Category Archives: Chordophones



Name: Mandolino.
Type: Chordophones > Composites > Lute.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.6 [Roman].
Era: 1700s.
Country: Italy, Many.
Region: Europe.

Mandolino, Photographed by Graeme Gibson © Horniman Museum, London UK 2019

Description: The mandolino is the Roman mandolin, having six double courses or 12 strings in total with gut strings. Thirteen staves  ebony and ivory with floral engravings and a sickle-shaped peg box, is shown with its carrying box. It is the type of mandolin for which Antonio Vivaldi wrote his numerous mandolin concerti.



Citations: Bibliography: Websites: The MET / Mandolino ;


Name: Mandora.
Type: Chordophones > Composites > Lutes > Mandolin.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.6
Era: 18th and early 19th-century.
Region: Europe.


Mandora Tunings
Names Tunings
E G C f a d
F G c f a d
E A D g b d
E A D g b e’
C D G c e a

Tunings: In the 18th century, mandora was the name of a six-course lute about 70 cm in length from bridge to nut. It is tuned from low to high F G c f a d or E A D g b e or rarely E A d g b e with two or three additional bass courses. With the former tuning, the instrument was called Calichonor Galichon in Bohemia.

Around 1800 a mutual interchange between the mandora and the guitar took place. The guitar, which had so far been tuned in re-entrant tuning [a d g b e] took over the 6th course and the tuning of the mandora G A D g b e later E A D g b d, whereas the mandora took over the stringing with single strings instead of courses, as had been introduced to the guitar. The so-called wandervogellaute has been a late heir to that development.

From another source on tuning: Two tunings are reported: a ‘galizona’ or ‘colachon’ is tuned A’ ( or ) –B’ ( or ) –C D G c e a and, under a separate heading, ‘mandora’ is given as D ( or ) –E ( or ) F G c f a d’ i.e. the same tuning but a 4th higher or E A d g b e’ identical to that of the modern guitar.

The playing technique for the mandora involves the same basic right-hand finger style as for all 18th-century lutes and, because of the tuning intervals of the upper five courses, a left-hand technique that is similar to that of the 18th-century guitar.


Name: Leiqin.
Type: Chordophones > Composites > Lutes > Spiked > Huqins > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.7
Bayin: SÍ 絲 Silk.
Era: 1920s.
Inventor: Wang Dianyu.
Country: China.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The Leiqin [in Chinese: 擂琴 or 擂琴 ; in Pinyin: léiqín, literal translation means “thundering instrument”] is also called leihu, which appeared during the 1920s. It was designed by a civilian artist named Wang Dianyu in imitation of another kind of musical instrument named zhuihu. He was born in a poor family in Shandong province.

History: When he was young, he went blind from smallpox. However, he showed diligence and talent in learning to perform many musical instruments including zhuihu. At the end of the 1920s, he made great changes to zhuihu. The shaft was lengthened. The length of the body was expanded, which was covered with the skin of boa. The new instrument became louder and the range was increased. In 1953, it was called “leiqin” formally.

At the end of the 1920s, he made great changes to the pre-existing zhuihu. The shaft was lengthened, and the sound box was expanded. Whose membrane was boa skin was then applied. The new instrument became louder, and the range was increased. In 1953, it was called “leiqin” formally.

Playing Techniques: The performers should sit while playing. The canister is put on the left leg, with the left hand pressing the strings and a bow in the right hand plucking. In most cases, the performer uses his or her index finger and the third finger to press the strings. The Leiqin has a wide range, a high volume and a soft tone.

It can perform solo, concert and in ensemble. Additionally, it can produce sound in imitation of human voices, arias of the Chinese operas, calling of the animals and the sound effect of the orchestral and percussion instruments such as the urhien, gong, drum and so on.

Construction: The instrument is assembled of five parts. The shaft, head and tuning page are made of hardwood. The head is like a shovel. The surface of the tuning page is carved. The canister is made of copperplate. The bow is longer than that of the urhien. There are two specifications of leiqin. The longer instrument measures at 110 cm at the length of the neck from sound body to head-stock. While the the shorter sized leiqin is measured at 90 cm in length.

Usually, the instrument is tuned according to the preferences of the performers. There may be three and half octaves within the range. The range of the small leiqin is the same as the big one, which is one octave higher than the latter.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: Leiqin article / wayback machine ;


Name: Arababu.
Type: Chordophones > Composites > Lutes > Spike > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.312.7
Country: Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Region: South East Asia.

Description: A bowed upright spike lute, it is called an “arababu” or “rababo” in Bolaang Mongondow in North Sulawesi. As alababu in Gorontalo ; as arababoe in Halmahera and as erbabi in Buru and elsewhere

Construction: Its resonator is half a coconut shell, usually covered with a membrane of buffalo bladder as a sound-table. A slender bamboo neck passes through the shell and meets the proximal end of the instrument’s wooden foot. It has a single string of vegetable fibre or cotton. The bamboo bow has resined ‘hair’ of fibre from the sheath of sugar palm leaves.

Citations: Bibliography: Margaret J. Kartomi, revised by Mayco A. Santaella ; Websites: Oxford Music Online / arababu ;


Name: Rababa.
Type: Chordophones > Composites > Lyres > Bowl.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.2
Country: Eritrea.
Region: Africa.

Description: The rababa is a bowl lyre with five or occasionally six strings of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan. The instrument is also known in Congo DRC. [former Zaire] and Uganda as rababah or rapapa. This bowl lyre may have a bridge or without a bridge. And very small sound holes recalling those of the Ethiopian krar but sometimes with eight strings, no bridge and a single sound hole.

It is played by the Bari people of Congo DRC. The same instrument is called “tum” by the Bari who live in neighbouring Sudan. This supports the belief the rababa, tum and tanbura are one and the same instrument. At Omdurman [Sudan] the six-string rababa lyre turns out, what is to be called “tambura worship”.

The rababa is used in songs that sing praise the cattle among the pastoral people like the Beni Amer of Sudan or Eritrea. It is linked with the five-stringed goala lyre of the Hamar people in South Ethiopia. It is also played for secular repertoire, including entertainment and serenades.

Construction: The rababa is akin to the tambura in its construction. Although it is much smaller in size. It has a hemispherical sound box, that is covered with cow or antelope hide or in Congo DRC. lizard skin. Two extended arms are fixed to the hemispherical sound box. The animal hide or skin is applied after. A cross-bar supports the strings intact and keeping them in tension when tuned.

Citations: Bibliography: Laurenty, C 121: Wachsmann TCU, 405 ; E. Chantre: Recherches anthropologiques en Egypt Lyons, 1904, 236 ; E. Littman: Publications of the Princeton Expedition to Abyssinia Leiden, 1910 , 197 ; S. Chauvet: Musique Négre Paris, 1929 ; W. T. Clark: Manners, Customs and Beliefs of the Northern Bega, Sudan Notes and Records, xx/I 1938, 25 ; A. Paul: Notes on the Beni Amer, Sudan Notes and Records, xxxi 1950, 239 ; S. Zendovsky: Zar and tambura as practiced by the women of Omdurman, Sudan Notes and Records, xxx/I 1950, 65 ;


Name: Beganna.
Type: Chordophones > Composites > Lyres > Box.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.2
Country: Eritrea & Ethiopia.
Region: Africa.

Description: The beganna [in Amharic: በገና begena] or bèguèna is an Eritrean or Ethiopian stringed instrument that is a plucked box lyre. Having ten strings. Oral tradition identifies the the instrument as the Kinnor of Ancient Israel. It was played by King David to soothe King Saul’s nerves and heal him of insomnia.

It was later introduced to Ethiopia by King Menelik I. Its actual origin remains in doubt, though local manuscripts depict the instrument at the beginning of the 15th century [Kimberlin 1978: 13].

Playing Techniques: The begena may also be played using a technique and system called “girf”, wherein a plectrum made of horn or wood is used to pluck the ten strings of the begena. Megabe Sebhat Alemu Aga plays begena both by using his fingertips and girf.

The begena is characterized by a very specific buzzing sound, due to U-shaped leather pieces placed between each string and the bridge. The thong for each string is adjusted up or down along the bridge so that the string, when plucked, repeatedly vibrates against the edge of the bridge.

Usage: Due to the instruments relatively intimate and sacred role in society. The begana is not a common musical instrument to find. Meditation and prayer are very private, personal endeavours, and hearsay suggests that the instrument is played by very few and is a dying art. However, in 1972, the Yared Music School in Addis Ababa began formal instruction in the begena. Since 2004, evening courses are organized and the begena is still played.

Construction: The begena has a total of 10 individual gut strings stretched from the box [body] to where the friction tuning rings are located. The rings are tied together from animal hide. A bridge is underneath the strings and body of the instrument. This bridge is of a particular design allowing for the strings to buzz, when they are played.

Citations: Bibliography: Cynthia Tse Kimberlin, “The Bägänä of Ethiopia.” Ethiopianist Notes 2 [2], 1978, 15-32 ; Stéphanie Weisser. “Music and Emotion. The Ethiopian Lyre Bagana”. Musicae Scientiae 16 [1], March 2012, 3-18 – Discography; Alemu Aga, The Harp of King David. Ethiopiques Vol. 11, 1994. “Éthiopie, les chants de bagana / Ethiopia, bagana songs.” Archives Internationales de Musique Populaire [Ethnographic Museum of Geneva, Switzerland] LXXVIII / VDE 1206, 2006 ; Alemu Aga, Seyoum Mengistu, Admassu Fikre, Tafesse Tesfaye. The Begenna of Elders. The Harp of David in Ethiopia. Laika-Records, 2009 Websites:


Name: Gittern.
Type: Chordophones > Composites > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.6
Era: 13th Century.
Area: Iberian Peninsula. Holy Roman Empire.
Country: France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, England & Germany.
Region: West Europe.

Description: The gittern was a relatively small gut stringed, bowl-backed lute. Who first appeared in literature and pectoral representation during the 13th century in Western Europe. This includes Iberian Peninsula [Spain and Portugal], Italy, France and England.

Etymology: It was also called the guiterna in Spain, guiterne or guiterre in France, the chitarra in Italy and quintern in Germany. A popular instrument with court musicians, minstrels, and amateurs, the gittern is considered an ancestor of the modern guitar and other instruments like the mandore, bandurria and gallichon.

Names in English: gittern, gittron, giterninge, giterne. John Playford’s A Booke of New Lessons for the Cithern & Gittern [published in London in 1652] may represent a response to the continued popularity of both instruments; although references to the gittern virtually disappear in England during the following century. The guitar that re-surfaces during the mid-1750s [referred to as English guitar or ‘guittar’], enjoying a wave of popularity that faded away in the 19th century.

It is an entirely different instrument related to later developments of the cittern. During the 14th century in Geoffrey Chaucer’s time. The ‘e’ that appears at the end of his English spelling ‘gyterne’ would have been pronounced. But following the great vowel shift – Playford’s gittern has lost the ‘e’ altogether. Although Wright’s work enabled identification of the medieval instrument. References to it in 16th century England are more ambivalent regarding structure – leading to the initial confusion identifying the citole. It seems reasonable French and Spanish fashions influenced the gittern during the time of Henry VIII as they did elsewhere.

Citations: Bibliography: Tyler, James ~ The Early Mandolin [January 1981] ISBN: 0-19-816302-9 . “The Mandore in the 16th and 17th Centuries” [PDF]. Early Music. 9 Retrieved 10 April 2019. …the small, lute-like instrument of the Middle Ages called, until recently, the ‘mandora’ by modern writers, was originally called the ‘gittern’…generally used for the small, four-course, renaissance guitar, but it was still also occasionally used [until well into the 17th century] for the instrument which, during the 16th century, became known as the ‘mandore’. it is to the Spaniard Juan Bermudo that we must turn… in his Declaration de instrumentos [1555], Bermudo speaks of the bandurria. Meucci, Renato “Da ‘chitarra italiana’ a ‘chitarrone’: una nuova interpretazione”. Enrico Radesca da Foggia e il suo tempo: Atti del Convegno di studi, Foggia, 7-8 Aprile 2000. pp. 30–57. ISBN 978-887096347-2. Websites:

Hamburger Cithrinchen

Name: Hamburger Cithrinchen.
Type: Chordophones > Composites > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.322.6
Luthier: Joachim Theilke.
Era: 1650-1750.
Country: Germany.
Region: Continental Europe.

Hamburger Cithrinchen
The Hamburg Cithrinchen by Joachim Tielke, 1685 Photographed by Graeme Gibson @ Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, London UK 2019

Description: The bell-shaped cittern was a specialty of the city of Hamburg and it is properly revered to as the “Hamburger Cithrinchen”. This type of cittern was popular around 1650 to 1750 from which several examples survive. Examples are held at the Royal Albert Hall in London UK and the Met Museum.

Construction: The bell-shaped cittern was a specialty of the city of Hamburg and is properly referred to as the Hamburger Cithrinchen. It was a fashionable instrument from about 1650 to 1750 from middle to late 17th century, from which time several examples survive. The cypress body has three rosettes made of parchment. The necks and their finger boards have a total of 18 frets. Five courses [or doubled] strings, in total 10 strings. The pegbox has the head of a Moorish king.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: Grove Music Online / Cithrinchen Article By James Tylor The MET / Cittern By Joachim Tielke ca. 1685 ;