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

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.

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

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.
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 coloured inlayed scratchplate and some decoration (sometimes in the shape of the Albanian double eagle). Around the edges burned decoration is populair.

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.

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

Tuning of the sharki could be : aa d gg.

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

top  
llauta
example :
bought
L=~900 B=0 H=0mm
scale ~650mm
You Tube
llauta

The llauta is the Albanian version of the Greek laghouto (see under) and seems a kind of hybrid : a lute-shaped body with a guitar-neck, and a mandolin-like tuning. The llauta is often made in a 3/4 version.

The body of the llauta is made like a 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).

The guitar-like neck has a fretboard, flush with the front. It has 11 tied-on nylon frets. Sometimes some wooden frets are glued to the front. The double slotted (guitar-like) open peghead has 4 tuning machines on both sides. The 8 strings run to a carved flat bridge, which is glued to the front.

The llauta has 4 double metal strings in mandolin-like tuning : Cc Gg Dd aa.
Note that the lowest course is up an octave.

The llauta is played with a plectrum, using the lower courses as drones. It is mainly used in small orchestras with violin, clarinet and drum.

 

Note that the Albanian lahuta is not a lute, but a bowed instrument.

   
top Bosnia
  In Bosnia-Herzegovina 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 seem to call a similar looking instrument "saz", while others call it "šargija".
They both differ from the Turkish saz in not having the soundhole in the end of the body, but instead in the front and on the left side of the body, and in a different way of fretting. The smallest šargija is called bugarija.
 

Bosnian saz
example :
bought via internet from the maker Sinisa Kukilo, Bosnia 2020

L=1300 B=300 H=230mm
scale 910mm
You Tube
Bosnian saz

The Bosnian saz is a very large instrument. Its huge body is usually carved from one piece of wood. Normally the back is deep and quite rounded, not with a "peak" like most sargija (see under). The neck (with peghead) is separate and joined to the end of the body.

The peghead can be in various shapes : normally like a Turkish saz with T-shaped friction pegs (front or/and left side), or tuning machines from behind on both sides, or in a row on the (left) side. The frets are often tied-on nylon (4 or 5 windings), in an (almost) western pattern.

The front and back of the body often have folk-art decorations in burn marks. The soundhole can be round, or many small holes. Usually there are one or more extra holes at the left side of the body (facing the player). The entire instrument is varnished.

Usually the Bosnian saz has 3 courses of 6 to 9 metal strings : this could be triple-single-double, or triple-double-triple, etc. The strings (usually all of the same thinckness) run over a small loose wooden bridge, and are 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. 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.

top  
šargija
example :
bought via OLX.ba,
from the maker Sinisa Kukilo, Bosnia 2020
L=1080 B=210 H=170mm
scale 750mm
You Tube
with a short string
šargija

The other tambura type used in Bosnia (but also in some other countries of the Balkan) is the šargija (or shargija). There are two different versions (see the other version below). There is a very large variety of body shapes, depending on the local maker. Also the size can vary from 70 to about 120cm length.

The body of the rustic šargija is usually carved from one piece of wood, rather flat on the bottom, with a "peak". Often there are a few 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 using dovels. The frets are in a non-western pentatonic pattern and are traditional cram-like pieces of metal. Nowadays also tied-on nylon or inlayed guitar frets may be used. 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.

The strings run over a small loose wooden bridge, and are 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.

Basically there are always 3 courses of 3 to 6 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. Often it has 5 strings, of which the first two are of the same pitch.
On some šargija there is a very short (octave) string from a peg at the left side of the neck, close to the body. It is called "cika", and tuned an octave higher than the third course.
Tuning could be : c g d, or often : f c g .

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.

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

The other šargija (or shargija) seems a cross between the rustic šargija and the Bosnian saz, with a larger body in the shape of the rustic šargija, and the neck and fret pattern more like the Bosnian saz. This instrument is similar to 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.

The body of this šargija is usually carved from one piece of wood - sometimes deeper than the Turkish 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. Front and back of the body are decorated with burned patterns.

The neck is separate and joined with a V-join to the body using dovels. The fingerboard is flush with the front. The frets are in an almost western pattern and ore often tied-on nylon or nowadays inlayed guitar frets.

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. Often it is 4 strings of which the first two are of the same pitch.

The strings run over a small loose wooden bridge, and are 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. Tuning could be : c g d, or often : f c g .

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.

top  
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 probably the forerunner of the šargija. It is nowadays 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 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.

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.

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 Greek instruments see Helleniccomservice.com, and for more information about the bouzouki see ArabicMusic.

top  
laghouto
example :
bought on Crete, 2001
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, like llautë in Albania).
In Greece there are two types of laghouto : one on the mainland and a larger one 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 separate carved wooden rosette (like an oud). Sometimes the bottom edge of the body has a decorative strip of leather for protection.

The guitar-like neck has a fretboard, flush with the front. It has tied-on nylon frets (with a groove on the left side), and some wooden frets glued to the front. These wooden frets sometimes have small round pieces of wood or wax on both sides. The double slotted guitar-like open peghead has 4 tuning machines on both sides. The 8 strings run to a carved flat bridge which is glued to the front.

The laghouto has 4 double steel strings in mandolin-like tuning.
Tuning is on the mainland : Cc Gg Dd aa, and on Crete : Gg Dd Aa ee .
Note that the lowest course is up an octave.

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. However the instrument is very resonating and it has a deep strong singing sound.

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.
top  
tabouras
example :
bought via internet
from Thebouzoukishop, Greece 2009
L=800 B=170 H=160mm
scale 550mm
You Tube
You Tube
boulgari
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
four 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 (10 frets), metal frets, slanting front, thin metal strings over a small loose bridge and fixed to the body edge.
As the instrument is getting popular again, some are now made with a raised fretboard and more frets, like a normal guitar.

See for many different examples of this instrument, the website : Chitarrabattente (in Italian). Often a smaller version is used, and then called : chitarra battente terzina ("3/4").

The chitarra battente is made like a normal guitar. The back is often rounded ("fondo bombato", like the 17th century instrument), but many are flat ("fondo piatto").

The soundboard is slanting from the loose bridge downwards (like on a mandolin), 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 soundholes (two smaller ones in the upper bout). Decorations can be with coloured pieces of cut-out paper, or paintings.

There is often no fingerboard : the (10) metal frets are then put straight in the neck, The neck is flush with the front, and usually the neck joins at the 10th fret. The tuninghead is usually flat, with tuning pegs (from behind), or tuning machines.
Some chitarra battentes have 4 or 6 single or double courses, but most will have 5 double courses. It always has thin metal strings and often they are all of the same thickness (!).

The general tuning is : aa d'd' gg bb e'e', so usually in unisons (with no basses), while the Puglia chitarra has a d octave string.
The Calabria chitarra (see under) has usually 5 single strings, with a high drone string fixed from a peg halfway the back of the neck (see under).

Playing is just strumming with the fingers in a special strict rhythm a few chords to accompany singing (often by the player).

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 now even as "swing 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 battente with 3 rosettes
(from CD La Tarantella del Gargano)






right:
chitarra battente with rounded back
(from website Liuteriaetnica.it)
top  
chitarra battente con scordino (terzina)
example :
bought via internet
from the maker Valerio Gorla, Italy 2019
L=615 B=255 H=90mm
scale 570mm
You Tube
You Tube
the example
chitarra battente con scordino

In the southern half of Italy, in the regions of Calabria, Campania, Basilica and Puglio, you can still find the chitarra battente ("strumming guitar") - see above.

In the region of Calabria (especially the area of the Serre) a special type of chitarra battente is popular : the chitarra battente con scordino ("out of tune"). This type has usually 5 single strings, of which the middle one (a drone) comes from a tuning peg halfway the neck (between the 6th and 7th fret): the "terzino".

This chitarra battente con scordino is made like the normal chitarra battente, so in a wide variety of models due to the many makers. It may have a flat or rounded back. It is also made in a smaller version, called : terzina ("3/4"), or chitarrini.

The wooden friction peg (called "piruozzulu") for the middle string is straight from the back of the neck. As the string goes around the peg, the middle string is close to the 3th string. On the bridge the strings are evenly spaced.

There is often no real fingerboard : the (10) metal frets are then put straight in the neck, which is flush with the front. The neck always joins at the 10th fret.
The flat tuninghead may have tuning pegs (from behind), or nowadays tuning machines. Some instruments may have 6 tuning pegs or machines, but then often only 4 are used. Or the 1st and last string are double.
It always has thin metal strings and often they are all of the same thickness (!).

The tuning could be like g d' g' b e' or (for terzina :) d' g' (d") e' a' , or similar.

Playing is just strumming a few chords in a very strict rhythm to accompany singing, often by the player himself. Usually only the two top strings are fingered, the other strings are used as drones.

   
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 is 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 not much influenze on the sound). Some have even arms on both sides of the body !


picture with il-Pupa from book Maltese Folk Music

 

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

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 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 :
custom made by Christian Magdeleine, Corsica 2017

L=940 B=340 H=80mm
scale 570 mm
You Tube
cetera

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.

The frets are guitar-like 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 strings run over a loose bridge to a metal stringholder at the edge of the body.

The metal strings are either in 4 double courses or in 8 double courses.
The tuning of the 8 course cetera could be : cc' dd' es.es' ff' Gg gg d'd' g'g' .

Playing the cetera is with a plectrum, mainly the first courses; the rest is used as drones or resonance strings or occasional bass strings.

See for more information (in French) casa-liutaiu.

   
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