The Southerners of Vietnam refer to this instrument as Dan
Kim. Dan Nguyet has two strings and the resonator resembles the
moon,that is probably why it is named Dan Nguyet, which means moon
lute. The strings were traditionally made of silk but are today
normally made of nylon, which can be strummed with either finger
or pick. The Dan Nguyet provides a midrange pitch in traditional
orchestras and is played in short, melodic passages. The instrument's
use has varied from province to province, but in the south it's
been used to accompany Cai Luong opera.
According to ancient carvings, the moon-shaped instrument appeared
in Vietnam in the 11th century. Intended to be played by men, the
lute has maintained a very important position in the musical traditions
of the Kinh people. Therefore, this instrument is widely used in
their folk, court, and academic music. The Dan Nguyet is distinguished
by its pure and loud sound, as well as by its great capacity to
express different emotional moods. Thus, it is heard at solemn and
animated ritual concerts, funerals, or refine chamber music recitals.
It can be played in solo, as part of an orchestra, or to accompany
The side of the instrument is made of hard wood, 6 cm in height.
The bottom is covered with wood without sound hole. The neck, 100
cm in length, fixed to 10 frets at pentatonic scale (7 are fixed
to the neck and 3 are fixed on the surface). The head of Nguyet
is put four tuning pegs but only hooked two silk strings (nowadays,
nylon string is used). The two strings are tuned at a perfect fifth
Fa-Do1; Sol-Re1 or a perfect fourth G-C1; D1-G1. In the past, instrumentalist
used his/her fingernails to play Nguyet. Nowadays, they play it
with a plastic or tortoise-shell plectrum. Nguyet has range of more
than two octaves.
Nguyet is used to accompany Van singing, Hue singing, Tai tu singing,
Bat am music, ceremonial music and traditional stage orchestra.
Today, masterpieces for Nguyet have been composed by many musicians
to perform as solo such as Que Ta (My homeland), Chung mot niem
tin (the same faith) by Xuan Khai; Tinh Me (the affection of the
mother) by Tran Luan; Tinh Quan Dan (soliders and people relationship)
by Xuan Ba...
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