- Khuuchir (string instrument) Formerly, the nomads mainly used the snake skin violin or horsetail violin. The Chinese call it "the Mongol instrument" or "Hukin". It is tuned in the interval of a fifth and is small or middle sized. The khuuchir has a small, cylindrical, square or cup-like resonator made of bamboo, wood or copper,covered with a snake skin and open at the bottom. The neck is inserted in the body of the instrument. It usually has four silk strings, of which the first and the third are accorded in unison, whereas the second and fourth are tuned in the upper fifth. The bow is coated with horsetail hair and inseparably interlaced with the string-pairs; in Chinese this is called "sihu", that is "four", also meaning, "having four ears". The smaller instruments have only two strings and are called "erhhu", that is "two" in Chinese.
- Yoochin (string instrument)Box zither - dulcimer with 13 double-wire strings. The strings are struck with twowooden sticks, so-called little wooden hammers , It has a black wooden soundboardrichly decorated with ornaments.The instrument was only familiar to townspeople and first of all only they played it.
- Bishguur (wind instrument)A richly ornamented metal trumpet, in Mongolian also called "shell trumpet" (bishgüür).
Shudraga / Shanz (string instrument - with a sound comparable to that of a banjo)The shudraga or shanz is a long-necked spiked lute with an oval wooden frame with snake skincovering stretched over both faces. The three strings are fixed to a bar, which is inserted in thebody. The instrument is struck or plucked with a plectrum made of horn or with the fingers. As the tones do not echo, every note is struck several times.
- Yatga - Yatuga (string instrument) The yatga is a half-tube zither with a movable bridge. It is constructed as a box with aconvex surface and an end bent towards the ground. The strings are plucked and the sound is very smooth. The instrument was considered to be sacrosanct and playing it was a rite,bound to taboos. The instrument was mainly used at court and in monasteries, since strings symbolised the twelve levels of the palace hierarchy.Shepherds were forbidden to play the twelve-stringed zither, but they were allowed to play the ten-stringed zither, which was also used for interludes during recitations of epics.Mongolians traditionally play three types of this zither, differentiated by their resonators orhollow bodies in which the sound is amplified. Designs include the master yatga; ikh gariing yatga, master yatga with 21 strings (ikh gariing yatga), the national yatga; akhun ikh yatga, and the harp, called the bosoo yatga.
Lavai - tsagaan buree (wind instrument) "Tsagaan buree" - white shells. White shells with whorls leading from the left to the right handside are considered alucky charm, and therefore they are very much in demand. In order to blow them, they are equipped with a mouthpiece made from brass. According to a Lamaistic legend, Buddha himself gave this instrument to the Dragon King as a present.
Morin khuur (string instrument - horse-head-violin) The morin khuur is a typical Mongolian two-stringed instrument. The body and the neck are carved fromwood. The end of the neck has the form of a horse-head and the sound is similar to that of a violin or a cello. The strings are made of dried deer or mountain sheep sinews. It is played with a bow made of willow, stringed with horsetail hair and coated with larch or cedar wood resin. This instrument is used to play polyphonic melodies, because with one stroke of the bow the melody and drone-strings can be played at the same time. The morin khuur is the most widespread instrument inMongolia, and is played during celebrations, rituals and many other occasions, as well as an accompaniment for dances or songs. Even the sound and noises of a horse herd are imitated on the morin khuur. People say that it is connected with a handsome man. It is also played when a ewe doesnt want to suckle her lamb. It is believed that the ewe, hearing this music, will feel better and accept her lamb.There is a legend about the origin of this instrument. A Mongol missed his dead horse so much that he used its head, its bones and its hair to build an instrument on which he started to play the familiar noises of his beloved horse. The history of this instrument is based on two other legends:- A shepherd received as a gift from his beloved woman a magical horse that could fly. He used it at night to fly to meet his beloved. His jealous wife cut the horses wings off, so that the horse fell from the sky and died. The grieving shepherd made a horse-head fiddle from his beloved horse. - A boy named Sükhe (or Suho). After a wicked Lord (Pagan God) had slaughtered the boys prized whitehorse, the horses spirit came back to Sükhe in a dream and instructed him to make an instrument from the horses body, so that the two could still be together and neither of them would have to be alone.
Tuur - frame drum - shaman drum (percussion instrument)A single-headed shaman drum. Its frameis usually oval but sometimes round. Themembrane is ornamented with drawings on one ore both sides.
- Damar (percussion instrument) Small drums used inmonasteries, a wooden casingwith resemblance to a coil. On both outer surfaces it is coated with leather. In the middle of the coil there is a band made from silk withemobroidery and two buttons attached to a string. Bymoving back and forth, these two buttons are hit on thestretched leather of this small drum.
- Limbe (wind instrument) The instrument is frequently used in accompaniment, occasionally also as a solo instrument. In former times it was made of bamboo or wood, nowadays mostly of plastic, particularly those imported from China. These flutes (transverse flutes) are closely bound up with the nomads of Central Asia. The length of this instrument is approx. 64 cm, with nine holes, whereof one is the blowholeand two others are reserved for the tuning. It is often played with circular breathing*. The sound reflects what is heard in the nature or the sounds of the natural and social environment. - *Circular breathing (bituu amisgal): one note is blown while the musician inhales through his nose. The air is collected inside the cheeks and exhaled by the pressure of the cheeks muscles (same principle as for the bagpipe). The base of the tongue is used as a valve.
- Hel khuur (Jews harp) Nowadays, a Jews harp is made of brass or steel, but in earlier days it was made of wood or bamboo. A spring, acting as a vibrator, is fittedinto a horseshoe-shaped metal holder and is called ,tongue. The player places the long part of the instrument close to his mouth, touching it with his front teeth and manipulating the tongue with his right hand.Changing the shape of the mouth cavity, which at the same time acts as a resonance chamber, can vary the pitch.
Background theme sound by “Khatan Ekh” ensemble played traditional Mongolian concert for off the Map tours cycling group Thanks for Watching!