Category Archives: Lutes


Guitarra Leona

Name: Guitarra Leona.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Guitarillos > Bajo.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: Veracruz, Mexico.
Region: Central America.

Description: The Guitarra Leona [lioness] also goes by other names, bumburona, bombona, vozarrona, big guitar. It is a large-sized four stringed flat-backed composite lute that plays the role of bass in Son Jarocho. Slightly smaller in size to the guitarrone as played in Mariachi. It is struck with a plectrum that is usually a piece of bone or carved bull-horn.

Citations: Bibliography: Cultural Atlas of Mexico. Music . Mexico: Grupo Editorial Planeta. 1988. ISBN 968-406-121-8 ;

Baroque Guitar

Name: Baroque Guitar.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Period: 1600-1750.
Country: Many.
Region: Western Europe & Europe.

Description: The Baroque guitar [c. 1600–1750] is a string instrument with five courses of gut strings and moveable gut frets. The Baroque guitar replaced the Renaissance lute as the most common instrument found in the home.

The earliest attestation of a five-stringed guitar comes from the mid-sixteenth-century Spanish book Declaracion de Instrumentos Musicales by Juan Bermudo, published in 1555.

History: The first treatise published for the Baroque guitar was Guitarra Española de Cinco Ordenes. The Five-course Spanish Guitar c. 1590 by Juan Carlos Amat. The baroque guitar in contemporary ensembles took on the role of a basso continuo instrument and players would be expected to improvise a chordal accompaniment. Intimately tied to the development of the Baroque guitar is the alfabeto system of notation.

Tunings: Three different ways of tuning the guitar are well documented in seventeenth-century sources as set out in the following table. This includes the names of composers who are associated with each method. Very few sources seem to clearly indicate that one method of stringing rather than another should be used and it is often argued that it may have been up to the player to decide what was appropriate. The issue is highly contentious and different theories have been put forward.

Boroque Guitar Tunings
Ferdinando Valdambrini [Italy, 1646 / 7] A / D / G / B / E
Gaspar Sanz [Spain, 1674] A / D / G / B / E
Antoine Carre [France, 1671] D / G / B / E
Robert de Visée [France, 1682] D / G / B / E
Girolamo Montesardo [Italy, 1606] D / G / B / E
Benedetto Sanseverino [Italy, 1620] D / G / B / E
Giovanni Paolo Foscarini [Italy, 1640] D / G / B / E
Francisco Guerau [Spain, 1694] D / G / B / E

Citations: Bibliography: Harvey Turnbull, The Guitar – From The Renaissance to the Present Day 3rd, impression 1978 London: Batsford [ISBN 0 7134 3251 9] p. 15: Chapter 1 – The Development of the Instrument. Lex Eisenhardt, Bourdons as Usual – In The Lute: The Journal of the Lute Society, vol. XLVII 2007;


Name: Gittern.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: Many.
Region: Western Europe.

Description: The gittern was a relatively small gut stringed bowl-backed instrument. It first appeared in literature and pectoral representation during the 13th century in Western Europe; in which this includes Iberian Peninsula, Italy, France and England. The name of this instrument changed by way in language based on where the gittern was played.

It was also called the guiterna in Spain, guiterne or guiterre in France, the chitarra in Italy and quintern in Germany. A popular instrument with court musicians, minstrels, and amateurs, the gittern is considered ancestral to the modern guitar other instruments like the mandore, bandurria and gallichon.

Etymology: The gittern had faded so completely from memory in England. Identifying the instrument proved problematic for 20th century early music scholarship. It was assumed the ancestry of the modern guitar was only to be discovered through the study of flat-backed instruments. As a consequence, what is now believed to be the only known surviving medieval citole was until recently labelled a gittern.

In 1977, Lawrence Wright published his article The Medieval Gittern and Citole: A Case of Mistaken Identity. in issue 30 of the Galpin Society Journal; with detailed references to primary historical source material revealing the gittern as a round-backed instrument – and the so-called ‘Warwick Castle gittern’ [a flat-backed instrument] as originally a citole.

Wright’s research also corresponded with observations about the origins of the flat-backed guitarra made by the 16th century Spanish musicologist Juan Bermudo. With this theoretical approach it became possible for scholars to untangle previously confusing and contradictory nomenclature. Because of the complex nature of the subject, the list and links below should assist in further reading.

History: From the early 16th century, a vihuela shaped and flat-backed guitarra began to appear in Spain and then later in France in coexistence with the gittern. Although the round-backed instrument appears to have lost ground to the new from which gradually developed into the guitar familiar today, the influence of the earlier style continued.

Examples of lutes converted into guitars exist in several museums, while purpose-built instruments like the gallichon utilized the tuning and single string configuration of the modern guitar. A tradition of building round-backed guitars in Germany continued to the 20th century with names like gittar-laute and Wandervogellaute.

Up until 2002, there were only two known surviving medieval gitterns, one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the other in the Wartburg Castle Museum. A third was discovered in a medieval outhouse in Elbląg, Poland.

Construction: The back, neck and pegbox were likely carved from a single piece of timber. Occurring less rarely in the 15th century. The body was formed around system of tapered ribs. Unlike the sharp corner joining the body to the neck seen in the lute, the gittern’s body and neck either joined in a smooth curve or straight line. The sickle, or occasional gentle arc pegbox, made an angle with the neck of between 30-90 degrees. Unlike the lute, most pegboxes on gitterns ended in a carving of a human or animal head.

Most gitterns were depicted as having three courses [total of six pared strings] or more commonly four courses [total of eight pared strings]. There are also references to some five course gitterns in the 16th century. Although there is not much direct information concerning gittern tuning, the later versions were quite possibly tuned in fourths and fifths like the mandore a few decades later.

Frets were represented in a few depictions mainly Italian and German, although apparently absent in most French, Spanish and English depictions. The gittern’s sound hole was covered with a rosette, a delicate wood carving or parchment cutting, similar to the lute.

Citations: Bibliography: The Encyclopedia of Music. New York: Hermes House, 2002 P. 118 ;  The Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments [2nd Edition] “Quinterne [quintern]” ; Tyler, James [January 1981]. “The Mandore in the 16th and 17th Centuries” [PDF]. Early Music. 9 ; Meucci, Renato. “Da ‘chitarra italiana’ a ‘chitarrone’: una nuova interpretazione”. Enrico Radesca da Foggia e il suo tempo: Atti del Convegno di studi, Foggia, 7-8 Aprile 2000. pp. 30–57. ISBN 978-887096347-2 ; Tyler, James; Sparks, Paul [1992]. The Early Mandolin. Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. 1–7. ISBN 0-19-816302-9 ;


Name: Qanbus.
Type: Cordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Tuning: G / B / D / A / E
Country: Yemen, Malaysia.
Region: Middle East, Africa & South East Asia.

Description: A qanbūs or gambus [in Arabic: قنبوس‎ qanbūs] is a short-necked lute that originated in Yemen and spread throughout the Arabian peninsula. Sachs considered that it derived its name from the Turkic khomuz, but it is more comparable to the oud.

Distribution: The qanbūs spread through out the Middle East, on route to South East Asia by trade routes on the Indian Ocean. Southeast Asia especially Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei where it is called the gambus, it sparked a whole musical genre of its own.

Today it is played in Johor, South Malaysia, in the traditional dance Zapin and other genres, such as the Malay ghazal and an ensemble known as kumpulan gambus “gambus group”. Kumpulan gambus can also be found active in Sabah, especially in the Bongawan district of East Malaysian Borneo. In the Comoros it is known as gabusi and in Zanzibar as gabbus.

Citations: Bibliography: Stanley Sadie ~ New Grove Dictionary of Music – Page 9, Gambus by Margret J. Kartomi ;


Name: Bulgari.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: Crete, Greece.
Region: South Europe.

Description: The bulgari or [in Greek: μπουλγαρ] is a string instrument that originates from Turkey, especially from Anatolia among the Oghuz Turks living in the Taurus Mountains, similar to the bağlama and the çağür. The Bulgari belongs to the family of tambûr [long necked lutes] an instrument class that started in early Mesopotamia, which started to spread in the Ottoman Empire approximately around 14th-century.

The French musicologist William André Villoteau mentioned in his journal an instrument with two strings existing in Cairo called the tanbour boulghari or bulgarie. The bulgari proceeded to implant itself into Greek culture through Crete when refugees came from Anatolia in 1920, although a type of bulgari seems to have existed in the 19th-century among Christian and Muslim populations.

Citations: Bibliography: Laurence Picken, Folk musical instruments of Turkey, Oxford University Press, 1975, p. 276-278 Observation reported by Turkish professor Ali Raza Yalgin, in his work from 1940 ; “Stefanakis Antonis – Zaros, Crete”. Mid-East Saz Owners Manual Villoteau, William 1807 ; Recherches sur l’analogie de la musique avec les arts qui ont pour objet l’imitation du langage – Librairie Imperial ; Facaros, Dana 2003 Crete. New Holland Publishers. p. 61 ;


Name: Arbajo.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Country: Nepal.
Region: South Asia.

Description: The arbajo is a type of Nepali plucked lute, long-necked and four stringed, now described as largely extinct and superseded by the smaller sarinda bowed Nepali sarangi. Some of the few musicians still playing the arbajo are of the Gaine caste, in Lamjung District and Kaski District of western Nepal.

Citations: Bibliography: Carol Tingey [December 1994] Auspicious music in a changing society: the Dāmai musicians of Nepal. Heritage Publishers ISBN 978-81-7026-193-3 – Retrieved 24 March 2012.. …ancestry are not confined to the damai, but are prevalent in the folklore of other Indo-Nepalese occupational castes. Always accompanied by the cow’s hoof, which became the (now extinct) plucked lute arbajo [Helffer 1977:51] ;


Name: Saranghi.
Type: Chordophones > Waisted > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.7
Country: India, Pakistan, Nepal & Bangladesh.
Region: South Asia.

Description: The saranghi [in Punjabi: ਸਾਰੰਗੀ Gurmukhi; Nepali: सारङ्गी; Hindi: सारंगी; Urdu: سارنگی] is a bowed, short-necked string instrument from the Indian subcontinent, which is used in Punjabi dhadi music and Hindustani classical music. It is said to most resemble the sound of the human voice – able to imitate vocal ornaments such as gamaks [shakes] and meends. Meends are apart of a series of playing techniques and theory that denote sliding movements in equivalent to a glissando.

Some musicians hold to the view, the sarangi is a combination of two words, “seh” being the Persian equivalent to the number three and “rangi” in Persian meaning “coloured”. The two words became one word in time denoting the name of the instrument. The etymology is that the sarangi is derived from “sol rang” [a hundred colours” indicating its versatility to play numerous different styles of vocal music and its ability to produce a large palette of tonal colour and emotional nuance.

Playing Techniques: The saranghi is played with a bow that is tied with heavy horse hair. Unlike a cello the the saranghi player where the finger presses directly onto the finger board. The saranghi player utilizes his fingernail. His fingernail is vertically parallel to the playing inline with the cuticle. Talcum powder is applied to the fingers as a lubricant. The neck has ivory or bone platforms on which the fingers slide.

Construction: The saranghi is hand carved from a single block of tun [Red Cedar or Toona ciliata] wood, the saranghi has a box-like shape with three hollow chambers: pet the [stomach], chaati [chest] and magaj [brain]. It is usually around 0.61 m or 2 feet long and around 150 mm or 6 inches wide. There are smaller and larger sizes and dimensions of body

The lower resonance chamber or pet is covered with a membrane that is from a parchment of goat-skin. The membrane is held into place a by a cut piece of thick leather nailed, that is nailed onto the back of the chamber. This assembly supports the distribution load of the elephant-shaped bridge that is made of camel or buffalo bone, it is no longer made with ivory Barasingha bone, as it is banned in India. The bridge in turn supports the huge pressure of approximately 35-37 sympathetic steel or brass strings. The three playing strings are made of animal gut.

The remaining strings are resonance strings [tarabs], numbering up to around 35–37, divided into 4 choirs having two sets of pegs, one on the right and one on the top. On the inside is a chromatically tuned row of 15 tarabs and on the right a diatonic row of 9 tarabs each encompassing a full octave, plus 1–3 extra surrounding notes above or below the octave. Both these sets of tarabs pass from the main bridge to the right side set of pegs through small holes in the chaati supported by hollow ivory/bone beads.

Between these inner tarabs and on either side of the main playing strings lie two more sets of longer tarabs, with 5–6 strings on the right set and 6–7 strings on the left set. They pass from the main bridge over to two small, flat, wide, table-like bridges through the additional bridge towards the second peg set on top of the instrument.

These are tuned to the important tones [swaras] of the raga. A properly tuned sarangi will hum and cry and will sound like melodious meowing, with tones played on any of the main strings eliciting echo-like resonances. A few sarangis use strings manufactured from the intestines of goats.

Citations: Bibliography: Bor, Joep, 1987: “The Voice of the Sarangi”, comprising National Centre for the Performing Arts Quarterly Journal 15 [3–4], December 1986 and March 1987 [special combined issue], Bombay: NCPA Magriel, Nicolas, 1991 Sarangi Style in North Indian Music (unpublished Ph.D. thesis), London: University of London Qureshi, Regula Burckhardt, 1997: “The Indian Sarangi: Sound of Affect, Site of Contest”, Yearbook for Traditional Music, pp. 1–38 orrell, Neil with Ram Narayan, 1980: Indian Music in Performance, Bolton: Manchester University Press ;


Name: Erhu.
Type: Chordophones > Fiddles > Huqins > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.313.7
Bayin: 絲 Silk.
Tuning: D4-A7
Country: China.
Region: Far East Asia.
Specimens: 1 in collection.
Manufacturer: Original manufacturer based in Shanghai, China.
Acquisition Source: Ian MacKenzie, Singapore.

Description: The erhu [in Chinese: 二胡; pinyin: èrhú; IPA ɑɻ˥˩xu˧˥] is a two-stringed bowed musical instrument. Classified as a spike fiddle, in which it may also be called a “southern fiddle”. The erhu is played as a solo instrument, it is also played in small ensembles and large orchestras.

It is the most popular of the huqin family of traditional bowed string instruments used by various ethnic groups of China. A very versatile instrument, the erhu is used in both traditional and contemporary music arrangements, such as in pop, rock and jazz.

History: The erhu has its origins from an ancient instrument called the xiqin [奚 琴]. The xiqin is believed to have originated from the Xi people of Central Asia, and have come to China in the 10th century. The first Chinese character of the name of the instrument [二, èr, two].

Playing Techniques: The characteristic sound of the erhu is produced by the vibration of the python skin by bowing. The sound is transmitted from bow when coming into contact by friction from bow to string. The player stops the strings by pressing their fingertips onto the strings without the strings touching the neck. The strings are placed very close together so they can come into contact on either string to produce sound during performance.

Tuning: The inside string [nearest to player] is generally tuned to D4 and the outside string to A4, a fifth higher. The maximum range of the instrument is three and a half octaves, from D4 up to A7, before a stopping finger reaches the part of the string in contact with the bow hair. The usual playing range is about two and a half octaves.

Construction: The Erhu consists of a long vertical neck. At the top of the instrument in place of tuners, there are two large wooden tuning pegs. A small resonator, body (or sound box) is covered with python skin over the front creating the entire body. Two strings are attached from the pegs to the base, and a small loop of string (Qian Jin) placed around the neck and strings acting as a nut pulls the strings towards the skin, holding a small wooden bridge in place.

Citations: Bibliography: Stock, Jonathan. “A Historical Account of the Chinese Two-Stringed Fiddle Erhu.” Galpin Society Journal, v. 46 [March 1993], p 85 ; Stock, Jonathan. “A Historical Account of the Chinese Two-Stringed Fiddle Erhu.” Galpin Society Journal, v. 46 [March 1993], p 103 ;

Dàn Gao

Name: Dàn Gao.
Type: Chordophones > Spike > Fiddle > Dàn.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.311.7
Country: Vietnam.
Region: South East Asia.

Description: A Vietnamese two-stringed fiddle having a resonator made of a coconut shell. It is similar to the Tro U, Laotian So u and Dan Ho. It is apart of the traditional Vietnamese orchestra. Originating from South Vietnam, it is used in secular entertainment content. It can be played alone, as part of an orchestra, or to accompany cải lương [Vietnamese folk opera].

Construction: The resonator of the dan-gao is the coconut shell covered by leather. The neck extends from the coconut shell with out frets. The head of the neck bends back and offers tuning two wooden tuning pegs. There are only two strings for this instrument. Silk is traditionally used although today metal is common. The bow is usually made from bamboo.

Citations: Bibliography: Terry E. Miller, Sean Williams The Garland handbook of Southeast Asian music Routledge 2008 Page 263 ; Stanley Sadie – New Grove Dictionary of Music Page 542 Dangali ;

Saw Duang

Name: Saw Duang.
Type: Chordophones > Spike > Fiddles > Bowed.
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 :