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  Traditional Instruments
  Dan Nhi Two-string Fiddle
The Dan Nhi is popular among several ethnic groups in Vietnam. It is also referred to as Dan Co in southern provinces of Viet Nam.
The Dan Nhi is somewhat a sort of vertical violin with two strings, held in front of the player like a small cello and played with a bow. In the past, Dan Nhi strings were made from silk, but today Dan Nhi craftsfolk prefer metal. The frets on the neck are made from horse-tail hair, and the body is covered with snake skin. The bow is made of bamboo or wood and fitted with horsehair. The hair goes through the space between the strings.
The sound of the Dan Nhi is said to imitate that of a singer. It can be played in either short staccato notes or longer chords and can be played slow or fast to suit any composition.
The Dan Nhi is capable of great flexibility in range, tone, and dynamics. The sound of the Dan Nhi is said to imitate that of a singer. It can be played in either short staccato notes or longer chords and can be played slow or fast to suit any composition.
There are three holding positions: The cornet is pressed against the musician's hip as he or she walks. The wooden resonant box is held between the musician's knees if sitting on a stool. The cylinder is held between the musician's feet if sitting on the ground.
The two-string fiddle, with its melodious sounds, can express the subtle mood of a human's soul. Due to its diverse use, the Dan Nhi is dispensable in traditional musical orchestras
  Dan Nguyet Two-string Guitar
The Southerners of Vietnam refer to this instrument as Dan Kim. Dan Nguyet has two strings and the resonator resembles the moon, that is probably why it is named Dan Nguyet, which means moon lute.
The strings were traditionally made of silk but are today normally made of nylon, which can be strummed with either finger or pick. The Dan Nguyet provides a mid-range pitch in traditional orchestras and is played in short, melodic passages. The instrument's use has varied from province to province, but in the south it's been used to accompany Cai Luong opera.
According to ancient carvings, the moon-shaped instrument appeared in Vietnam in the 11th century. Intended to be played by men, the lute has maintained a very important position in the musical traditions of the Kinh people. Therefore, this instrument is widely used in their folk, court, and academic music.
The Dan Nguyet is distinguished by its pure and loud sound, as well as by its great capacity to express different emotional moods. Thus, it is heard at solemn and animated ritual concerts, funerals, or refine chamber music recitals. It can be played in solo, as part of an orchestra, or to accompany other instruments.
This instrument has quite an important role in Vietnamese traditional music. Due to its long neck and high frets, the Dan Nguyet is also used as an ornament
  Dan Ty Ba Four-string Guitar
The Dan Ty Ba is a four-string instrument which is frequently present in a traditional orchestra. Its soundbox is shaped like a pear cut in half lengthwise. Its soundboard is made of unvarnished light wood, and its back is made of hard wood with a slightly convex surface. The neck is short and tightly fixed to the sound-box. Originally the neck bore no frets; now, however, it has four frets in addition to eight others on the soundboard and two under the strings with the highest pitch.
The frets stand low and close to each other following the heptatonic scale. The instrument has four pegs for tuning. The strings, formerly of twisted silk, are now made of plastic.
The player uses a plectrum which she holds in her right hand and plucks either upward or downward in a quick run.
The technique for left hand, which presses the strings, includes glissando, staccato, arpeggio and tremolo. The Dan Ty Ba music is light and cheerful. The instrument is played solo or as part of an orchestra or a band accompanying the singing of Hue melodies or cai luong operas.
Ty Ba recitals are well liked by music lovers at home and abroad. Though related to the Japanese biwa and the Chinese pipa, the Ty Ba has a personality of its own
  Dan Tranh 16-string zither
The Dan Tranh is also known as Dan Thap Luc or sixteen-stringed zither. Its shape resembles a bamboo tube that has been sliced vertically in half. The Dan Tranh has mostly been seen performed by female musicians in Vietnamese traditional dress (Ao Dai). When played, the instrument is placed in front of the musician, who uses her right hand to regulate the pitch and vibrate, while plucking the strings with her left hand.
The 16-string zither has a rectangular sounding box, about 110 centimeters long that tapers about 13 cm toward an end, with a warped sound board made of unvarnished light wood. The sides are made of hard wood decorated with various designs, either lacquered or inlaid with mother-of-pearl. The bottom is made of light wood with sound holes. The broader end of the sound box is pierced with 16 holes and reinforced with a metal band.
Toward the middle of the sound board there are 16 bridges made of wood or bone tipped with copper that can be moved to vary the tension of the strings, thus creating various notes. At the narrower end of the box are sixteen pegs for tuning. The strings are metal and tuned to the pentatonic scale.
The Dan Tranh sits flat like an autoharp and is plucked using all fingers. Players will usually wear picks made of plastic or tortoise shell on their fingers to facilitate plucking. The sound reverberates through the hollow wooden box below the strings. Sounds can be altered through cupping, pressing or stroking the strings instead of simply plucking.
The Dan Tranh originates from the ancient capital city of Hue, where women once played it for royalty, and the instrument is still considered a symbol of the city. The dan tranh is normally played unaccompanied, but it can also be used to accompany a singer or as part of an orchestra
  Dan Tam Three-string Lute
This three-stringed lute is used by several ethnic groups in Vietnam. The Viet call it Dan Tam, whereas the Ha Nhi call it Ta in. This instrument exists in three sizes: large, medium, and small. The small is the most popular.
The sound box is oval-shaped, and the soundboard is pierced with sound holes. A bridge is fixed on the soundboard. The neck made of hard wood is fairly long and bears no frets, only three wooden pegs for tuning. The three strings are traditionally made of twisted silk, but are now more commonly made of plastic.
The player uses a plastic plectrum, which he uses for plucking downward or upward in quick intervals. The tones of the Dan Tam are bright and cheerful and they carry far.
The techniques for the left hand include tremolos, trills, picking, stopping and especially sliding, which are played in combination with the quick plucking of the right hand. Full tones, three-quarter tones and quarter-tones can be played.
The Dan Tam is often part of an eight instrument band or an orchestra accompanying cheo drama. At present, a fourth string may be added.
The Japanese samisen, the Chinese sangen, the Chinese sanxian, the Mongolian dandze, and the Persian setar fall into the same category as the dan tam
  Sao Truc - Bamboo Flute
Sao truc, the bamboo flute, is made from a stem of fine bamboo pierced with finger holes.
The bamboo flute has long been attached to the cultural and spiritual life of the Vietnamese. It can be said that the bamboo flute contains the musical essence of the Vietnamese countryside together with the four tranquil seasons. Vietnamese people used to play Sao Truc on the fields when taking a rest, or even at nights before going to bed.
T'rung is one of the popular musical instruments closely associated with the spiritual life of the Bahnar, TSedan, Giarai, Ede and other ethnic minority groups in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
This traditional folk-musical instrument is made of short bamboo tubes differing in size, with a notch at one end and a beveled edge at the other. The long big tubes give off low-pitched tones while the short small ones produce high-pitched tones. The tubes are arranged lengthwise horizontally and attached together by two strings.
In the majestic Central Highlands, T'rung is often played after back-breaking farm work and during evening get-togethers in the communal house around a bonfire with young boys and girls singing and dancing merrily. The sounds of the gong and T'rung also mingle together at wedding parties and village festivals.
Over the time, T'rung instrument has been largely improved. More tubes have been added, and at times as many as 48 tubes are arranged in three arrays capable of performing intricate piece of modern music while preserving the traditional sound scale. Some players have even invented a stick notched at both ends for a single hand to produce two sounds at the same time, heightening the artistry of the instrument.
Vietnam's national music bands have never neglected the role of T'rung, an instrument which is original and made of simple materials, but highly appreciated at performances in the famous musical halls of many foreign countries.
  Dan Tam Thap Luc
The Tam Thap Luc is a sort of zither with thirty-six brass strings as it is called. It has the shape of an isosceles trapezoid, with a slightly convex sound board made of light, porous, unvarnished wood.
The bridges and sides are made of hardwood. The bottom is flat. There are two staggered lines of 18 bridges on the sound board. The bridges on the left have hooks to which the strings are attached; those on the right have pegs for tuning. The strings, made of metal, are struck with two thin flexible bamboo sticks tipped with felt.
The playing technique includes a quick run, vibrato, stopping, and pressing. The tones are bright and merry and the notes of an arpeggio can be played in swift succession or simultaneously.
The Tam Thap Luc plays an important role in the band accompanying cheo and cai luong operas. It can also be played to accompany instrument solos, singing, or as part of an orchestra. Recently, more strings have been added so that all semi-tones can be played
  The Trong Com
The trong com (rice drum) gets its name from the practice of placing a pinch of hot steamed rice in the middle of the drum skin to "tune" the instrument.
The trong com onsists of a hollow cylinder or hemisphere with a membrane stretched tightly over one or both ends, played by beating with sticks.
The player, when standing, has the trong com slung over his stomach. When sitting he rests his instrument on his lap. He strikes the faces of the drum with his fingers with varied style.
The sound obtained from one face is five tones higher than the other. The sound of the trong com is a little dull, somewhat similar to the large-sized dan ho, and it is used to express sadness.
The trong com is one of the percussion instruments used to accompany tuong or cheo drama. Its use has also spread to cai luong (reformed opera) and other orchestras
  Dan K'Ni
The K'Ni is a stringed musical instrument, sawing bow branch and is popular among many ethnic minority groups living in northern highlands (central Vietnam) such as Bahnar, Gia Rai, E De, Se Dang, Pako, and Hre...
The most notable particularity of K'Ni is that it has no resonator. The whole K'Ni is a round or straight branch of bamboo section about 50-70 cm in length, 02-03 cm in diameter. Frets (made of beeswax knobs) are fixed on the main part and the string is hung along its length. The bow is made of a small thin bamboo bar; the player rubs the outside of the bow on the string to produce sounds.
Though its structure is quite simple, the distinctiveness of this instrument resides in the way it is played. The player holds a thread that is linked to the string in his mouth to amplify and transform the sounds. While bowing the string and touching the frets to produce pitches, the player changes the aperture of his mouth according to the tune. Thus, the sounds are altered, almost evoking human pronunciation. However, in reality, the pitch of the sound is not standard. The reason is in the nature of half playing and half singing of the sound produced by the K'Ni. Fast changes of the musician's mouth shapes created by soft mouth membrane doesn't allow standard overtone spectrums and sound waves. Yet, those who are familiar with the sounds of the K'Ni and who understand the vernacular may catch the message of the tune. This is why people say that the K'Ni sings. The E De have added cho nac narration (type of song) to K'Ni to replace human voice.
The K'ni is a musical instrument for men to play in communal houses in ethnic minorities' hamlets or in watch-towers in milpa land. In old times, people never used to play it at home considering that with its mystical sound, the K'ni is a speaker of spirits
  Dan Day
Dan Day is a special instrument of Vietnamese origin. This three-stringed lute is used incorporate the peculiarities of the two-stringed lute (dan Nguyet), the four-stringed pear-shaped lute (dan Ty Ba), and the three-stringed lute (dan Tam).
In the past, the dan day was an accompanying instrument used only for one genre of songs, which later divided in two variants known today as hat cua dinh and hat a dao.
The dan day, exclusively played by men, most probably came into being in the 15th century when musical genres were forming. Mostly the Dan Day is used in the northern parts of Vietnam. Its sound box is a trapezoid shape but without a back surface. This bass instrument has high frets and a very long neck. The frets are fixed on the lower part of a very long neck. Its 3 plastic strings produces a low sounds and the Dan Day is only used to accompany the songs performed by female singers.
Apart from accompanying hat cua dinh and hat a dao songs, the dan day is now used to accompany poems as well. Thanks to the unusual technique called ngon chun (slacking the string with the fingers), players may lower the tones and produce refined and modest sounds, it is sometimes compared to a secluded philosopher
  H'mong Pen Pipe
The Pen-pipe is a musical instrument of the wind family with the free vibrated reed, popular among almost all of Vietnam's ethnicity in different forms. The Kinh (Viet) group calls it Khen, while the Mong ethnic minority call it the Kenh, and the Ede in the Central Highlands use a similar instrument called Dinh Nam, etc.
The Pen-pipe may have an even number of 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14 sections of small hornless bamboo pipes arranged in two rows. Each pipe is fitted with a reed made of a thin strip of copper. The section of the pipes with the reed lies inside the wooden air-chamber. The part of the pipe lying outside it shows a finger-hole. The pipe into which the player blows lies at right angles with the pipes with finger holes.
The pitch of The Pen-pipe's sounds depends on the the length of each section. The sound of The Pen-pipe is not very clear but quite strong, nonetheless; the deepest notes are rather dull. Special melodies for The Pen-pipe among ethnicity are composed in the style of homophony.
The Pen-pipe is a musical instrument for men and is used mainly to accompany singing. The H'Mong minority group play The Pen-pipe on various occasions, including funerals where it is accompanied by drums. When The Pen-pipe is played by one person, the soloist accompanies the music with dancing in which much vigorous knee-bending, body-turning, kicking, etc., is performed
  Cong Chieng
The Cong Chieng is a kind of musical instrument casted from mixed copper and belongs to the idiophonic family. In Vietnamese language, the word "Cong" points to a musical instrument with a bossed part in center (bossed gong) and "Chieng" without it (flat gong).
The Cong Chieng can be struck with wooden sticks, mallets, or even bare hands. There are various techniques that can be used to shut off sounds and to produce melodies.
The Cong Chieng may be played one at a time or in groups of 2 to 20 units. They are mainly used in offerings, rituals, funerals, wedding ceremonies, New Year’s festivities, agricultural rites, victory celebrations, etc.
In some ethnic minority groups, the Cong Chieng is only intended for men to play. However, the sac bua gongs of the Muong group are played by women. In other ethnic groups, both men and women may play the intrument. In general, taboos regarding cong-chieng customs differ from ethnicity to ethnicity.
The Cong Chieng bears great significance and value for many ethnic groups in Tay Nguyen where almost every family has at least one set of the Cong Chieng
  The Gong Zither
The gong zither is a stringed musical instrument of flipping branch. It is popular among some ethnicities in the North of the Central Highlands such as Bana, Gia Rai, Xe Dang, Ro Ngao, Je Trieng. The special instrument often accompanies its player to the field, to festivals held at the communal long-house, or to a meeting place where the player reveals his feelings to his lover.
The body of the gong zither is made of a hollow bamboo pipe which is closed by its natural nodes. Attached at one end of the tube is a sound box made of a dried gourd; pinned to the other end are bamboo bolts used to hang the 10 to 18 strings.
The gong zither is a musical instrument for men. The player skillfully puts the bottom of it onto his bell and and direct the neck of the gong forward. He snaps his fingers on the strings to create vibrations full of resonance. The gong zither can produce a variety of sounds, so it can be played instead of a small music band
  The Klong Put
The Klong put is the Xe Dang language name of a musical instrument of the wind family, air driving-in branch. It is played by ethnic groups in Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) such as the Xe Dang, Bahnar, Gia Rai, Hre, etc.
A traditional Klong put consists of many large empty hornless bamboo sections. The length of each section ranges from 60 to 200 cm and a diameter ranging from 5 to 8 cm.
This woodwind instrument is intended for women. When played, the tubes are laid horizontally and the player must either stand with her back bent or kneel while clapping her hands at a distance of about 10cm to push air into the tubes to produce sounds. Generally, each tube produces only one tone. However, some ethnic groups use the hand to block one end of the tube to produce some different pitches. With this technique, a two-tube Klong put can produce four or five pitches. The Klong put can also be played by two girls at a time.
Ethnic minority people often play the Kong put on the milpa land during the rice planting time and on the day of closing doors of rice storage. It is believed that hornless bamboo or ordinary bamboo sections of the Klong put are related to those used for containing breed seeds. This belief seems somewhat reasonable because they both give the same sounds when being blown with air. In the breed seeds is existing the spirit of "Mother Rice". Therefore, if the Klong put is played on the milpa land during the planting time, "Mother Rice" will come and help rice grow rapidly. If one plays the Klong put on the day of closing doors of the rice storage, "Mother Rice" will come along and sleep all winter in the storage, then when the next planting season comes, she will come together with seeds to the milpa land
The Dan da (lithophone) is a set of stone slabs of different sizes and shapes fabricated through an elementary technique. Lithophone is composed of a set of eleven resonant stones.
The examination of the stone slabs found at Binh Da archaeological site in the southern Dong Nai province has revealed that this kind of instrument may have existed for over 3,000 years.
For some ethnic groups in Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands), the stone slabs are sacred and preserved as family treasures played during grand ceremonies for the gods. For others, the stone slabs are used for setting up crop-protection devices
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