It's our intention to provide a sound sample of each instrument that we've
assembled for our musical project. When possible, our sound files will also
include the scale and the microtonal ranges within the scale. We look
forward to hearing from those composer(s) who will be inspired to write for
these ancient and some not so ancient instruments.
S t r i n g I n s t r u m e n t s
Dan Nguyet (moon) or Dan Kim
A 2-string with name refers to shape of the sound box. Unlike the Chinese
yue'k'i`n, Dan Kim has long, slender fingerboard with unequal frets
which allows extreme modulations. Similar to the Cambodian chapey deng
Dan Nhat (sun) or Dan Doan (short)
Dan Nhat has five strings and short, slender fingerboard with unequal frets
which allows extreme modulations.
Dan Ti Ba
Dan Ty Ba is a four-string. It has a pear-shaped body and a neck with a
fretted fingerboard that is usually bent just below the tuning pegs. Similar
to the Chinese P'i P'â. Size: 37" L X 9-1/2" W.
Dan Tam (3), Cai Tam, or Cai Dan Huyen Tu
Dan Tam has 3 strings, keyless/fretless fingerboard and ivory capotasto. The
neck and cylindrical sound-box are typically decorated/covered with snake
Dan Sen is a 2-string, 14 keys instrument. It is only used in the Hat Boi
(Traditional Drama) in South Viet Nam.
The Singer's Lute
Dan Day or Dan Nha Tro
Dan Day is used to accompany the A-Dao (professional singers) in North Viet
The double bass, recently developed to take the role of the Western Bass
Guitar. It has four strings, a fretted fingerboard, and a large, square
body. It is tuned in fourths and has the sloping shoulders and flat back
characteristic of the viola. It has a low range beginning about three
octaves below center C.
Dan Nhi or Dan Co
A fiddle played with a bow, having 2 strings tuned at intervals of a fifth,
an unfretted fingerboard, and a pipe-bowl-shaped sound-box. It is capable of
great flexibility in range, tone, and dynamics. There are 3 holding
positions: The cornet is presses against the musician's hip as he/she walks.
The wooden resonant box is held between the musician's knees sitting on a
stool. The cylinder is held between the musician's feet in sitting position.
Dan Nhi is called Dan Co in South Viet Nam.
Dan Gao or Dan Ho
Slightly bigger than the Dan Nhi with hemispherical resonance box made of
coconut. Its sweet sonority resembles that of cello. Same holding positions
as of Dan Co.
Dan Bau or Dan Doc Huyen
An acoustical instrument consisting of a sounding box with one string and a
movable bridge, used to study musical tones. The instrument's single string
stretchs over a trapezoidal wood soundboard. The soundboard is made of the
hard rind of the bau (type of gourd). Subtle ornamentations,
glissandi sounds, and imitation of the human voice could be produced by
simultaneously plucking the string and pulling the ancient whammy bar.
The whammy bar is a flexible bamboo stem which attachs to one end of
Strangest, oddest looking instruments in the world! It comes from the Ede
people of the Tay Nguyen highlands. A cross between a harmonica and a
fiddle. By using his/her mouth as a resonator, the musician can inflect or
"pronounce" each note. Similar effects to the talk-box with electric
guitar used by Peter Frampton or blow-pipe controller with
synthesizer used by Funk musicians.
koh comes from the Mnong people.
Broh (Jarai); Brou (Bahnar)
. . .
Dan Tranh or Thap Luc (16)
16-21 string zither composes of a flat sound box with strings stretched over
it and played horizontally with the fingertips or a plectrum. Similar to the
Chinese tcheng, strings are supported by movable wooden bridge for
tuning. Size: 38" L X 6" W (small end) X 8" W (big end)
A zither with 36 wire strings of graduated lengths stretched over a sound
box, played by striking with 2 padded hammers or by plucking. Notes are
difficult to bend or ornate. Similar to Iranian santur and Western
W o o d w i n d & B r a s s I n s t r u m e n t s
Ong Sao (Ong Sao Quan, Sao Ngang) or Ong Dich
A high-pitched woodwind instrument consisting of a slender tube closed at
one end with keys and 6 finger holes on the side and an opening near the
closed end across which the breath is blown. Ong Dich includes 1
supplementary hole close-off by a membrane of paper between the blowing end
and the 6 finger holes.
A woodwind made out of special bamboo. Similar to the Chinese ti.
Sao Mot Lo
The 1-hole flute's ornamentations and tonal nuances is created by varying
the pressure and shape of the lips and varying the position of the finger
over the single hole. It has piercing upper ranger which sound could cuts
through the large ensemble.
An end-blown flute made of special bamboo or occasionally bronze. Similar to
the Chinese hsaio.
The sol is a flute, and sounds like a whistle. It has a high-pitched range.
The Vietnamese oboe is a slender woodwind with 6 holes, a conical bore and a
double reed mouthpiece, having a range of three octaves and a penetrating,
poignant sound. There are 2 kinds of Ken: Ken Trung (big) and Ken Tieu
(small). Size: 18" L (former) ; 6" (latter).
The lam kep comes from the H'mong minority, from the high mountains of
northern Viet Nam. Its sound is easily distinguished from any other
Vietnamese flute because it has a reed, which gives it an almost fiddle-like
sound. It is most often heard in love songs and spring festival songs.
The Dinh Nam comes from the people of Ede. Similar to a Pan Pipe.
To Diep is made of Buffalo horn. It comes from the Bahnar people.
P e r c u s s i o n s
Dai Co, Trong Chau or Trong Cai
The great drum consists of a hollow cylinder or hemisphere with a membrane
stretched tightly over one or both ends, played by beating with sticks. In
Traditional Drama Orchestra, the Dai Co is used to accentuate the well-sung
passages of the singers.
Trong Ba Bong
Trong Tran is supported by a tripod stand, played with a pair of wooden
stick. Monks used a similar drum to accompany prayers which is called Trong
Trong Nhac consisting of Trong Cai (female) or Trong Vo (military) and Trong
Duc (male) or Trong Van (civil). The Trong Duc has lower range. Size: 15"
Trong Com or Phan (cooked rice) Co (drum)
Trong Com is tuned by a piece of cooked rice paste glued at the center of
the membranes. Size: 8" DIA. (center) 6" DIA (ends); 15 to 21" L.
A tall, usually tapering single-headed drum typically played by beating with
the hands. Similar to Latin-American conga.
Truncated Cone-shaped Drum
Trong Bat Cau
One-end skin Drum
A percussion consisting of a hollow vase-shaped sound-body with a membrane
stretched tightly over one end strained by a system of strings which are
fastened at the swelling of the sound-body, played by beating with the hands
Chieng, Lenh, and Thanh La (Dong La)
A rimmed metal disk that produces a loud, sonorous tone when struck with a
padded mallet. There are 3 kinds of gongs: the Chieng, the Lenh, and the
Thanh La (Dong La).
Set of 3 connected tuned gongs that are played by beating with a
felt-covered hammer or stick used in a Nha Nhac (Royal Music Orchestra).
Chap Cha or Nao Bat
String of Globular Bells
Day Luc Lac; Bahnar: Greng neng; Jorai: Yao prong;
Cai Phach, Quan Tien Phach or Cai Sinh Tien
An instrument consisting of jingling disks that are fitted onto a 2" W X 12"
L wood piece. It is shaken with one hand and struck with the other. Often
used in the plural. They are used in the Bat Am (Royal Orchestra).
Phach or Cai Sinh
A rhythm instrument consisting of 37" L. bamboo, and played with 2 wooden
sticks. It was used in the Giao Phuong (Popular Orchestra) under Le dynasty
Phach Bang or Cai Chac
A rhythm instrument consisting of a pair of ivory, bamboo or hardwood, and
clapped together with the hands. Often used in the plural. It is called Song
(2) Lang (bamboo) in South Viet Nam. Size: 2" THK X 10 to 12" L.
The Mo is made of scooped wood, played by striking with a wooden stick to
Mo Sung Trau
The Mo is made of scooped Buffalo-horn, played by striking with a wooden
stick. Size: 6 to 9" L
Chuong or Chung
The Great Bell consists of a hollow metal vessel set into vibration by a
blow from a clapper within or a hammer without. Apparently originating in
Asia, bells have been used in connection with all major religions except
The Gang Bell is made of cooper, played by striking with a mallet at the
beginning of the Khai Kinh.
A portable set of 12 bells tuned to the chromatic scale and played with 2
The k'longput comes from the Tay Nguyen plateau. A percussion instrument
consisting of a mounted row of bamboo graduated in length and diameter to
sound a chromatic scale, played by clapping hands together, forcing air
through the tubes and producing a sound vaguely similar to a panpipe.
A wooden percussion with xylophone-like sound. It comes from the Tay Nguyen
Chi D. Nguyen
References: Vietnamese Traditional Music & The Music of Viet Nam