Đàn tỳ bà

Hai Phuong dan ty baThe Ty Ba is a four-string instrument which is frequently present in a traditional orchestra. Its soundbox is shaped like a pear cut in half lengthwise. Its soundboard is made of unvarnished light wood, and its back is made of hard wood with a slightly convex surface. The neck is short and tightly fixed to the soundbox. Originally the neck bore no frets; now, however, it has four frets in addition to eight others on the soundboard and two under the strings with the highest pitch.

The instrument has four pegs for tuning. The strings, formerly of twisted silk, are now made of plastic.

Ty ba is made from wood of wootung tree. Its neck connects with a sound box forming a shape of cut-half pear. The undecorated surface is made from light and soft wood. A component namely bridge located at one end the body is for string hanging. The head of Ty ba is sophisticatedly carved with a longevity character, or bat figure at times. There are 4 wooden tuning pegs on the neck of Ty ba. The whole length of the lute body varies from 94 to 100cm. On the neck of Ty ba, there fixed 4 curved ivory pieces called the Four Heaven Kings. 8 main frets made from bamboo or wood are located on the surface of Ty ba, and give different pitches. In the past, people used to utilize silk to make strings and smoothed them with beeswax. Nowadays, nylon strings are used instead. The 4 strings are tuned in sequence of a fourth - a second - a fourth i.e. Do - Fa - Sol - Do1 or Sol - Do1 - Re1 - Sol1. Instrumentalist usually plays the Ty ba with a tortoise-shell or plastic plectrum.

The player uses a plectrum which she holds in her right hand and plucks either upward or downward in a quick run.

The technique for left hand, which presses the strings, includes glissando, staccato, arpeggio and tremolo. The Dan Ty Ba music is light and cheerful. The instrument is played solo or as part of an orchestra or a band accompanying the singing of Hue melodies or cai luong operas.

In Vietnam, Ty ba is usually performed in orchestras such as Royal orchestras including Nha Nhac (Elegant music) and Thi Nhac (Poem music), Thien Nhac orchestra of Buddhism, Tai Tu orchestra, Bat Am orchestra (orchestra consists of eight musical instruments), and integrated traditional orchestra.

Although Ty ba took its root so early in other countries, it has been localized as time went by, and nowadays become an instrument of Vietnam, which can profoundly present musical pieces of Vietnamese style in realm of instrumental music. Though related to the Japanese biwa and the Chinese pipa, the Ty Ba has a personality of its own. Ty Ba recitals are well liked by music lovers at home and abroad.

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