Category Archives: Tube



Name: Valiha.
Type: Chordophones > Zithers > Tube > Idiochords.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 312.11
Country: Madagascar.
Region: Indian Ocean.

Description: The valiha is a tube zither from Madagascar made from a species of local bamboo [valiha diffusa]. It is considered the “national instrument” of Madagascar. Aside from secular music, the valiha is also used for ritual music to summon spirits

Etymology: The name ‘valiha’ is also used to describe a number of related zithers of differing shapes and materials.

Tunings: Generally the valiha is tuned in a diatonic scale. The tuning and scale are dependant on the length of the tube used for the valiha. My instrument is tuned to D so the scale comes out as a D major diatonic D / E / F# / G / A / B / C# / D.

Construction: The valiha generally has 21-24 strings. Prior to the use of bicycle brake wire or other similar metal for strings. The strings from the valiha were carved from the same piece of bamboo the instrument is made from.  They cannot be replaced if they are broken. Small bridges cut from gourd raise the strings at a particular height from tube to string. Today valiha’s are strung with guitar and piano strings of the correct tension and diameter may also be used.

Citations: Bibliography: Bruno Nettl 1985 – The Western impact on world – change, adaptation, and survival. Schirmer Books. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-02-870860-7 ; Garland Encyclopedia of World Music ; The Concise Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. Routledge. pp. 123–. ISBN 978-1-136-09570-2 ; Hans Austnaberg 2008 – Shepherds and Demons: A Study of Exorcism as Practised and Understood by Shepherds in the Malagasy Lutheran Church. Peter Lang. pp. 158– ISBN 978-0-8204-9717-4. Elijah Wald 2007. Global Minstrels: Voices of World Music. Taylor & Francis. pp. 62–. ISBN 978-0-415-97930-6 ; Dominique Louppe 2008 – Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: Timbers / ed.: D. Louppe ; A. A. Oteng-Amoako. General ed.: R. H. M. J. Lemmens …. 7. 1. PROTA. pp. 573 – ISBN 978-90-5782-209-4 ; American Lutherie: The Quarterly Journal of the Guild of American Luthiers. The Guild. 1993. p. 22 ;


Name: Sasando.
Type: Chordophones > Zithers > Tube > Idiochords.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 312.11
Country: Rote Island, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.
Region: South East Asia.

Description: The sasando, also called sasandu; from sandu or sanu is a tube zither. It is a stringed instrument played in Rote Island of East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia.

Legend: According to local tradition, the origin of the sasando is linked to the folktale of the Rote people about Sangguana. The story goes that there once was a boy named Sangguana who lived on Rote Island. One day, as he tended to savannah, he felt tired and fell asleep under a palmyra tree.

Sangguana dreamt that he played beautiful music with a unique instrument whose sound and the melody was so enchanting. When he woke up, surprisingly, Sangguana could still remember the tones he played in the dream.

Wanting to hear it one more time, he tried to fall asleep again. Again he dreamt of the same song and the same instrument. Sangguana was enjoying his dream, but eventually he had to wake up. Not wanting to lose the beautiful sounds from his dream, Sangguana tried to recreate the sounds and quickly created a musical instrument from palmyra leaves with the strings in the middle, based on his memory from the dream, which became the basis of the sasando.

Construction: The main component of the sasando is the bamboo tube. This tube serves not only as the frame of the entire instrument. But also as an acoustic body. Surrounding the tube are several wooden pieces serving as wedges where the strings are stretched from the top to the bottom. The function of the wedges is to hold the strings higher than the tube surface as well as to produce various length of strings to create different musical notes.

The stringed bamboo tube is surrounded by a bag-like fan of dried lontar or palmyra leaves [Borassus flabellifer], which functions as the resonator of the instrument. The sasando is played with both hands reaching into the stings of the bamboo tube through opening on the front. The player’s fingers then pluck the strings in a fashion similar to playing a harp or kacapi. The sasando can have 28 [sasando engkel] or 56 strings [double strings].



Name: Lutong.
Type: Chordophones > Zithers > Tube > Idiochords.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 312.11
Country: Sarawak Borneo, Malaysia.
Region: South East Asia.

Description: The lutong is a tube zither that is played by the Kenyah and Kayan people of Sarawak, Malaysia on the island of Borneo. It is a quiet instrument used by women to accompany singing, and occasionally to lead a long-dance. There is a story told by the locals that if a man plays this instrument, he will be attacked by a tiger.

Construction: The lutong is made from a section of bamboo with the strings pulled up from the peel. The strings are stretched taut by small sticks, and held in place by a braided piece of rattan at either end. There are usually only four strings that extend the length of the tube.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: Randy Raine-Reusch @ [lutong article] ;


Name: Dungadung.
Type: Chordophones > Zither > Tube > Idiochords.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 312.11
Country: Kalinga Province, Luzon, Philippines.
Region: South East Asia.

Description: The Dungadung is a tube zither whose alternate names are regional [Southern Philippines, tagakaolo, katimbok, kudling, serongagandi, tabobok or takumbo] that is played by the Kalinga people who in Kalinga Province, Luzon in the Northern Philippines.

In the southern Philippines it is known as a tagakaolo or as a katimbok or by the Hanunoo as a kudling. The Isneg people refer to the tube zither as a pasing and the Negrito people refer to it as a tabengbeng. The Maranao people refer to the instrument as a serongagandi.

Playing Techniques: It is played by striking the strings with a stick in the manner of a percussion instrument.

Citations: Bibliography: New Grove Dictionary of Music by Stanley Sadie, José Maceda P.  636 : Websites:

Dan Tranh

Name: Dan Tranh.
Type: Chordophones > Zithers > Heterochords > Tube > Half.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Specimen: 1 in collection.
Country: Vietnam.
Region: Far East Asia.
Acquisition Source: Randy Raine-Reusch, Vancouver.

Description: The đàn tranh [in Vietnamese pronunciation; ɗâːn tʂaɲ 彈箏] or đàn thập lục is a plucked zither of Vietnam, similar to the Chinese guzheng, the Japanese koto, the Korean gayageum and the Mongolia yatga.

It has a long soundbox with the steel strings, movable bridges and tuning pegs positioned on its top. The đàn tranh can be used either as a solo instrument, as part of various instrumental ensembles or to accompany vocal performances.

History: In the late 13th and early 14th centuries, the đàn tranh had 14 strings. Between the late 15th and the 18th centuries, the number of strings of the đàn tranh increased to fifteen and the instrument was called thập ngũ huyền cầm. In the 19th centuries, the đàn tranh with 16 strings appeared and had become the standard version until the late 1970s and early 1980s.


Dan Bau

Name: Dàn Bầu.
Type: Chordophones > Zithers > Long > Fretless.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Country: Vietnam.
Region: South East Asia.
Specimens: 1 in collection.
Acquisition Source: Randy Raine-Reusch, Vietnam.

Description: The đàn bầu [Vietnamese: [ɗâːn ɓə̂w]; “gourd lute”; 彈匏] also đàn độc huyền [or độc huyền cầm 獨絃琴] is a Vietnamese stringed instrument, in the form of a monochord (one-string) zither. Although there are versions played in Guangxi province in southern China. The dan-bau is played almost exclusively in harmonics, which suggests a relationship to the Thai Phin Pya and Kampuchean Khse Diev.

History: While the earliest written records of the dan-bau date its origin to 1770, scholars estimate its age to be up to one thousand years older than that. A popular legend of its beginning tells of a blind woman playing it in the market to earn a living for her family while her husband was at war.

Historically the dan-bay has been played by blind-musicians. The dan-bau is a quiet instrument when played with out the pickup. However in the middle 20th century an electric-version of the dan-bau is now the norm. Acoustic Dan-Bau are now quite rare.

Playing Technique: The dan-bau technique appears relatively simple at first glance, but actually requires a great deal of precision. The fifth finger of the musician’s right hand rests lightly on the string at one of seven commonly used nodes, while the thumb and index finger pluck the string using a long plectrum.

With the left hand, the player pushes the flexible rod toward the instrument with the index finger to lower the pitch of the note, or pushes it away from the instrument with the thumb to raise the pitch. This technique is used to play notes not available at a node, or to add vibrato to any note.

Use: The dan-bau, played solo, is central to Vietnamese folk music, a genre still popular today in the country. Its other traditional application is as an accompaniment to poetry readings.

Citations: Bibliography: Randy Raine-Reusch Play the World: The 101 World Instrument Primer Page 38 “Dan Bau – Vietnam The dan bau is a one-string zither from Vietnam that plays in harmonics. Dan in Vietnamese signifies an instrument, so often the instrument is just referred to as a bau. Some scholars believe that the dan bau is related to the Thai pin pia, while others believe that it is a uniquely Vietnamese instrument.” Terry E. Miller, Sean Williams The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: Southeast Asia: Volume 4 1998, reprinted The Garland handbook of Southeast Asian music 2008 Page 261 Audrey Seah; Charissa M. Nair; Vietnam, Marshall Cavendish, 2004. p. 74. “Age”. Retrieved July 1, 2018 ; Dale Alan Olsen: Popular music of Vietnam: the politics of remembering 2008 Page 50 ;


Name: Koto.
Type: Chordophones > Zithers > Long > Fretless.
Hornbostel-Sachs: 314.122.4
Country: Japan.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The koto [in Japanese Kanji: 箏] is a traditional Japanese stringed musical instrument derived from the Chinese zheng, and similar to the Mongolian yatga, the Korean gayageum, and the Vietnamese đàn tranh. The koto is the national instrument of Japan.

Origins: According to Japanese literature, the koto was used as imagery and other extra music significance. In one part of “The Tales of Genji [Genji monogatari]”, Genji falls deeply in love with a mysterious woman, who he has never seen before, after he hears her playing the koto from a distance.

Alternate names for Koto: The character for koto is 箏, although 琴 is often used. However, 琴 usually refers to another instrument, the kin [琴の琴; kin no koto]. 箏, in certain contexts, is also read as sō [箏の琴; sō no koto]. However, many times the character 箏 is used in titles, while 琴 is used in telling the number of koto used.

History: The Koto was first introduced to Japan from China during the 7th to 8th centuries. The first known version of the koto had five strings, which eventually increased to seven strings. It had twelve strings when it was introduced to Japan in the early Nara Period [710–784] and increased to thirteen strings.

Development: The modern koto originates from the gakusō used in Japanese court music. It was a popular instrument among the wealthy; the instrument koto was considered a romantic one. Some literary and historical records indicate that solo pieces for koto existed centuries before sōkyoku, the music of the solo koto genre, was established.

There are a number of schools of koto in Japan each with their own individual methods of playing, string types, shapes of picks, etc. Perhaps the most exciting is the Sawai style founded by Tadao Sawai and now led by his wife Kazue Sawai. The Sawai style takes the koto out of the quiet sedate world of Japanese traditional music and flings it well into the contemporary world.

Playing Techniques: Traditionally, the koto was played seated on the floor with the end of the koto either resting in the players lap or on a small stand in front of them. It is played with three ivory picks placed on the right thumb and the first two fingers.

Construction: Koto are about 180 cm [71 in] length, and made from kiri wood [Paulownia tomentosa]. They have 13 strings that are usually strung over 13 movable bridges along the width of the instrument. There is also a 17-string variant.

Citations: Bibliography: Stanley Sadie ~ New Grove Dictionary of Music : Randy Raine-Reusch @ [Koto Article]


Name: Geomungo.
Type: Chordophones > Zithers > Long > Fretless.
Tuning: D#/Eb, G#/Ab, C, A#/Bb, A#/Bb and A#/Bb
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Country: Korea.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The geomungo [in Hangul: 거문고 or 현금 or in none or 玄琴] also spelled komungo or kŏmun’go or hyeongeum. Literally “black zither”, also spelled hyongum or hyŏn’gŭm. It is a traditional Korean stringed musical instrument of the zither family of instruments having both bridges and frets.

Scholars believe that the name refers to Goguryeo and translates to “Goguryeo zither” or that it refers to the colour and translates to “black crane zither” [hyeonhakgeum, 현학금 / 玄鶴琴].

Akhak Gwebeom Geomungo

Origins: The geomungo originates from the 4th century [see Anak Tomb No.3 infra] through the 7th century from the kingdom of Goguryeo; the northernmost of the Three Kingdoms of Korea. The instrument can be traced back to the 4th century.

According to the Samguk Sagi Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms, written in 1145. The geomungo was invented by prime minister Wang San-ak by using the form of the ancient Chinese instrument guqin [gogeum, also called chilhyeongeum, literally “seven-string zither”].

After his death, the instrument was passed down to Ok Bogo, Son Myeong-deuk, Gwi Geum, An Jang, Cheong Jang, and Geuk Jong, while being widely spread over the kingdom. Archetype of the instrument is painted in Goguryeo tombs. They are found in the tomb of Muyongchong and Anak Tomb No.3.

Construction: The geomungo is approximately 162 cm long and 23 cm wide, [63.75 inches long, 9 inches wide]. it has movable bridges called Anjok and 16 convex frets. It has a hollow body where the front plate of the instrument is made of paulownia wood and the back plate is made of hard chestnut wood. Its six strings, which are made of twisted silk passed through its back plate.

The pick is made from bamboo sticks in the size of regular household pencil. Three strings are directly over the frets which can be stopped whilst the other three are open strings. Modernized geomungo increases the strings to 11, which are made of nylon.

As with the traditional version, three strings are over the frets and the others are all open. But the traditional version of the geomungo has 6 strings, with three over the frets.



Name: Guzheng.
Type: Chordophones > Zithers > Long > Fretless.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Bayin: 絲 Silk.
Specimen: 1 in collection.
Country: China.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The zheng or guzheng [in Chinese: 古箏 zheng] it is a Chinese plucked string instrument with a more than 2,500-year history. Originally believed to have been invented during the Qin Dynasty [897-221 BC] and new evidence has shown that the zheng may even be older [in Mandarin the prefix “gu” means “antiquity”].

The guzheng is ancestral to several other Asian zithers, such as the Japanese koto, the Korean gayageum, Mongolian yatga, and the Vietnamese đàn tranh. The guzheng should not be confused with the guqin, another ancient Chinese zither without moveable bridges.

History: An early guzheng emerged during the Warring States period [475–221 BC] largely influenced by the se. It became prominent during the Qin dynasty [221–206] and by the Tang Dynasty [618–907 AD].

The guzheng may have been the most commonly played instrument in China. He guzheng was originally developed from a bamboo-tube zither according to the Shuowen, but this came to be replaced by a larger curved wooden board with movable bridges.

Playing Techniques: Guzheng players often wear fingerpicks, made from materials such as ivory, tortoiseshell, resin or hard plastic, on one or both hands. Ancient picks were made of ivory and, later, of tortoiseshell. Musical ornamentation includes a tremolo, with the left thumb and index finger rapidly plucking the same note.

Another common ornamentation is a wide vibrato, achieved by repeatedly pressing the string to the left of the bridge with the left hand. Modern compositions and playing techniques are being being explored for use with the zheng in performance. Unconventional playing techniques include the use of a violin bow to achieve other timbre and tone during performance.

Construction: The Guzheng has 16 [or more] strings and movable bridges. The modern guzheng usually has 21 strings, and is 64 inches [1,600 mm] long. It has a large, resonant cavity made from wutong wood [Firmiana simplex].

Citations: Bibliography: Han, Mei – Zheng – In The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell [Oxford, 2001] ; Kaufmann, Walter [1976] Musical References in the Chinese Classics – Detroit Monographs in Musicology; Harmonie Park Press P. 101


Name: Guqin.
Type: Chordophones > Zithers > Long > Fretless.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Bayin: 絲 Silk.
Country: China.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The guqin [in Chinese: 古琴 pronunciation in IPA: kùtɕʰǐn] is a plucked seven-stringed Chinese musical instrument of the zither family. Traditionally been favoured by scholars and literati as an instrument of great subtlety and refinement, as highlighted by the quote “a gentleman does not part with his qin or se without good reason”.

It is mentioned in Chinese writings dating back nearly 3,000 years and examples have been found in tombs from about 2,500 years ago. The exact origins of the qin is still a very much continuing subject of debate over the past few decades.

Factoid: In 1977 a recording of “Flowing Water” composed by Liu Shui and arranged by Guan Pinghu; one of the best qin players of the 20th century] was chosen to be included in the Voyager Golden Record, a gold-plated LP recording containing music from around the world, which was sent into outer space by NASA on the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft. It is the longest excerpt included on the disc.

Dating back as early as the Nan Dynasty [494 AD 220 AD] and possibly earlier. t is estimated that there are over three thousand qin pieces in existence, and many of these pieces are still played today on the qin.

Older qin are considered collectors items, with existing instruments dating back as far as the Tang Dynasty [618 – 907 AD]. Some of these qin can be heard on CDs recently released on Chinese, and Taiwanese record companies.

Tuning: Pentatonic [5 note] C Major Scale C / D / F / G / A / c / d.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: Randy Raine-Reusch @ [Gu Qin, Article]