String Instruments

Autoharp

A strummed instrument with strings stretched across a resonating box. Buttons on th autoharp control bars that dampen all strings except the ones needed to produce a desired chord.

Banjo

A stringed instrument in the guitar family with a long neck, five strings and a round body like a tambourine with an open back. A banjo’s strings are strummed or plucked with the fingers.

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Country of origin: Africa

Biwa

A Japanese short-necked lute, often used in narrative storytelling.

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Country of origin: Japan

Cello

A stringed instrument that is double the length of a violin and deeper from front to back. It has four strings, is held between the knees, and is supported on the floor with a metal peg. It is played with a bow and has a tone that is much lower and more mellow than a violin.

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Double Bass

The largest and lowest-pitched instrument in the string family. The double bass rests on the floor on a metal peg; double bass players often stand when they perform.

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Dulcimer

An early stringed instrument whose strings are stretched across a wooden sound box and hit with small hammers.

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Fiddle

The highest pitched member of the string instrument family. It has a shallow wooden body, four strings that are tuned with pegs, and it is played with a bow.

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Guitar

A stringed instrument with a long neck and a flat, hollow body. Its strings are plucked or strummed with the fingers.

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Guitarrón

a large six-stringed, plucked instrument, usually part of a mariachi ensemble

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Country of origin: Latin America

Harp

This string instrument dates back to pre-historic times. The modern harp has a large triangular frame with strings stretched vertically across the triangle. The strings are graduated in length from longest/lowest pitches to shortest/highest and there are pedals that can be used to raise the pitch of each string by half steps. The sound is created by plucking the strings with fingers.

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Kora

A string instrument used extensively in West Africa, a kora typically has 21-strings which are played by plucking with the fingers, and combines features of the lute and a harp.

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Country of origin: Africa

Koto

A Japanese plucked half-tube zither and the national instrument of Japan.

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Country of origin: Japan

Lute

An ancestor of the guitar, this string instrument with a pear-shaped body has its strings arranged in pairs. Its strings are plucked.

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Lyre

An ancient harp-like string instrument.

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Mandolin

A small, stringed instrument of the lute family. It has a pear shaped body, strings in four pairs and a neck similar to a guitar.

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Musical Bow

A simple string instrument used by a number of South African peoples, that consists of a flexible stick and strung end to end with a taut cord, usually metal. It can be played with the hands or a wooden stick or branch.

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Country of origin: Africa

Rebab

A medieval Arabic bowed musical instrument having from one to three strings, shaped typically like a small lute

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Country of origin: Indonesia

Setar

An Iranian musical instrument and member of the lute family

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Country of origin: the Middle East

Shamisen

A three-stringed traditional Japanese musical instrument

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Country of origin: Japan

Sitar

A plucked stringed instrument, originating from the Indian subcontinent.

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Country of origin: India

Tambura

A stringed drone instrument played in India

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Country of origin: India

Tar 

An Iranian long-necked, waisted lute family instrument, shared by many cultures and countries

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Country of origin: the Middle East

Ukulele

A small wooden instrument with four strings, similar to a guitar. The ukulele was brought to Hawaii by Portuguese settlers in the 1870’s, and quickly became popular with native Hawaiians.

Country of origin: Hawai'i

Vihuela

A 15th-century fretted plucked Spanish string instrument, that is shaped like a guitar but tuned like a lute

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Country of origin: Latin America

Vina

An Indian stringed musical instrument

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Country of origin: India

Viola

Slightly larger than the violin, this member of the string family has a hollow wooden body, four strings that are tuned with pegs, and is played with a bow. It sounds a fifth lower than a violin.

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Violin

The highest pitched member of the string instrument family. It has a shallow wooden body, four strings that are tuned with pegs, and it is played with a bow.

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Yamatogoto (Wagon)

a Japanese six- or seven-stringed zither

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Country of origin: Japan

Zither

A folk instrument with 30 – 40 strings stretched over a flat, shallow, horizontal soundboard. The zither is played with a thumbpick* and with the tips of the fingers.

* A thumbpick is a small, flat tool with a loop on the end that is placed over the thumb, and used to pluck or strum a stringed instrument.