Name: Birbyne.
Type: Aerophones > Reeds > Single.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 422.211.2
Country: Lithuania.
Region: Baltic & Eastern European.

Description: A birbynė also known as klernata, parputas, ragelis is a Lithuanian aerophone that can be either single or double-reeded and may or may not have a mouthpiece. The earliest and simplest examples were used by children as play-toys and by shepherds as a tool to control the herd.

Etymology: The name Birbyne has its origins in the word birbti, meaning “poached” or “popcorn”. The name Birbyne was first documented in the psalm of J. Bretkūnas – Reza in 1615. The word birbynė is first mentioned by P. Ruigys in the Lithuanian-German, German-Lithuanian Dictionary first published in 1747. Currently existing knowledge of this instrument is found in the later works of the following researchers with in Lithuania’s culture and ethnography.

Documented sources of the birbyne include, Nesselmann’s GH “Wörterbuch der littauischen Sprache” translated title in English “Dictionary of the Lithuanian language” 1850; Kukolnik II 1854; Tyszkiewicz E. 1869; Bezzenberger A. 1882; Kurschat F. 1883. Lithuanian ethnography researchers also wrote about Birbynė, especially in the 20th century: M. Petrauskas; J. Žilevičius; Z. Slaviūnas – Slavinskas; S. Paliulis; P. Samuitis and A. Vyžintas; R. Apanavičius and Others.

Development: With the creation of the Lithuanian Folk Orchestra in the 1940s. A family of bribing were developed. These Birbyne were tuned to the chromatic scale to allow for playing in an orchestral arrangement. Modern birbynės are made of wood with bells of horn and usually have ten tone holes. They are divided by pitch range into three categories: soprano, tenor, and contrabass.

Povilas Samuitis and Pranas Serva constructed an improved chromatic high birbynė, and in 1952 he built the Pranas Kupčikas, double bass, one year later tenor chromatic birbynes. The improved Birbyn family consists of high, tenor and double bass. The body of the instrument, high and tenor birbynes is made of ash, maple, apple, pear tree and double bass from metal. 

Construction: Birbynė can be made of a variety of materials: woods, which include ash, maple, apple, pear-tree bark, horn, straw, goose feather.

Citations: Bibliography: Baltrėnienė, Marija; Romualdas Apanavičius 1991 Lietuvių liaudies muzikos instrumentai [in Lithuanian] Vilnius: Mintis. pp. 107–114. ISBN 5-417-00122-8 ; [in English]: Baltrėnienė, Marija; Romualdas Apanavičius 1991 Lithuanian Folk Music Instruments ; Vilnius: Mintis. pp. 107–114. ISBN 5-417-00122-8 ; Websites:

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