Dan Bau, Dan Tranh, Dan T'rung, Dan Tam Thap Luc, Dan Nguyet, Dan Doan, Dan K'long Put, Dan Nhi,
Dan Tam, Dan Ty Ba, Sao Truc

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DAN BAU (Monochord)

Let the artist of the Dan Bau be the only one who listens to his music. Young maid guard yourself against listening.

This warning, probably coming from vigilant parents wishing to protect their daughters from the emotional appeal of love songs played on this instrument; this gives an idea of the power and charm of its music.

According to the "Dai Nam thuc luc tien bien"  the first dan bau was made in 1770. At its first appearance it was a very simple instrument comprised of a bamboo section, a flexible rod, a calabash or half a coconut. After a process of evolution and improvement, the present form of the dan bau is a bit more sophisticated, yet still quite simple. It consists of an oblong box-shaped sound board, slightly narrower toward one end, with a slightly warped top made of unvarnished soft light wood, sides made of hard wood, and a bottom of light wood pierced with holes for better sound. At one end of the sound board is a flexible bamboo rod that goes through a dried calabash whose bottom end has been cut out before being fixed on the sounding board. At the other end of the sounding board is a peg  made of wood or metal used for tuning . The metal string, is attached to the rod and to the peg. The pluck is a pointed stick of bamboo or rattan.

The notes played by the dan bau are smooth, sweet, and captivating. In recent years success has been achieved in amplifying the sound, causing an increase in volume and distance the that the sound carries, while still preserving the quality of the sound.

The instrument is played solo or to accompany a poetry recital. During recent years, it has taken a role in orchestral accompaniment to cheo and cai luong opera. The dan bau has been performed on major stages in foreign countries.

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DAN TRANH (Tranh Zither)

The tranh zither is also called the thap luc cam or sixteen-stringed zither. The tranh zither appeared in Vietnam in the time of the Tran dynasty (12th-13th centuries). It has a rectangular sounding box, about 110 centimetres 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 range of the tranh zither is about three octaves, from the notes C to C3. The player uses a plectrum and can play chords, trills, tremolos... Her left hand, which manipulates the strings, can use such techniques such as pressing, vibrato, glissando, etc.

The music of the tranh zither is usually light and full of cheerfulness. The instrument bears some likeness to the Japanese koto, the Korean Kayagum, the Mongolian Jatac, the Chinese Zeng, and the Indonesian Kachap, which have 13, 12, 12, 13-16, 7-24 strings, respectively. It is nonetheless an original Vietnamese instrument with specific musical characteristics. It is used to accompany poetry recitals and is quite often part of an orchestra or a band playing chamber music, religious music, or accompanying cheo or cai luong drama.

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DAN T'RUNG (Bamboo Xylophone)

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 people in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. It is made of very 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.

There are three types of T'rung: high, medium and low tones. The simplest type is composed of five tubes corresponding to La, Do 1, Re 1, Fa 1, Sol 1 and producing deep and resounding tones. In the majestic Central Highlands, T'rung is often played after back-breaking farm work and during evening get 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.

The 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.

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DAN TAM THAP LUC (36-string zither)

The 36-string zither is a percussion instrument. 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 are of metal. Those on the left, numbering 18, are tuned as follows:

The range of the instrument covers three octaves from C to B2. The strings 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 instrument plays an important role in the band accompanying cheo and cai luong operas. The 36-string zither can 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.

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DAN NGUYET (Moon-Shaped Lute)

According to ancient carvings, the moon-shaped lute 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. 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 emotions. Thus, it is heard at solemn and animated ritual concerts, funerals, or refined chamber music recitals. It can be played in solo, as part of an orchestra, or to accompany other instruments.

Due to its long neck and high frets, the dan nguyet is also used as an ornament

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DAN DOAN (Sun Lute)

Dan Doan has a shape of the sun (bigger than the moon). Therefore, sometimes people call it - Dan Nhat (Dàn Nhâ.t). It has 2 strings, a very short neck, and the frets are right on the resonator box.

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DAN K'LONGPUT

This musical instrument was intended for women. The name klong put of Xe Dang origin has become the common name of this woodwind musical instruments depicted to the right. It is played by ethnic groups in Tay Nguyen, such as the Xe Dang, Bahnar, Gia Rai, Hre, etc.

The k'long put is made of a set of 2 to 12 bamboo tubes. Each tube has a length ranging from 60 to 200 cm and a diameter ranging from 5 to 8 cm. The tubes are either opened at one end or at both ends. When played, the tubes are laid horizontally and the player must either stand with her back bent or kneel while clapping her hands 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.

According to a legend, this instrument is the residence of Mother Rice (goddess). Therefore, it is closely associated with agricultural production, being played exclusively by women on the field and at specific festivities, such as eating new rice, closing the rice storage house, welcoming the New Year, etc. The number of k'long put melodies is somewhat limited. This instrument has been brought to stage by professional artists who perform various pieces.

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DAN NHI (Two-string fiddle)

A folksong of the north, a lullaby of the centre, or a cai luong aria of the south will lose much of its charm if not accompanied by the nhi, a traditional instrument capable of a great variety of expression.

The nhi is a bow instrument with two strings, commonly used among  the Viet ethnic group and several national minorities: Muong, Tay, Thai, Gie, Trieng, Khmer. The nhi comprises a tubular body made of hard wood with snake or python skin stretched over one end and a bridge. The neck of the nhi has no frets. Made of hard wood, one end of the neck goes through the body; the other end slants slightly backward. There are two pegs for tuning. The two strings, which used to be made of silk, are now of metal and are tuned in fifths: C-1 D-2; F-1 C-2; or C-1 G-1.

The bow is made of bamboo or wood and fitted with horsehair,. The hair goes through the space between the strings. The tones of the nhi range over two octaves, from C-1 to C-3. In drawing the bow, the player  uses various techniques, including legato, vibrato, staccato; combined with his fingering of the strings he can produce trills, glissando, rapid runs, etc.

The nhi is a highly expressive instrument which plays an important solo and orchestral-role.

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DAN TAM (Three-string Lute)

As the name indicated, this lute composed of three silk strings. Dan Tam can have very high sound. The tension of every string can vary freely to produce melodious sounds. One intestestring thing is that Dan Tam is fretless, The sound-box is usally decorated or covered with snake skin.

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DAN TY BA (Pear-shaped Lute)

Dan Ty Ba has a pear-shaped sound-box that becomes narrow toward its upper end to form the neck. This instrument has 4 strings of braided silk.

Dan Ty Ba was indispensable in the ancient eight-instrument musical bands. The ty ba was mainly used in royal court orchestras, and was rarely seen in popular musical bands.

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SAO TRUC (Bamboo Flute)

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.

The bamboo flute is made from the stem of fine bamboo with a diameter of 1.5cm and a length of about 30cm. On the stem there is one mouth piece and 10 finger holes. It has piercing upper ranger which sound could cuts through the large ensemble.

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Last Update:  08/01/2009Copyright © 2002-2009 by [Tieng Hat Que Huong]. All rights reserved.