The Dan Tranh is also known as Dan Thap Luc or sixteen-stringed
zither. The Dan Tranh originates from the ancient capital city of
Hue, where women once played it for royalty, and the instrument
is still considered a symbol of the city.
Dan Tranh has a long-parallelepiped shape, resembles a bamboo tube
that has been sliced vertically in half.. The frame of the instrument
has trapezium-shape, 110-120 cm in length. The large end is 25-30
cm in width with holes and to hang the strings. The narrow is 15-20
cm in width with 16 tuning keys on the surface of the instrument.
Its surface is made of wootung tree, 0.05 cm thick and arched.
Toward the middle of the sound board there are 16 bridges made of
wood or bone tipped with copper for hanging the strings and movable
to tune the pitches, thus creating various notes. At the narrower
end of the box are sixteen pegs for tuning. The strings are made
of metal with different sizes and tuned to the pentatonic scale.
The Dan Tranh sits flat like an autoharp and is plucked using all
fingers. Players will usually wear picks made of plastic or tortoise
shell on their fingers to facilitate plucking. The sound reverberates
through the hollow wooden box below the strings. Sounds can be altered
through cupping, pressing or stroking the strings instead of simply
When playing, artist usually wears finger-nail plectrums on thumb,
forefinger and middle finger to pluck. The finger-nail plectrum
is made of different materials, such as metal, horn or tortoise-shell.
The music of the Dan Tranh is usually light and full of cheerfulness.
The instrument bears some likeness to the japanese Koto, the korean
Kayagum, the mongolian Jatac, the chinese Zeng, and the indonesian
Kachap, which have 13, 12, 12, 13-16, 7-24 strings, respectively.
It is nonetheless an original vietnamese instrument with specific
musical characteristics. It is used to accompany poetry recitals
and is quite often part of an orchestra or a band playing chamber
music, religious music, or accompanying cheo or cai luong drama.
Dan Tranh is normally played unaccompanied, but it can also be used
to accompany a singer, reciting poem or as part of an Tai Tu orchestra,
Bat Am company, Nha nhac orchestra and general traditional orchestra.
Its timbre is bright and clear and it expresses jubilant and pure
melodies. Dan Tranh is rarely suitable with strong and moving characteristics.
The range of Dan Tranh includes three octaves, from Do up Do3.
According to Prof. Dr. Tran Van Khe: Dan Tranh of Vietnam derived
from Chinese zither and might be from the Tran dynasty or before
that. People used it under 9 strings, 15 strings, and 16 strings.
These strings are made of silk then copper and now steel. But through
seven or eight centuries using it, Vietnamese people created a specific
characteristic in fingering techniques, pressing and releasing,
and scale. Dan Tranh has become a musical instrument bringing characteristic
of Vietnam. Vietnamese people are very fond of using it and it is
transmitted from generation to another over 7-8 hundred years, suitable
with the aesthetics of Vietnamese people and expressing Vietnamese
musical language clearly.
more about the Dan Tranh
Thu Que Huong" (ca. 115 kB)
extracted from "Tieng dan
back to top