greek musical instrument tambouras. It is bigger than tambouras and it has 3 strings or 3 pairs of strings. The thaboura’s history stretches back to the Byzantine culture and originated in the medieval Greece times.

Citations: Websites : Rebet Cafe [in Greek / Translated to English through Google Translate]

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