Monochord or Dan Bau

This single-stringed harp of the Kinh has a sound box made of bamboo (in the past) or hard wood. One end of the string is tied to a wooden roller inside the sound box. The other end is fixed to a flexible bamboo rod to which a dried gourd (or wooden box) is attached. It is interesting to note that in the Viet (Kinh) language bau mean “gourd”.

     The rod, which is made of bamboo or buffalo hom, is installed at oan end of the sound box and is the important device for producing pitch. Its flexibility allows the player to regulate the tension of the string, thus creating charming sounds while striking only one single string.

     Another feature of the monochord is that all the sounds it produces are harmonic. Thus, the timbres of the dan bau are particularly pure and gentle. Together with its capability of producing altered tones, it sounds similar to the human voice. The dan dau is used to accompany songs or declamations. It may be played either solo or together with traditional or modern instruments.

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