Tag Archives: Zithers



Name: Satdiev.
Type: Chordophones > Zithers > Stick.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Country: Cambodia.
Region: South East Asia.

Description: The Satdiev is a single stringed stick zither of the Khmer people of Cambodia. It consists of a hardwood body, a single string attached to a friction tuning peg and a resonator made from a gourd cut to fit to the stick during assembly. The satdiev is played by ensembles who are affiliated with the cults of deities and for weddings.

Playing Techniques: This instrument is played by the use harmonics and false harmonics. Vibrato is achieved by slightly lifting the gourd from the chest to increase the sound or to muffle it, when the string is plucked. False harmonics and harmonics are applied in the playing of this instrument. The Satdiev like its Thai counterpart is a very quiet musical instrument.

Citations: Bibliography: New Grove Dictionary of Music by Stanley Sadie, Volume 3, P to Z page 303 ;

Rudra Veena

Name: Rudra Veena.
Type: Chordophones > Zither > Stick.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Country: India.
Region: South Asia.

Description: The rudra veena [also spelled rudra vina, Hindi: रुद्रवीणा, Bengali: রুদ্রবীণা] and also called bīn [in Hindi: बीन in North India] is a large plucked string instrument used in Hindustani classical music, one of the major types of veena played in Indian classical music. Rudra is a name for the Hindu god Shiva, rudra vina literally means “the veena dear to Shiva”. Shiva is also said to have created the Rudra veena, inspired by his wife, Parvati.

Usage: The rudra veena is an ancient instrument rarely played today. The rudra veena declined in popularity in part due to the introduction in the early 19th century of the surbahar, which allowed sitarists to more easily present the alap sections of slow dhrupad style ragas.

Construction: It has a long tubular body made of wood or bamboo with a length between 54 and 62 inches. Two large, round resonators, made of dried and hollowed gourds, are attached under the tube. Twenty-four brass-fitted raised wooden frets are fixed on the tube with the help of wax. There are 4 main strings and 3 chikari strings.


Phin Pya

Name: Phin Pya.
Type: Chordophones > Zither > Stick.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Country: Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Region: South East Asia.
Dimensions: Length in cm.
Specimen: 1 in collection.
Acquisition Source: Randy Raine-Reusch @ asza.com.

Description: The Phin pya or pin pya is a stick zither played by the Lanna people of the Chiang Mai region of Northern Thailand. The instrument traditionally had two strings but now three and four string versions are quite common. The Phin pya is related to the Cambodian one-string satdiev or khse diev, which is probably older. Both instruments derive from early Indian veenas often pictured played by the goddess Saraswati.

Playing Technique: The Phin Pya is held upright, with the gourd facing towards the chest. The left hand holds the instrument with the thumb under the resonator. While fretting the melody string and occasionally picking the open accompaniment string. The right hand holds the body of the instrument in balance with the thumb.

While plucking the instrument with the third finger and fretting harmonics with the first knuckle of the first finger. This instrument is quite difficult play as the harmonic position played at the right change as the left hand frets the string. This instrument is very quiet and has a haunting sound.

Construction: The strings start at the tuning pegs and then run under a cord that is wrapped around the stick body to hold the coconut resonator in place. The strings then run the length of the body and run over a metal elephant head shaped tailpiece, which they are also attached to.

The main melody string is made of brass and the accompaniment string or strings are usually steel. A small tuning thread is loosely tied between the body and the accompaniment string or strings to facilitate a higher pitch and slide along the body to fine tune.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: Randy Raine-Reusch @ asza.com [Phin Pya article] ;

Mi Gyaung

Name: Mi Gyaung.
Type: Chordophones > Zithers > Long > Fretless.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 314.122.4
Tuning: F C F
Country: Myanmar [Burma].
Region: South East Asia.

Description: The mi gyaung [in Burmese: မိကျောင်း [mḭ dʑáʊɴ] or kyam [in Mon: ကျာံ, /cam/; pronounced “chyam”]. This musical instrument is a crocodile-shaped fretted, plucked zither with three strings that is used as a traditional instrument in Burma. It is associated with the Mon people. It is similar to the Thai jakhe and the Cambodian krapeu [takhe].

Construction: The instrument’s body is made of wood that is carved out on the underside like a dugout canoe. It has approximately 13 raised wooden frets that are diatonically spaced; rather than equidistantly or chromatically spaced. It has a carved crocodile’s head and tail, as well as four legs. The lowest string is made of brass and the two higher strings are made from nylon.

It is plucked with a short rod-shaped plectrum that tapers to a point, made of horn or hardwood. Unlike the Thai jakhe, the plectrum is not tied onto the right index finger, but instead simply held in the hand. Tremolo technique is often used. The instrument has a buzzing sound because the strings are raised just off the flat bridge by a sliver of bamboo or other thin material such as plastic.

Citations: Bibliography: Terry E. Miller 2008; Thailand. The Garland Handbook of Southeast Asian Music. Routledge. p. 130 ; Websites:


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 @ asza.com [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: