Category Archives: Lutes



Name: Yueqin.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.6
Bayin: 絲 Silk.
Country: China.
Region: Far East Asia.


Description: The yueqin or yue qin [in Chinese: 月琴, in pinyin yuèqín] formerly romanized as yüeh-ch‘in, laqin or la-qin or [げっきん or in kanji 月琴 in romanji gekkin] ; The name derives from the characters [月 yue] meaning moon and [琴 qin] stringed instruments. It is a stringed instrument traditional to the Han Chinese. It is an important instrument in the Beijing opera orchestra, often taking the role of main melodic instrument in lieu of the bowed string section.

It is perhaps best known for its role in Beijing Opera music, but it is also an auxiliary instrument in several regional instrumental and opera ensembles both in northern and southern China. Prior to 1926, the yueqin was a prominent instrument in Cantonese instrumental ensembles. But it has since fallen out of its prominent position. It does not seem to be an instrument of choice in the conservatory and concert hall-based modern Chinese music movement.

The yueqin is historically relate to several Han Chinese lutes. The yueqin is historically related to several Han Chinese lutes, especially the qin qin, shuangqing and ruan. The qin qin has a long fretted neck, often only two or three strings, pitched about one octave lower than the yueqin and a scalloped or ‘plum blossom’ shaped resonating chamber about 90 cm in total length.

Construction: The yueqin is a composite lute that is made by joining together a flat circular resonator, a neck of a short length and a pegbox. Usually the yueqin has four strings whose courses are doubled. It is tuned if in fifths. Analogous to related instruments such as the qin qin. Both instruments share the feature of raised frets.

The circular hoop of wood that constitutes the sidewall of the resonator is slightly less than two inches deep and its soundboard and back are two thinly-shaven, glued-on wooden boards. Near the bottom of the soundboard there is a firmly attached string fastener that doubles as a bridge. The fretted fingerboard is only four inches or 10 cm in length and terminates with a wood nut. Usually nine raised bamboo frets are glued onto the neck.

The pegbox is carved from the same piece of wood as the neck. It has two large friction pegs penetrating it from each side. The pegbox is capped with a simple ornamental piece of wood. Nine frets are glued onto the fingerboard and the six frets on the soundboard. One end of each of the instrument’s four nylon [traditionally raw silk] strings is looped around a tuning peg, the other end is secured to the wooden bridge/string fastener on the soundboard.

Citations: Bibliography: Huang, Jinpei 2002 “Ensemble: Guangdong Yinyue.” In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v. 7. East Asia. ed. Robert C. Provine, Yosihiko Tokumaru, and J. Lawrence Witzleben. New York: Routledge, pp. 217-221 Liang, Mingyue 1985. Music of the Billion: An Introduction to Chinese Musical Culture. New York: Heinrichshofen ; Thrasher, Alan R. 2000 Chinese Musical Instruments. Oxford: Oxford University Press ; 1984. “Yueqin [yueh-ch’in].” NGDMI v.3: 887 ; Websites: Yueqin / Grinnell College Of Musical Instrument Collection ; Grove Music Online / Yueqin Article by Alan R. Thrasher ;

Yali Tanbur

Name: Yali Tanbur.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.6
Tuning: G / D – 5th Interval or 4th Interval apart from sympathetic strings.
Country: Turkey.
Region: Mediterranean & Middle East.

Description: The yaylı tambur is a bowed long-neck lute from Turkey. Derived from the older tanbur. It has a long, fretted neck and a round metal or wooden sound box which is often covered on the front with a skin or acrylic head similar to that of a banjo.

Playing Techniques: The instrument is held vertically, with the soundbox resting in the player’s lap or between the calves. The bow is grasped sideways, with the ring and middle fingers pressing on the bow. While the thumb and index fingers hold the rightmost wooden edge of the bow. The leftmost strings of the instrument unite into a single course to form a doubled-string which is tuned to a unison that is lifted slightly from the bridge. This is where all melodic playing takes place.

The rest are sympathetic strings numbering from 4 to 6 which are tuned to the octave, fifth and / or fourth of the main doubled-string. Dr. Ozan Yarman has proposed an alternate 24-tone tuning and fretting for the tanbur that he has applied to his own instrument, which replaces the Arel-Ezgi-Uzdilek tone-system in use for Turkish Art music while also relying on the same array of accustomed microtonal accidentals to notate.

Citations: Bibliography: The Republic of Love: Cultural Intimacy in Turkish Popular Music By Martin Stokes – University of Chicago Press. pp. 170. ISBN 978-0-226-77506-7. 9 – June 2012 ; Ozan Yarman – Arel-Ezgi-Uzdilek Sistemine Alternatif, 24-Sesli, Islah Edilmiş Ortaton Temperamanı Temelli Ve Basit Oranlı Bir Düzen [PDF] ; ARTES Yayınları. pp. 64–99. ISBN 978-605-5664-05-3, Retrieved 4 January 2013 ;


Name: Tanpura.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.5
Country: Many, India.
Region: South Asia.

Description: The tanpura [in Hindi: तानपुरा ; in Tamil தண்புற ; in Malayalam തൻപുര ; in Telugu ; తంపుర Tampura or tambura, tanpuri] it is a long-necked plucked string instrument found in various forms in Indian music.

The tanpura is used throughout numerous forms of Indian Music. The tampura provides a constant loop, a rich pallet of timbre and colour. This is a determinant factor in the resulting sound. The tanpura played unchangingly during the complete performance.

History: Tanpuras form the root of the ensemble and indeed of the music itself, as the tanpura creates an acoustic dynamic reference chord from which the ragas [melodic modes] derive their distinctive character, colour and flavour. Stephen Slawek notes that by the end of the 16th century, the tanpura had “fully developed in its modern form”, and was seen in the miniature paintings of the Mughals. Slawek further suggests that due to structural similarity the sitar and tanpura share a related history.

Sizes & Tunings: Tanpuras come in different sizes and pitches: larger “males”, smaller “females” for vocalists, and a yet smaller version is used for accompanying sitar or sarod, called tanpuri. These play at the octave so as not to drown out the soloist’s lower registers.

Tanpura Tunings
Role Sargam Tunings
Sarode Player Pa Sa Sa Sa G C C c
Sitarist Pa Sa Sa Sa G# C# C# c#
Ma Sa Sa Sa
Ni Sa Sa Sa
Saranghi Player Ma Pha Da pha D A d a
Bansuri Player E A e a
Saranghi Player F C F c
A D a d
Bb Eb Bb eb [flat]

The tanpura is tuned in accordance to the Vadi / Samvadi of the raga being performed. The sound of the tampura provides the backbone and colour of the raga. Male vocalists use the biggest instruments and pitch their tonic note [Sa], often at D / C♯ or lower. Some go down to B-flat. Female singers usually a fifth higher. Though these tonic notes may vary according to the preference of the singer. As there is no absolute and fixed pitch-reference in the Indian Classical music systems.

The standard tuning for the tanpura is 5 / 8 / 8 / 1 or in solfeggio So, Do’ Do’ Do or as expressed in Indian sargam Pa sa sa Sa. For ragas that omit the fifth tone, pa प panchama or G. The first string is tuned down to the natural fourth: 4 / 8 / 8 / 1 or Ma sa sa Sa. Some ragas require a less common tuning with shuddh or komal NI [7th major / minor], NI sa sa SA or 7 / 8 / 8 / 1 or even with the 6th, Dha sa sa Sa, major or minor. With a five-string instrument, the seventh or NI, a natural minor or major 7th can be added.

PA NI sa sa SA or 5 / 7 / 8 / 8 / 1 or MA NI sa sa SA or 4 / 7 / 8 / 8 / 1. Both minor and major 7th harmonics are clearly distinguishable in the harmonic texture of the overall sound. So when the Ni strings are tuned into these harmonics, the resultant sound will be perfectly harmonious. Usually the octave strings are in steel wire, and the tonic, 4th or 5th strings in brass or bronze wire. If a string will be tuned to the 6th or 7th, a steel string is advised instead.

Musicians who perform with the tanpura to provide a drone to accompany the lead instrument or vocals would often tune their tampura’s to a desired pitch. For example, a female singer may take her [sa] at F whereas another vocalist or musician may tune their tampura to A [pa]. A sitariyas or sitar players tune mostly around C♯, sarodiyas [Sarode players] around C.

Sarangiyas [saranghi players] vary more between D and F♯ and bansuriyas [bansuri players] mostly play from E. The tanpura is also tuned in accordance to the Vadi / Samvadi of the raga being performed. The sound of the tampura provides the backbone and colour of the raga.

Construction: The body shape of the tanpura somewhat resembles that of the sitar, but it has no frets – as the strings are always plucked at their full lengths. One or more tanpuras may be used to accompany vocalists or instrumentalists. It has four or five [rarely six] metal strings, which are plucked one after another in a regular pattern to create a harmonic resonance on the basic notes of a key. The male tanpura has an open string length of approximately one metre; the female is three-fourths of the male.

Varieties: The miraj style is favoured tanpura for Hindustani [North Indian Classical Music] performers. It is usually between three and five feet in length, with a carved, rounded resonator plate [tabli] and a long, hollow straight neck, in section resembling a rounded capital D. The round lower chamber to which the [tabli], the connecting heel-piece and the neck [dandh] are fixed is cut from a selected and dried gourd [tumba]. Wood used is either tun or teak; bridges are usually cut from one piece of bone.

Tanjore Style: This is a south Indian style of tambura, used widely by Carnatic performers. It has a somewhat different shape and style of decoration from that of the miraj although the miraj and tanjore tampura of the same size. Typically, no gourd is used, but the spherical part is gouged out of a solid block of wood. The neck is somewhat smaller in diameter. Jackfruit [Artocarpus heterophyllus] is used throughout; bridges are usually cut from one piece of rosewood. Often, two rosettes are drilled out and ornamented with inlay work.

Citations: Bibliography: On some Indian string instruments 1921 Sir C V Raman, FRS, M. A., D.Sc. [Hon], Palit Professor of Physics at the University of Calcutta, Nobel Prize, 1930 ; Beyond Swayambhu Gandhar: An analysis of perceived tanpura notes. Paritosh K. Pandya. Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai [date missing] ; Ashok Damodar Ranade, 1 January 1990 – Keywords and concepts: Hindustani classical music. Promilla. ISBN 978-81-85002-12-5.source for Sangit Parijat is Ahobal Pandit, translated by Kalind-Hatvas, Sangeet Karyalaya 1971 ; Wim van der Meer – Joep Bor: De roep van de Kokila, historische en hedendaagse aspekten van de Indiase muziek; Martinus Nijhoff, Gravenhage 1982, ISBN 90 247 9079 4 ; Hindustani Music, 13th to 20th centuries, editors: Joep Bor, Françoise Delvoye, Jane Harvey & Emmy te Nijenhuis; Codarts, Manohar 2010 ; Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy 1995. The Rāgs of North Indian Music: Their Structure and Evolution, Popular Prakashan. ISBN 978-81-7154-395-3 ;


Name: Tambura.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.6
Country: Bulgaria.
Region: Balkans & South Eastern Europe.

Description: The Bulgarian tambura has 8 steel strings in four doubled courses. All the courses are tuned in unison, with no octaves. It has a floating bridge and a metal tailpiece. The instrument body is often carved from a single block of wood and is therefore quite heavy.

Tambura Tunings
Names Tunings

Citations: Bibliography: Websites:


Name: Panduri.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.6.
Country: Georgia & Azerbaijan.
Region: Caucasus.

Description: The panduri [in Georgian: ფანდური] is a traditional Georgian three-string plucked instrument common in all regions of Eastern Georgia: such as Pshav-Khevsureti, Tusheti, Kakheti and Kartli. The panduri is generally used to accompany solo heroic, comic and love songs, as well as dance.

Varieties: The panduri is a three-stringed lute from the highland and lowland regions of eastern Georgia, usually played by strumming, and often for choral and rhythmic support of vocal melody. There are two kinds of panduri in Georgia: one is the traditional “folk” panduri, which typically has seven frets and more closely approximates the scale divisions in the non-Western Georgian scale system.

The second kind is the “chromatic” panduri, which has the same tonal divisions as a guitar and is capable of reproducing all the half-steps of the tempered Western scale. It is also sometimes found in Western Georgia [Upper Imereti and Racha]. The two-stringed panduri survives in Khevsureti. Sometimes the panduri is also mistakenly called a “chonguri” – but the chonguri is a completely different instrument which comes from western Georgia; it is fretless, and it has a fourth, half-length drone string.

A similar instrument is found in Chechnya, where it is known as: phandar, pondar, ponder, pandir, or pandur, or dechig pondur, adkhoku pondur or dakhch pandr or merz ponder.

Panduri Tunings
Names Tunings
G A C#
E B A#
A C# E
Two Stringed Pandur D C#


Name: Phandar.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 321.312.6
Country: Chechnya.
Region: Caucasus.

Description: The Phandar [in Chechen: Пхıандар] is a traditional Vainakhish three-string plucked instrument from Chechnya and Ingushetia in the Northern Caucasus. The sound produced by the Phandar, although it is similar to the panduri there is a distinction in their sounds.

Phandar Tunings
Three Stringed C D g’
Six Stringed cc cc gg’



Name: Lavta.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.6
Country: Greece, Turkey.
Region: South Europe, Asia Minor & Mediterranean.

Description: The lavta is a plucked string instrument from Istanbul Turkey. Known as a lavta [լավտա] in Armenian, also occasionally called Πολιτικό Λαούτο [politiko lauto] or [Lute from Constantinople] in Greek. The lavta was popular in the early 20th century; particularly among the Greek and Armenian communities of Istanbul, but also the Turkish community.

It was one of the many instruments played by noted Turk Tanburi Cemil Bey. It was gradually replaced by the oud and survived until this day. From the 1980s onward there has been a revival of interest in this instrument. The lavta is now available again in both Turkey and in Greece.

Lavta Tuning
Name Tuning
Bolahenk C G D A
  G D A E

Construction: The lavta is in the same family as the laouto and oud. It is constructed from a ribbed body much the same way as a laouto, bouzouki or saz. Utilizing the carvel bending technique to form the ribs that make up the body. The instrument has six doubled strings and a 7th single string arranged in the order of four doubled strings [a pair of two strings] and one single string.

Occasionally musicians may change the strings from nylon to metal to achieve different tonal characteristics of the same musical instrument when played. The frets are tied and are arranged to the quarter-tones present in the maqam system.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites:


Name: Bulgari.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.6
Country: Crete, Greece.
Region: South Europe.

Description: The bulgari or [in Greek: μπουλγαρ Bulgari] 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: Tamburica.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 321.312.6
Country: Croatia & Hungary.
Region: Balkans > South Eastern Europe.

Description: The tamburica or [in Serbo-Croatian & Macedonian Тамбурица tamburica] meaning “Little tamboura” ; in Hungarian: tambura; in Greek: Ταμπουράς, in Slovenian: tamburrizza] is a lute that is played in Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, North Macedonia and Hungary. Throughout the 19th century the tamburica became popular in Slavonia and Vojvodina.

Tamburica Tunings
Names Strings Family Tunings
Prim E 8 Strings Bisernica
Prim D 8 Strings Bisernica D F# A D
Prim G 8 Strings Bisernica G D A E
Bas-prim Brač G D A E
Čelović 4 Strings Čelović E A D G
Čelović 5 or 6 String Čelović D G C G
Bugarija Kontra G B D G
Bugarija Kontra D F# A D
Bugarija Kontra E G B E
Čelo / cselló Čelo / Cselló
Bas Berda / Begeš

History: The tamburica was introduced by the Ottoman Turks in the 14th century and 15th centuries. The oldest written documentation of the tamburica is dated to 1551. It was described in the travel documents written by N. Nicolaja, a French consul in Turkey. The ancestry of the tamburica can be traced back to the tambura – a lute from Mesopotamia.

There is little reliable data showing the migration pattern of the tambura as it entered Central Europe. It already existed during Byzantine Empire and the Greeks and Slavs used to call “pandouras” [see pandoura] or “tambouras” the ancestor of modern bouzouki. The instrument was referred to as θαμπούριν, thambourin in the Byzantine Empire [confer Digenis Akritas, Escorial version, vv. 826-827, ed. and translation by. Elizabeth Jeffrey].

Construction: The body of the tamburica is hollowed from from pear or oak. Sometimes the body may also be made from tortoise shells. Originally the neck and body would be carved from the same piece of wood. Recently the body is made from separate pieces of wood, neck, body and head stock.

The body is covered with a sound board which is usually smoked, fir or oak also called the hangover [tahta]. The upper part of the hardwood washer was not to be damaged by the hoof. Approximately sometimes 8 to 24 sound holes are drilled into the soundboard. A fingerboard with frets is installed near the finishing of the instrument. Machine gear tuners from four, six or eight strings are added depending on their role in the tamburica orchestra.

Citations: Bibliography: March, Richard The Tamburitza Tradition: From the Balkans to the American Midwest. University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 9780299296032 ; Elizabeth Jeffreys, John Haldon, Robin Cormack, The Oxford Handbook of Byzantine Studies, Oxford University Press, 2008, p. 928 Nikos Maliaras, Byzantina mousika organa, EPN 1023, ISBN 978-960-7554-44-4 ; Andrić, Josip: »Tambura«, in: Kovačević, K. [ur.], Music Encyclopedia , Zagreb : JLZ , 1977, vol. 3, p. 542-543, p. 544-545; Andrić, Josip: » Tamburksi Zbor [Orkestar] ; Websites: