Tag Archives: Chordophones



Name: Igil.
Type: Chordophones > Spike > Fiddles > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.7
Country: Tuva, Russian Federation.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: An igil [in Tuvan – игил igil] is a two-stringed Tuvan musical instrument, played by bowing the strings. It is called “ikili” in Western Mongolia.

Playing Techniques: The igil is held nearly upright when played, with the sound box of the instrument in the performer’s lap, or braced against the top of the performer’s boot. The igil is fretless, the performers fingers do not touch the neck, the finger-nails or finger tips glide across the strings during performance. The bow is held with an underhand grip.

Construction: The neck and sound box, are usually made of a solid piece of pine or larch. The top of the sound box may be covered with skin or a thin wooden plate. The strings, and those of the bow, are traditionally made of hair from a horse’s tail. In which the two strings are strung parallel from head stock to tail end of instrument.

Modern igil often have nylon strings. Like the Igil’s close relative, morin khuur of Mongolia. The igil typically features a carved horse’s head at the top of the neck above the tuning pegs, and both instruments are known as “horse-head fiddles”.



Name: Qobuz.
Type: Chordophones > Lyres > Double > Chested > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.21.71
Country: Kazakhstan & Turkestan [Xinjiang China].
Region: Central Asia.

Description: The Qobuz [in Kazakh Cyrillic: қобыз] or qıl-qobız. The origins of this instrument are ancient. Traditionally they [Qobuz] were sacred instruments, owned by shamans and bakses who were traditional spiritual medics. According to legends, the qobuz and its music could banish evil spirits, sicknesses and death.

Development: In the Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan, during the 1930’s. Development of the Qopuz occurred in a form some what resembling a violin. In construction, appearance range and tuning. Four metal strings were added.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: Kurmangazy Kazakh State Academic Orchestra [archived website] ;


Name: Kontra.
Type: Chordophones > Lyres > Viols.
Hornbostel Sachs No#: 321.312.7
Tunings: G / D / A
Country: Hungary & Romania.
Region: Eastern Europe.

Description: A kontra is a Hungarian [in Hungarian: háromhúros brácsa, ‘three-stringed viola’], Czech, Polish, Romanian, Slovak and Romani instrument common in Transylvania. The kontra has a defined role within dance band music. Its range lies between that of the fiddle or Vioara cu goarnă on the high-end and the double bass on the low-end.

Playing Technique: Due to the flattened bridge, a kontra is not as capable of playing melody lines as a viola. Rather, the standard method of play is to play double stops and three-note chords and let the fiddle play melody lines.

Construction: The kontra is constructed much like the classical viola, with two major differences. First, there are only three strings instead of four. Second, the bridge is flattened, allowing a musician to play all three strings at once.



Name: Husla.
Type: Chordophones > Lyres > Viols > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.7
Tuning: D / A / E
Country: Germany, Poland.
Region: Europe.

Description: A husla is a bowed instrument resembling a medical fiddle. It is played by the Wends or Sorbian peoples of Eastern Germany and neighbouring Slavic countries. Unlike the violin the back of the husla is flat. Due to the rise in popularity of the violin in the early 20th century.

The Husla became almost extinct. The husla has a new chance in life in large part to the Jan Kusik and the clockmaker J. Menci [Menzel]. Since the 1950s the instrument was given a new chance on ice. As a result of the revival of interest in the folk culture in Eastern Europe.

Citations: Bibliography:


Name: Mazanki.
Type: Chordophones > Lyres > Viols.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.7
Tuning: F / C / G
Country: Poland.
Region: Eastern Europe.

Description: It is a small string instrument, in which you play in the shoulder position. The restoration of mazanki is largely due to the State Music School of the first century. Stanisław Moniuszko in Zbąszyń and Tomasz Śliwa are also credited in the revival of this instrument.

History: The name of mazanki appeared in the article by E. Kierski: “Customs, superstitions and rites of the people in some neighborhoods of W. Poznański” of 1861. It is derived from mazania, i.e. rubbing with strings on strings. In the 19th century the mazanki were the instruments that formed a band with bagpipes.

Largely supplanted by violins; ie. factory violins, whose neck was tied to raise the outfit and adapt it to play with bagpipes The instrument has survived the longest in the goat’s region and its neighbourhood, where it was played along with a bagpipe at wedding ceremonies to the wedding feast. Since the First World War, the mizanki is used more as a training instrument for those learning the violin.

Construction: Ewa Dahlig-Turek distinguishes four features characteristic for mazurka building: 1. Small size; 2. A box carved from one piece of wood with the neck; 3. Stands, which one leg passes through the top plate, rests on the bottom of the box and serves as a soul; 4. Three strings.

Citations: Bibliography: Ewa Dahlig: Folk violin instruments in Poland . Warsaw: Instytut Sztuki PAN, 2001, p. 91. ISBN 83-85938-54-0 ; Marian Sobieski: Mazanki, serby, violin [In:] Polish folk music and its problems . Krakow: Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne, 1973 ; Maria Żurowska, Zbigniew J. Przerembski: Polish Folk Instruments – mazanki . [access 2017-02-03] ; Ewa Dahlig: Folk violin instruments in Poland . Warsaw: Instytut Sztuki PAN, 2001, p. 90. ISBN 83-85938-54-0. Dahlig E. People’s violin instruments in Poland, Warsaw, 2001 ; Sobiescy J. and M. Polish folk music and its problems, Cracow, 1973 ; Websites: Polish Folk Musical Instruments / Mazanki ;  Youtube Video [przadka mazanki] ;


Name: Suka.
Type: Chordophones > Lyres > Viols > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.7
Country: Poland.
Region: Eastern Europe.

Description: The suka or ‘Suka Kocudzka’ is bowed musical instrument that is in a shape of the violin. However like the Bulgarian gadulka [although not related to it] it is played by resting the instrument vertically, while sitting on the knee. This was thought to be the “missing link” between the upside-down or “knee chordophone” instruments, and the modern violin. It died out, and was known only from drawings of a single specimen displayed at an exhibition in 1888.

Playing Techniques: The strings were stopped at the side with the fingernails; similar to the Gadulka.

Construction: Similar in appearance to the violin the suka is a bit more narrower in profile. A flat bridge and nut keep the strings taught for playing while the instrument is tuned. Seven tuning pegs are inserted at the top [peg box] of the instrument.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: Polish Folk Instruments [Suka Page] ; Instrumenty z duszą”, odc. 11 – Suka biłgorajska / suka of Biłgoraj – Youtube [Video] ;


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: Komuz.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.5
Specimen: 1 in collection.
Country: Kyrgyzstan, Xinjiang China [Turkestan].
Region: Central Asia.

Description: The komuz is a three stringed, fretless long necked lute. The back of the instrument is slightly vaulted at a minimum angle. It is related to the Azeri gopuz and Turkish kopuz. A unique feature in the tuning of the komuz is that the middle or centre string is tuned the highest strings the second and third strings are usually tuned either in fourths, fifths. During the soviet era, frets in the 12-tone chromatic scale were added.

Komuz Tunings
Names Tunings

Construction: Typically the komuz has a pear shaped body, it is carved from apricot or juniper wood, with a skin membrane or wooden sound table. The strings are traditionally of gut or nowadays nylon [or occasionally metal pass over a loose adjustable bridge to a tailpiece. Originally wooden tuning pegs would be used, although mechanical guitar tuners are common place.

Citations: Bibliography: Table 1. Komuz Tunings ~Kirgiz  Instrumental Music by Mark Slobin, New York, Society for Asian Music 1969 Library of Congress No 70-93475 ; Websites: Komuz / Grove Music Online ;


Name: Haegeum.
Type: Chordophones > Spike > Fiddles > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.313.7
Country: Korea.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The haegeum [in Hangul: 해금 haegeum] It is also popularly known as kkangkkang-i [in Hangul: 깡깡이], kkaengkkaeng-i [in Hangul: 깽깽이], or aeng-geum [in Hangul: 앵금]. The haegeum is a traditional bowed and vertically held stringed instrument that is played in Korea. The haegeum is one of the most widely played instruments in Korean music. It is used in court music as well as madagnori, commoner’s or ordinary people’s music. 

History: Little recorded information exists about the exact era when the haegeum was introduced into Korea. Although the haegeum is documented in several sources including the Akhak Gwebeom. It was also documented in hanlimbyeolgok [the unrhymed verse and songs of the royal scholars] also published during the Goryeo dynasty. So it can be inferred that the haegeum has been played at least since then. 

The sohaegeum [소해금] is a modernized fiddle with four strings, used only in North Korea and in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in China.

Construction: The haegeum constructed from using eight sonorous materials within the Chinese classification system of music. The materials included are metal, stone, silk, bamboo, gourd, clay, hide, and wood. The overall length of the haegeum from body, neck to head stock measures in length to about 70 cm. Each of the two pegs are 2.5 cm in diameter and 11 cm in length. The sound box or body has has a surface of paulownia [Paulownia tomentosa] wood at the front. The sound box is open at the rear. The pegs have spools which access string is wound.

The wood used in the construction of the haegeum quince tree, mulberry tree, large sized bamboo or xylosma tree, mulberry tree, large sized bamboo or shiny xylosma. The middle plate called ‘bokpan’ consists of eucommia bark or paulownia tree. The neck [called ‘ipjuk’] is made of dark coloured bamboo [烏斑竹] with many joints, and it is attached on a sound box with a cast iron stick inserted through it. The surrounding part of holes for ‘jua [two small sticks to tune strings]’ is covered with silver or a pisolite [an alloy or a zinc].

The surrounding region in where the holes for the tuning pegs is called the “jua” is covered with silver or a pisolite [alloy].  The jung-hyeon [inside string] is a thicker diameter than the yoo-hyeon [outside string]. With a thin leather or a string [called ‘chaeseung’], from about 2 cm below ‘jua’, the two strings ‘yoo-hyeon’.

Citations: Bibliography: Song Hyon ed. Akhak Kwebōm [Guide To The Study Of Music] Seoul, 1943 / R1975, 7-8am9a ; Chang Sa-Hun; Han’guk akki taegwan [Korean Musical Instruments] Seoul, 1969, p 611 ; Stanley Sadie ~ New Grove Dictionary of Music Book G to O Page 116 ; Websites: Doosan Encyclopedia / Haegeum [article] Translated from Korean in Google Translate ; Haegeum in print [.pdf] translated from the original text, sampled is a page on the haegeum described in the Akhak Gwebeom ;


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

Description: The zhuihu [in Chinese: 坠胡, pinyin: zhùihú] also called zhuiqin or zhuizixian, Zhuiqin or Zhuizi. It is altered from Sanxian, a three-stringed musical instrument. The zhuihu spread in the Henan, began to be used as a solo instrument during the 1950s. Since Zhuihu have a wide and longer body than the erhu in comparison.

It The scale range of zhuihu is similar to the two stringed huqin, zhonghu. They possess a soft sound and relatively high sound volume. This allows for performers to imitate the voice of human and animals. The zhuihu is rarely played today.

Origins: There is one legend attributed to the origin of Zhuihu. During the Qing Dynasty [1644-1911] Emperor Kangxi forbade all the opera performances in the Forbidden City and artists had to earn a living on the street. One day, an artist’s Sanxian was bitten by mice and the covering leather of the sound box got a hole in it.

In order not to miss the performance, the artist had to use a thin wooden piece to replace the leather and used a bow from Huqin [two stringed upright bowed spike lute] to play the Sanxian. This musical instrument, that can not only play music but also imitate human voice, was later called Zhuihu.

Citations: Bibliography: Shen, Sin-yan 2001. Chinese music in the twentieth century – Chinese Music Society of North America. p. 30. ISBN 978-1-880464-04-5 ; Shen, Sin-yan 1991 Chinese music and orchestration: a primer on principles and practice Chinese Music Society of North America. p. 129. ISBN 978-1-880464-00-7 ; Website: web archive – chinaculture.org [Zhuihu Article] ; Zhuihu Demonstration Video presented by youtube channel HKCOHuqin2009 ;