Tanbur / Turkish

Name: Tanbur / Turkish.
Type: Chordophones > Lute.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.6
Country: Turkey, Greece, Many.
Region: Turkey, Asia Minor, Middle East.

Description: The tambur is a fretted stringed instrument of Turkey and the former lands of the Ottoman Empire. As with the ney [flute], armudi [lit. Pear shaped], kemençe and the kudüm. It constitutes one of the four instruments that make up the basic quartet of Turkish classical music a.k.a Türk Sanat Müziği [lit. Turkish Artistic Music]. Of the two variants, one is played with a plectrum [mızraplı tambur] and the other with a bow [yaylı tambur]. The player is called a tamburî.

History: There are several hypotheses as to the origins of the instrument. There are several hypotheses as to the origin of the instrument. One suggests that it descended from the kopuz, a string instrument still in use among the Turkic peoples of Central Asia and the Caspian region. The name itself derives from the tanbur [tunbur]. Tanbur in turn might have descended from the Sumerian pantur. 

The name and its variants such as tamboura, dombura also denotes a wide spectrum of pear-shaped string instruments in Persia and Central Asia yet these share only their names with the Ottoman court instrument and in fact are more akin to bağlamas or sazes. As of the 17th century, the tanbur had already taken its present form and structure and assumed the preponderant role it still holds in Classical Turkish Music performance.

Construction: This type of tanbur is almost entirely made of wood. The body or “shell” [tekne] is assembled from strips, staves or ribs joined edge to edge to form a semi-spherical body for the instrument. The number of ribs traditionally amounts to is 17, 21 or 23 yet examples with slightly wider and consequently fewer ribs 7, 9 or 11 can be found among older specimens.

For ornamental purposes thinner strips called file to are inserted between the ribs, these are not obligatory. The most common tone wood veneers used for rib-making are mahogany, flame maple, Persian walnut, Mecca balsam wood [Commiphora gileadensis], Spanish chestnut, Greek juniper, mulberry, oriental plane, Indian rosewood and apricot. Ribs are assembled on the bottom wedge [tail] and the heel on which the fingerboard is mounted.

Citations: Bibliography: Scheherezade Qassim Hassan; Morris, R. Conway; Baily, John; During, Jean [2001]  Sadie, Stanley; Tyrrell, John (eds.). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. xxv (2 ed.). London: Macmillan. pp. 61–62 ; Jump up to: a b c d e Tambur Republic of Turkey – Ministry of Culture and Tourism ; ÖZKAN, İsmail Hakkı, Türk Mûsıkîsi Nazariyatı ve Usûlleri, Ötüken Neşriyat : Istanbul [Turkey], 2000 [6th Edition] ; FONTON, Charles, Essai sur la musique orientale comparée à la musique européenne : où l’on tâche de donner une idée générale de la musique des peuples de l’orient, 17th century in NEUBAUER, Eckhard, Der Essai sur la musique orientale von Charles Fonton mit Zeichnungen von Adanson, Frankfurt am Main : Institute for the history of Arabic Islamic science, 1999 ; Dimitrie Cantemir: A Global Man of Music TR Kültür Sanat Edebiyat ; Pamela Dorn Sezgin, “Fresco Romano, Isaac [Tamburi Izak]”, in: Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World, Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman ; Websites:

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