Tag Archives: Bowed



Name: Masenqo.
Type: Chordophone > Spike > Lute > Monochord > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.311
Country: Ethiopia & Eritrea.
Region: Africa.

Description: The mesenqo [also spelled mesenko, mesenqo, mesenko, mesinko or mesinqo in Amharic] or chira-wata [in Tigrinya] it is called in neighbouring Eritrea. It is the main instruments to accompany vocals, among the azmaris. Although it functions in a purely accompaniment capacity in songs, the masenqo requires considerable virtuosity.

Construction: It is a single stringed bowed monochord spike fiddle having square shaped body in which a shaft having a single friction tuning peg is inserted. Horse hair travels from tail end to the tuning peg. A loose moveable bridge is placed in between the string and body. Although the string travels through a drilled hole just beneath the top of the bridge.

Citations: Bibliography: Shelemay, Kay Kaufman, Stanley Sadie, John Tyrrell, [eds.] The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. viii [2 ed.] 2001 London: Macmillan. pp. 355–356 ; Websites: Youtube Video of Man Playing Mesenqo ;


Name: Banhu.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes > Spike > Fiddles > Huqins > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.313.7
Bayin: 絲 Silk.
Country: China.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The banhu [in Chinese: 板胡, pinyin: bǎnhú] is a Chinese traditional bowed string instrument in the huqin family of instruments. It is used primarily in northern China. Ban means a piece of wood and hu is short for huqin.

The banhu is sometimes also called “banghu” because it is often used in bangzi opera of northern China, such as Qinqiang from Shaanxi province. Like its more familiar erhu counterpart the banhu also only has two strings. It is held vertically upright and the bow passes in between the two strings. The yehu, another type of Chinese fiddle with a coconut body and wooden face, is used primarily in southern China.

Construction: The banhu differs in construction from the erhu in that its soundbox is generally made from a coconut shell rather than wood, and instead of a snakeskin that is commonly used to cover the faces of huqin instruments, the banhu uses a thin wooden board.



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 fingerboard. 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: Sarinda.
Type: Chordophones > Lyres > Double > Chested.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.71
Specimen: One in collection.
Country: Many, India, Pakistan & Iran.
Region: South Asia.

Description: The sarinda in the following languages [Qeychek, Sarang, Sarinda; in Urdu: sorud سوراخ, soruz سورج]. It is a double-chested is a bowed chordophone that is found through out India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.

It is related in shape to the Nepalese sarinda. The name Qeycheck as applied to this instrument is used in Iran. In North Eastern India [Assam] the name bannam or sareja are used for an identically shaped musical instruments. In Baluchistan and neighbouring Sindh. The name sorundo  [سورانڈو as written in Urdu] is used. In Afghanistan this instrument is primarily played by the Pashtun and Balochi peoples. In Western Rajasthan the sarinda is only played by the Surnaiya Langas. It is played in accompaniment to aerophones mainly flutes or reed instruments [pungi].

Construction: It is made of sheesham wood [Dalbergia sissoo] and has eight strings. Parchment is stretched across the sound whole at the front of the instrument. Eight individual strings pass over the bridge.

Citations: Bibliography: Stanley Sadie – New Grove Dictionary Of Music, Page 297, 298; W. Ousley: Anecdotes of Indian Music, repr. in S.M. Tagore: Hindu Music from Various Authors [Calcutta, 1875], 2/1882/R1965: C. R. Day; The Music and Musical Instruments of Southern India and the Deccan [Dheli, 1891 / R11977]; C. Sash; Die Musikinstrument Indiens and Indonesians [Berlin & Leipzig Germany, 1914, 2 / 1923]; K. S Kothari; Indian Folk Musical Instruments [New Dheli, 1968] – John Baily, Alastair Dick ;


Name: Rebec.
Type: Chordophones > Lyres > Lyra > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.71
Country: Many.
Region: Western Europe.

Description: The rebec is a bowed stringed instrument of the medieval era and renaissance era.

History: Popular from the 13th to 16th centuries, the introduction of the rebec into Western Europe coincided with the Arabic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. There is however evidence of the existence of bowed instruments in Eastern Europe since the  9th century. The 9th century, Persian geographer of the Ibn Khurradadhbih cited the bowed Byzantine lira [or lūrā] as typical bowed instrument of the Byzantines and equivalent to the Arab rebab.

The rebec was adopted as a key instrument in Arab classical music and in Morocco it was used in the tradition of Arabic-Andalusian music, that had been kept alive by descendants of Muslims who left Spain as refugees following the Reconquista. The rebec also became a favourite instrument in the tea houses of the Ottoman Empire.

Etymology: The rebec was first referred to by that name, around the beginning of the 14th century through a similar instrument called a lira da braccio [arm lyre] had been played since around the 9th century. The name derives from the 15th century Middle French rebec. The name rebec was altered in an unexplained manner from the 13th century Old French ribabe, which in turn comes from the Arabic rebab. A distinguishing feature of the rebec is that the bowl [or body] of the instrument is carved from a solid piece of wood. This distinguishes it from the later period vielles and gambas known in the Renaissance.

Tuning: The number of strings on the rebec varies from 1 to 5, although three is the most common number. The strings are often tuned in fifths, although this tuning is not universal. The instrument was originally in the treble range, like the violin, but later larger versions were developed, so that by the 16th century composers were able to write pieces for consorts of rebecs, just as they did for consorts of viols.

In Use: In time, the viol came to replace the rebec, and the instrument was little used beyond the renaissance period. The instrument was used by dance masters until the 18th century, however, often being used for the same purpose as the kit, a small pocket-sized violin. The rebec also remained in use in folk music, especially in eastern Europe and Spain. Andalusi nubah, a genre of music from North Africa, often includes the rebec.

Citations: Bibliography: Margaret J. Kartomi, 1990 Farmer, Henry George, 1988; Historical facts for the Arabian Musical Influence, Ayer Publishing, p. 137, ISBN 0-405-08496-X; For a possible etymological link between Arabic rebab and French rebec see American Heritage Dictionary – Panum, Hortense 1939; The stringed instruments of the Middle Ages, their evolution and development, London : William Reeves, p. 434 Bachmann, Werner 1969; The origins of bowing and the development of bowed instruments up to the thirteenth century. Oxford University Press. p. 35. Harper, Douglas ; Websites:


Name: Ukelin.
Type: Chordophones > Zithers > Box > Fretless.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.6
Patent No#: 1,579,780 Paul F. Richter, 1924
Country: United States.
Region: North America.

Description: The ukelin is a bowed zither with multiple number of strings made popular in the 1920s. It is meant to be a hybrid of the violin and ukulele.

History: The history of the ukelin is hard to trace, since there were several instruments resembling the ukelin that were produced in the 1920s. Paul F. Richter filed the first known ukelin patent in December 1924, it was granted in April 1926. The Phonoharp Company, which merged with Oscar Schmidt, Inc.

Due to the issue of overlapping patents the it is unclear as to the confirmation of the inventor. The patent that was filed by John Large, was not granted until after Richter’s patent had already been given. Another similar instrument had a patent filed by Walter Schmidt in 1925. Because of these patents filed one after the other it is unclear who really invented the first ukelin.

Citations: Websites: Google Patents “Stringed Musical Instruments, US 15797800 A” ; The Ukelin and Related Instruments ; Smithsonian Encyclopedia / Ukelin ; Ukulin / Hoboken Historical Museum – Online Collections Database ;

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 :


Name: Bana.
Type: Chordophones > Spike > Fiddles.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.313.7
Country: Madhya Pradesh, India.
Region: South Asia.

Description: A three string spike fiddle of Madhya Pradesh [Mandla District] in India. In the central Mandla province, the bana is played by the Pardhan to accompany their repertoire of religious ballads. The Pardhan are the genealogist bards of the Gond, who were once sovereigns of the powerful kingdom of Gondwana.

Construction: It is about 70 cm in length, it is made of a prism shaped sound box of mango wood, covered with. Membrane from a calfs stomach. The strings are made of horse hair. The neck inserted into the body is made from bamboo. The strings are stretched from the bottom of the shaft holding the instrument together, to the tuning pegs at the top. A bridge supports the strings from underneath the strings.

Citations: Bibliography: S. Hivle and V. Elwin; Songs of the Forest: The folk poetry of the Gonds London, 1935 ; S. Hivale – The Pardhans of the Upper Narbada Valley London, 1946 ; C. Von Fürer-Haimendorf: The Bards of the Raj Gonds, Eastern Anthropologist, iv 1950-51, Pp. 172, Genevieve Dournon ; Stanley Sadie – New Grove Dictionary of Music, Banam p. 119 ;