The đàn tranh can be used either as a solo instrument, or as one of many to accompany singer/s. The đàn tranh originally had 16 strings but it was renovated by Master Nguyễn Vĩnh Bảo (b. 1918) of South Vietnam in the mid-1950s. Since then, the 17-stringed đàn tranh has gained massive popularity and become the most preferred form of the instrument used throughout Vietnam.
The đàn tranh, also known as the đàn thập lục, is a traditional Vietnamese plucked, stringed instrument. It is similar to the Chinese guzheng and the only difference is that the guzheng has only one line of bridges, whereas this instrument has two.
The body of the đàn tranh is about 110 cm in length and is made of wood. It is long and narrow, and has a convex surface. It is usually covered in ornate lacquered designs or inlaid with mother-of-pearl. There are 16 moveable bridges used for tuning and support. The bridges are made of wood or bone tipped with copper. The strings are made of steel and have varying widths. They are tuned to the pentatonic scale. Artists usually wear picks made of metal, plastic, or tortoise-shell to pluck the strings.
There are three different types of đàn tranh. The ancient đàn tranh, or the đàn thập lục, has 16 strings. The đàn tranh most used today has 17 strings and is slightly larger than its prototype. This instrument has a three-octave range, from C to C3. A newer model was developed by Nguyen Vinh Bao, a former professor at the Saigon Conservatory of Drama and Music. These instruments usually have 22 strings and are used for pieces requiring a wider range.
Music for the đàn tranh is usually light and cheerful. It is most often played as a solo instrument, but is also used to accompany poetry recitals or cai luong drama. It may also be part of an orchestra or chamber group.
Right hand techniques
The right hand is used to pluck the string while the left hand adds ornamentation. In traditional music, the artist usually uses two or three fingers to pluck the strings. In modern music, the artist may use as many as four or five fingers to pluck the strings. The strings are often plucked two at a time in octaves. Chords are usually arpeggiated.
Left hand techniques
The left hand is vital for musicality. It is used to add ornamentations, including vibrato and pitch bending. Pitch bending can be used to produce notes beyond the pentatonic scale, as well as to convey different emotions. Some accomplished musicians may also use the left hand to pluck notes simultaneously with the right hand to produce larger chords.
- "Nguyen Vinh Bao". Archived from the original on 2009-10-26. Retrieved 2008-06-08.
- "Dan tranh". Retrieved 2008-06-08.
- New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London, 2001).
- Duy, Pham. Musics of Vietnam. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1975.
- Koto (musical instrument)
- Se (instrument)
- Traditional Vietnamese musical instruments
- Music of Vietnam