Dan Nguyet translates into English as ‘’moon lute’’ and it existed in the 11th Century, seen on carvings that have been dated as from that time. Its popularity has been maintained and the Dan Nguyet is regarded as an important part of the culture of the Kinh people. Modern musicians sometimes may prefer the acoustic or electric guitar but that does not mean any loss of popularity in the Dan Nguyet. It is a two-stringed instrument, strings formerly of silk but now nylon, and always been played in both folk music and classical music. It means that if you are travelling in Vietnam, you may come across it anywhere that music is played. It is often used to accompany several of the different singing styles in Vietnam; Van, Hue, Tai Tu and Bat Am.
As a rule, the strings are looser than you would expect in a guitar for example and are plucked with a small plectrum, something similar to a typical guitar pick. The Dan Nguyet’s sides are 6 cm in height and made of hard wood. The neck has 10 frets and is 100 cm long with four tuning pegs.
Its sound is midrange and typically it is used to play melodious passages, often fairly short. It can be loud yet pure and good musicians are able to express emotion through its strings. As a result, it is ideal for solemn events and rituals, funerals and musical recitals. Its range is more than two octaves and as a result, there are a number of famous pieces that have been written specifically for soloists playing the Dan Nguyet; Chung mot niem tin (the same faith) by Xuan Khai, Tinh Quan Dan (soldiers and people relationships) by Xuan Ba and Tinh Me (the affection of the mother) by Tran Luan. If you talk to your Vietnam travel agent there is a chance that a recital can be included in your Vietnam tour package.