Europe South ATLAS of Plucked Instruments

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Europe (South)

This is the third page of Europe, the South (East):
Albania, Bosnia, Greece, Italy, and the islands Malta, Sardinia and Corsica .

 

For the Eastern side go to
Europe East :
Austria, Russia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Rumania and Croatia

For the Western side go to
Europe West :

Spain, Portugal, Canary islands, Madeira, Azores, Cape Verde, Ireland

For Turkey see Middle East.

 

 

 

top Albania
ciftelia
example : bought in Albania, 1985
L=840 B=160 H=120mm
scale 630mm
You Tube
qiftelia

The folk lute of Albania is 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. It has (brass) inlayed frets, 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, but slanting to different sides.

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.

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.

Playing the qiftelia is strumming with the fingers, and fingering mainly the first string, with the second as drone.

top  
sharki
example : bought from Albatune, 2010
L=1240 B=270 H=220mm
scale 960mm
You Tube
sharki

The sharki (or sharkia) is a similar instrument as the two-string qiftelia, but larger and with more strings, and looking more like a Turkish saz. This instrument also exists in other countries of the Balkan (like Bosnia), and then names like sargija or shargija are used (see under).

The body is usually carved from one piece of wood - sometimes deeper than the saz, 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.
The peghead can be in various shapes : straight like a saz with T-shaped friction pegs (front or/and left side), or flat, with tuning machines from behind on both sides, or on a row on the (left) side.
The soundboard usually has a scratchplate, and often some decoration in the shape of the Albanian double eagle. Around the edges burned decoration is populair.

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. 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.

left :
Three sharkis in a museum in Tirana, Albania 1985

Tuning of the sharki is often similar to the saz :
c g d.

The sharki is played by strumming all strings together, and fingering mainly the first course, to accompany singing.

   
top Bosnia
saz
example :
picture from PIK.ba
L=~1200 B=0 H=0mm
scale 0mm
You Tube
saz

In Bosnia they use some instruments that look similar to the Turkish saz, but are in fact types of the tambura. One is here also called saz, and the other one (often a bit smaller) is called šargija (see under). There is for both instruments quite a wide range of models, depending on the local maker and (probably) the region.
They both differ from the Turkish saz in not having the soundhole in the end of the body, but in the front and on the left side of the body, and a different way of fretting.

The 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 like on the Turkish saz, in an almost western pattern.
The peghead can be in various shapes : like a Turkish 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 front and the body often have folk-art decorations in burn marks. The soundhole can be round, or many small holes. Usually there is an extra hole at the side of the body (facing the player).

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.

   
šargija
example :
bought via PIK.ba,
Bosnia 2011
L=1200 B=270 H=230mm
scale 900mm
You Tube
duo with violin
You Tube
šargija

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 body of the šargija is usually carved from one piece of wood - sometimes deeper than the saz, sometimes rather flat on the bottom, with a "peak". Often there are many small soundholes on the front, and one small hole in the left side of the body. The neck is separate and joined with a V-join to the body. The frets could be inlayed metal frets, or tied-on nylon, (like on the saz), in a non-western pentatonic pattern. The fingerboard is flush with the front.

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 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 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.

   
bugarija
example :
bought from friend in Bosnia, 2011
L=630 B=120 H=105mm
scale 410mm
You Tube
bugarija

In Bosnia you may also find a smaller šargija, called bugarija. This instrument is maybe the forerunner of the sargija. 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 Europe East)

The body of the bugarija is carved from one piece of wood, with a high round back and a rather flat bottom. The neck is separate and joined to the body with a V-join. The frets are often tied-on nylon, like on the saz, in a non-western pentatonic pattern.
The peghead is usually straight, and with 4 T-shaped friction pegs : 2 on the front, and two slanting to the left.

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.
Tuning could be : f c g g.

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.

   
top Greece
bouzouki
example :
bought second hand in Holland, 1983
L=990 B=300 H=160mm
scale 675mm
You Tube
bouzouki

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. For more information about Greek instruments see Helleniccomservice.com, and for lots of beautiful instruments see NVO.com.

The bouzouki has a lute-shape body with a guitar-neck. The body is made from many narrow ribs, glued together. The inside is layered with a kind of (coloured) silver paper. The soundboard is made of pine. On the top half around the (round or fancy shaped) soundhole there is always a black and white decorative scratch plate (made of plastic nowadays) under the varnish.

The neck is guitar-like with a flat peghead, and machine heads on both sides of the open 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.

The tuning of the modern 4 course ("tetrachordo") bouzouki is usually similar to a guitar : D g b e', or a tone lower : C f a d'.
The old style 3 course ("trichordo") bouzouki (mainly used in "rembetika" folk music) could be tuned : D a d'.

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.

For more information about the bouzouki see ArabicMusic.

 

top  
laghouto
example :
bought on Crete, 2000
L=1040 B=375 H=190mm
scale 750mm
You Tube
laghouto

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). It is usually quite expensive. There are two types : one on the mainland and a larger laghouto on the island of Crete. There is also another lute-like instrument : the outi, which is similar to the Turkish oud (see Middle East)

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 carved wooden rosette (like an oud). The bridge is glued-on. Often the bottom edge of the body has a decorative strip of leather for protection.

The guitar-like neck has tied-on nylon frets, with some wooden frets glued on the front (sometimes with small round pieces of wood or wax on both sides). The guitar-like open peghead has 4 tuning machines on both sides.

The laghouto has 4 double steel strings in mandolin-like tuning. On the mainland :
Cc Gg Dd aa and on Crete : Gg Dd Aa ee . Note that the lowest course is up an octave. It has a deep strong singing sound.

It is played with a plectrum, using the lower courses mainly as drones. Playing is not easy, because of the large size, the round back and the tuning.

 

See for the related lutes : lavta and outi under Turkey.

top  
baglama
example : bought from Palmguitars, 2000
L=510 B=120 H=70mm
scale 340mm
You Tube
baglama

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.

The neck looks relatively large. It has a raised fretboard. The tuning head can be like a guitar or like a mandolin, but always has tuning machines .

It has 6 metal strings in 3 courses, which run over a loose wooden bridge to a metal tailpiece at the edge of the body.

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.

Left :
The difference in size between a baglama and a bouzouki

 

Right :
A bouzouki-like built baglama and a carved baglama

 

(both pictures from website NVO)

top  
tzoura
example :
bought via eBay 2009
L=820 B=120 H=110mm
scale 600mm
You Tube
tzouras

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 neck is a bit shorter than that of the bouzouki.

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.

 

A music shop in Crete, showing the difference in size between bouzoukis, tzouras and baglamas.
   
tabouras
example :
bought via internet
from Thebouzoukishop, Greece 2009
L=800 B=170 H=160mm
scale 550mm
You Tube
tabouras

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 neck is long and thin, without a fretboard, and joined to the body with a V-join. The fretting is (like the saz) with tied-on nylon frets in an oriental scale with 1/2 and 1/4 tones, but the distances differ (also between different makers).

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.

left :
boulgari from Crete.
Note the soundhole on the side and the different fretting.


Picture from website BoulgariGallery

   
top Italy
chitarra battente
example :
bought via internet
from AlfonsoToscano,
Italy 2007
L=960 B=290 H=115mm
scale 640mm
You Tube
You Tube
4 together
You Tube
after 80 seconds :
tarantella calabresa
chitarra battente

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).

The back is often rounded (like the 17th century instrument), but many are flat. The soundboard is slanting from the loose bridge downwards, and the strings are usually fixed to a small stringholder at the end of the body. The soundhole is traditionally filled with a wooden or parchment rosette; on some instruments there are 3 rosettes. Decorations can be with pieces of cut-out paper, or paintings.

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).
Some chitarra battentes have 4 or 6 single or double courses, but most will have 5 double courses. It always has metal strings and usually they are all of the same thickness (!).

The tuning is : a d' g b e', usually in unisons, with no basses.
The Puglia chitarra has a d octave string, and the Calabria chitarra has a g' string fixed from a peg halfway the back of the neck (between the 6th and 7th fret).

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.

left:
chitarra with 3 rosettes
(from CD La Tarantella del Gargano)






right:
chitarra with rounded back
(from website Liuteriaetnica.it)
   
top Malta
terzin
example :
custom made by BandAidMusic, Malta 2010
L=960 B=330 H=75mm
scale 650mm
You Tube
terzin kitarra

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.
One is tuned normal : E A d g b e' (called "LA guitar"),
the second one in tuned : E F# B e g# c# (called "DO guitar"),
and the terzin is tuned : G# B e a c'# e' (called "SOL guitar").

One of the (elder) makers of Maltese guitars on the island was Indri Brincat ("il-Pupa") who designed a special terzin with one long "arm" on the side of the body, as special kind of decoration (it has no influenze on the sound).
Some have even arms on both sides of the body !


picture with il-Pupa from book Maltese Folk Music

For some information about Maltese music see ghanafest.

   
top Sardinia
kithera sarda
example : bought via internet from Musikalia, Sicily 2001
L=1090 B=450 H=120mm
scale 680mm
You Tube
You Tube
kithera sarda

On the (Italian) island Sardinia they perform a special kind of singing, quite like 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 stringholder.
The purfling around the edge of the body is highly decorative, as is some Italian mandoline-like scratchplate, often inlayed in the front.

The strings are tuned 3 tones lower than the normal guitar.

   
top Corsica
cetera
example :
from website Ugo
L=0 B=0 H=0mm
scale 620 mm
You Tube
cetera

On the (French) island Corsica quite recently the folk musicians have rediscovered the old cittern. 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 looks like a cittern, with the d-shape. See for more information (in French) Ugocetera.

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.

The frets are made of metal in a normal scale. The pegbox can be flat with tuning machines or friction pegs from the back, or sickle-shape with friction pegs from both sides.

The thin metal strings are either in 4 double courses or in 8 double courses.
The tuning of the 8 course cetera is : cc dd es.es ff gg gg dd gg .

Playing is with a plectrum, mainly the first courses; the rest is used as drones.

 

   
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