|Europe South||ATLAS of Plucked Instruments|
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The folk lute of Albania is quite similar to the Turkish (small) cura saz. The name qiftelia (officially written çiftelia, and sometimes cifteli) means "two strings" in Albanian.
The qiftelia is carved (like the old Turkish saz) from one piece of wood, with a pine soundboard. The long thin neck is separate and joined to the body with a V-join.
There is no fretboard. The (brass) inlayed frets are in a special diatonic scale with 7 frets in an octave. The straight peghead is part of the neck and ends in a narrow end. The T-shaped friction pegs are both on the front - the top one straight, the lower one slanting to the left side. It has a brass topnut.
Usually there is some kind of inlay on the front to serve as scratchboard (like on some mandolins). On some instruments there is woodburning decoration around the edges or even a full picture on the entire front. There is a small soundhole on the front, and another one on the left side of the body.
The 2 metal strings run over a small metal bridge (screwed to the soundboard) to a small metal stringholder at the edge of the body.
Tuning could be : b e'
Playing the qiftelia is strumming with the fingers, and fingering mainly the first string, with the second as drone.
The sharki (or sharkia) of Albania is a similar instrument as the two-string qiftelia, but larger and with more strings, and looking more like a Turkish saz. Similar large instruments also exists in other countries of the Balkan (like Bosnia), with names like sargija or shargija (see under).
The body of the sharki is usually carved from
one piece of wood - sometimes deeper than the saz, and sometimes
rather flat on the bottom. The neck is separate and joined to the body
with a V-join. The frets are often inlayed metal frets, but could also
be tied-on like on the saz, in a "meantone" pattern.
There are always 3 courses of metal strings : this could be 3 single strings, or in a double-single-double pattern, or all double, or one of the courses in triple. The strings run over a small loose wooden bridge on the front, to be fixed at the end of the body. This can be an extension of the wood of the body, a small metal stringholder, or separate pins.
In Bosnia they use some instruments
that look similar to the Turkish saz, but are in fact different
types of tambura. One is here also called saz, and
the other one (often a bit smaller) is called šargija
(see under). Both instruments can be found in quite a wide
range of models, depending on the local maker and (probably) the region.
Also the name seems less fixed : some people call a similar looking
instrument "saz", while others call it "šargija".
The (very) large body of the Bosnian saz is
usually carved from one piece of wood - sometimes quite deep. The neck
is separate and joined to the end of the body. The frets are often inlayed
metal frets, but could also be tied-on nylon, in an (almost) western
Usually the saz has 3 courses of metal strings : this could be 3 single strings, or in a double-single-double pattern, or all double, or one of the courses in triple. The strings run over a small loose wooden bridge on the front, to be fixed on the end of the body. This can be an extension of the wood of the body, a small metal stringholder, or separate pins. Tuning could be : c g d.
The Bosnian saz is played by strumming all strings together, and fingering mainly the first course, to accompany singing.
For the many tambura instruments on the Balkan see also EuropeEast.
The other tambura type used in Bosnia (but also in other countries of the Balkan) and looking like the Turkish saz, is the tambura type šargija (or shargija). It is a similar instrument as the Albanese sharki, but the šargija seems to be more rustic, with on the body : carvings, paintings or (most often) burned decoration. There is a very large variety of body shapes, depending on the local maker. Also the size can be from very large to quite small.
The peghead can be in various shapes : like a saz with T-shaped friction pegs (front or/and left side), or tuning machines from behind on both sides, or on a row on the (left) side. The entire instrument is varnished.
Basically there are always 3 courses of metal strings
: this could be 3 single strings, or in a double-single-double pattern,
or all double, or one of the courses in triple. On some šargija
there is a very short (octave) string from a peg at the left side of
the neck, close to the body.
The šargija is played by strumming all strings together, and fingering mainly the first course, to accompany singing, or as duo with a violin.
For the many other tambura instruments on the Balkan see also EuropeEast.
In Bosnia you may also find a smaller šargija, called bugarija. This instrument is maybe the forerunner of the šargija. It is mainly used in rural areas, although not many people play it anymore. It resembles a bit the dangubica (or tambura samica) from Serbia (see EuropeEast)
The bugarija has 4 single metal strings. The
strings run over a small loose wooden bridge on the front, and are fixed
on some pins at the end of the body.
It is played by strumming all strings together, and fingering mainly the first course, to accompany singing.
Notice that one of the tamburitza instruments of Croatia is also called bugarija.
The main plucked instrument in Greece is the bouzouki. Originally from Turkish origin it had 3 courses (like the baglama saz), nowadays it has usually 4 double courses.
The bouzouki has a lute-shape body, made from many narrow ribs, glued together. The inside is covered with a kind of (coloured) silver paper. The soundboard is made of pine, with a round or fancy shaped soundhole. Around the soundhole (from bridge to the top) is usually a black and white decorative scratch plate (made of plastic nowadays) under the varnish.
The neck is guitar-like with a flat peghead, and tuning
machines on both sides of the open slotted peghead. The fingerboard
is raised and has metal frets. Often part of the fretboard (and sometimes
the entire fretboard) is made of shiny perloid. The strings run over
a very wide loose bridge to a mandolin-like tailpiece.
Playing the bouzouki is with a plectrum, often
with much tremelo. Music in the "syrtaki" dance style is often
with 7/4 and 5/4 rhythms, and many extra passing notes.
The laghouto (or laouto) is a kind
of hybrid : a large lute-shaped body with a guitar-neck, and a mandolin-like
tuning. A similar type of instrument is used all over the Balkan (often
with similar sounding names, like llautë
The body of the laghouto is made like a big
baroque lute, with many ribs glued together. The pine soundboard
has (between soundhole and bridge) a scratchplate inlayed from different
wood. The round soundhole is covered with a separate carved wooden rosette
(like an oud). Sometimes the bottom edge of the body has a
decorative strip of leather for protection.
The laghouto has 4 double steel strings in mandolin-like
See for the related lutes : lavta and outi under Turkey.
The Greek baglama (or bakllama) is in fact a kind of miniature bouzouki, with 3 double metal strings. The shape can be quite different between different makers.
There are two types : the body can be carved from one
piece of wood, or it can be made like a tiny bouzouki, built
from staves. The soundboard is made of pine. It has a small soundhole
and is usually not so much decorated as the bouzouki.
Tuning of the baglama is like the 3-course bouzouki : d" a' d" . It is played with a plectrum in the Rebetika style music.
Notice that in Turkey the normal size saz is also called baglama.
Between the bouzouki and baglama is another lute-like instrument : the tzouras (or tsoura, or jura, or tzoura). The name is similar to the small Turkish cura (saz).
The body of the tzouras is made like that of
the bouzouki (with many ribs), but much smaller. Some are still
carved from one piece of wood.
The tzouras can have either 3 or 4 courses of double metal strings, and it is tuned like the bouzouki : dd' aa d'd', or : c f a d'.
It is usually played like a bouzouki, for similar types of music.
The tabouras is considered to be the Greek ancestor of the bouzouki and closely related to the Turkish saz (baglama). However the original production method has been lost when the instrument went out of fashion. Nowadays there is a revival of this instrument, and makers are quite inventive to use construction elements from both the saz and the tzouras. Names that are used are tabouras, or taboura, or tambouras or saz. On Crete a quite similar instrument is used : the boulgari (or bulgari). Like the saz, the instruments are made in different sizes.
The tabouras looks in general very much like
a Turkish saz. Usually the body nowadays is made like a lute,
from separate ribs (although it may still be carved from one piece of
wood). Unlike the saz (with the soundhole in the bottom of
the body) the soundhole of a tabouras is in the front, with
often a carved rosette.
The tuninghead is like the neck, but slightly angled to the back, and made from a separate piece of wood. There are usually 6 or 7 T-shaped tuning pegs : 3 (or 4) on the front, and 3 on the left side. The metal strings (in 3 courses) run over a small loose bridge to a small stringholder on the bottom edge of the body.
Tuning could be like the tzouras : gg' d'd' g'g', or similar (depending on the scale length), or like the Turkish saz. Playing is with a plectrum.
The tabouras is generally considered the most appropriate instrument for teaching Byzantine music on musicschools.
In the southern half of Italy, in the regions of Calabria, Campania, Basilica and Puglio, you can still find the chitarra battente ("strumming guitar"). They sometimes look quite similar to the 17th century chitarra battente (see early guitars), but that is mainly because the makers try to use those as model. All instruments are locally made, so there is a large variety in models - although the type can usually be recognized: short neck, slanting front, strings fixed to the body edge. See for many different examples of this instrument, the website : Chitarrabattente (in Italian).
There is no fingerboard : the (10) metal frets are put
straight in the neck, flush with the front, and usually the neck joins
at the 10th fret. It can have tuning pegs (from behind), or tuning machines
(but usually not a slotted peghead).
Playing is just strumming a few chords to accompany singing or a mandolin solo.
Notice that in Italy the Spanish guitar is called the French guitar ("chitarra francese"). Also notice that "chitarra battente" is sometimes (wrongly) translated as "guitar clapper" or "knocking guitar". And finally notice the resemblence with the violas from Portugal, which also have 5 double courses of thin metal strings and the fingerboard flush with the front.
On the small island of Malta (just south of Italy), the traditional improvised folksinging "ghana" [pronounced : "aa-na"] is accompanied by three guitar players. Two play normal rhythm guitars, and the third plays "il-prim" (the lead) on a guitar that is usually a bit smaller, and called : terzin, or Maltese guitar.
The terzin ("3/4") is locally made, as a simple kind of spanish guitar (with steel strings), with a slightly smaller body. It often has folk-like decorations, like striped purfling around the edges.
The three guitars each have their own tuning.
On the (Italian) island Sardinia they perform a special kind of singing, quite similar to that in the south of Italy - with very harsh and deep male voices. Some song contests are accompanied by a large acoustic guitar - the kithera sarda - which is usually made in Sicily (another Italian island).
The kithera sarda often resembles the Jumbo
(Dreadnought) shape, but is even larger (!) and the steel strings run
over a flat loose bridge to a metal stringholder.
The strings are tuned 3 tones lower than the normal guitar.
On the (French) island Corsica quite recently the folk musicians have rediscovered the old cittern - which is locally called the cetera - or cetera corse. They have extended the number of strings and when played, the sound and feeling (of the thin metal strings) is that of the old orpharion. Even some of the necks look like a cittern, with the d-shape. As the makers make up their own models, there is not one standard cetera, although the general model can be recognised.
The body of the cetera is mandolin/cittern-like,
with a flat back. Sometimes the bottom has a small extension to fix
the strings to. The back of the neck is either like a normal guitar-neck
or in a d-shape, like on cittern and orpharion. The
fretboard is raised above the soundboard. Sometimes a rosette made of
parchment fills the round soundhole.
See for more information (in French) casa-liutaiu.