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Dan Bau (n B`u) - Monostring Chordophone

vietnamese music instrument, dan bau

The structure of the dan bau is very simple. It consists of a long piece of wood on which a silk or brass string is stretched, and fastened at one end by a peg, and tied at the other end by a flexible bamboo plate. The string is passed repeatedly through an open dried gourd (b`u) used as a sound box. Dan bau does not have any frets.

According to Vietnamese legend, dan bau has traditionally played in the groups of blind musicians, because only the blinds have greatest hearing sense to listen to the magical sounds of this instrument. Today, dan bau takes part in the ensembles of cheo, cai luong theatrical music, and even in modern music as you can see in Asia Entertainment Videos.

Dan Day (n y) - Four-String Lute

dan day - four-string lute

This is a special instrument of Vietnamese origin. The Dan Day is three-stringed lute, which incorporates 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). Mostly the Dan Day is used in the North Vietnam. Its sound box is a trapezoid shape but without a back surface. 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.

Nguyet Cam (Nguyt C`m) - Moon Lute

nguyet cam - moon lute

Nguyet Cam is a two-stringed lute with a flat, circular sound box which is shaped like a moon.
This instrument has an appearance similar to those of other East Asian Moon shaped lutes, the Yue qin of China, the Wul Kim of Korea, and the Gekkin of Japan. However the Vietnamese Nguyet Cam can easily be distinguished from others by its long neck, the prominently raised fret, and the performance practice. This is an important plucked stringed instrument used in so many kinds of musical or theatrical performances such as solo, song accompaniment, instrumental ensemble, chamber music, ritual music,royal court music...and this instrument was placed on the first position of the five perfect instrument (Nhu tuyet: Tranh, Ty, Nhi, Nguyet, Sao) in chamber music.
In chamber music of the South Vietnam , the musiciam who plays this instrument also conducts the ensemble by keeping the Song Loan ( the percussion instrument which looks like castanets, is used to keep the beat for the song playing), the Nguyet Cam has been widely appreciated by the Vietnamese for centuries.

Dan Doan (n oan) and Dan Sen (n Sn)

Dan Doan and Dan Sen is copy of the Nguyet Cam in smaller shapes.
The Dan Doan has a round thin sound box with a short neck and two strings while the Dan Sen has a flower shaped sound box with two strings on its neck which is longer than those of the Dan Doan.
In addition to the different shapes compared to the Dan Nguyet, the frets of the Dan Doan or the Dan Sen are fixed in diatonic scale instead of pentatonic scale of the Dan Nguyet.


Dan Tam (n Tam) - Three-String Lute

dan tam threee-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

Dan Tranh (n Tranh) - 16-String Zither

dan tranh

Dan Tranh is also known as Dan Thap Luc (n Th.p Lu.c - 16) with 16 strings. Its shape resembles a bamboo tube that has been sliced vertically in half. Dan tranh has mostly been seen performed by female musicians in Vietnamese traditional dress (Ao Dai). When play, 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 Dan Tranh is the smallest of the Far Eastern Zithers. The sound box of this instrument has the form of a long half cone. The 16 strings are divided into two sections by a series of 16 high and movable bridges (Nhan). The strings are stretched along a soft wooden sound board. One end of the string is wound around one of 16 tuning pegs (truc), while the other end of string passes over the tail-board and goes through one of the 16 small holes where it is attached with small pieces of paper. The strings are plucked with plectrums attached to the finger of the right hand, while the left hand is used for ornamenting the notes by pressing more or less heavily on the strings. The plectrum are made of tortoise shell, metal or plastic. Though a common Chinese ancestry, this instrument is closely related to the Japanese Koto, the Korean kayakuem, the Mogolian Jetakh and the Chinese Zheng. It is, however the smallest one and its 16 strings are currently made of steel instead of plastic or twisted silk. The zither is basically a solo instrument or something accompanies other instruments. It is used in instrumental ensemble (Hoa Tau), chamber music (Nhac thinh phong), the revival theater (cai luong), folklore group, poetry recitation (ngam tho).

Dan Ty Ba (n Ty` B) - Pear-Shaped Lute

dan ty ba

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 originated from China (Pipa) but was modified into a smaller size. The frets are placed in diatonic scale. It is a plucked stringed instrument used for vocal accompaniment, in chamber music, in royal music. The playing technique of Dan Ty Ba is the same as those of the Nguyet Cam. But because of having 4 strings, Dan Ty Ba can play chords by using 4 fingers of the right hand.


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