The Vietnamese Dan Tranh, known in the North as Dan Thap Luc, is similar to instruments found in other parts of the Far East, China, Japan and Korea to name just three countries. It is a zither, a long sound box which has steel strings and is tuned using the pegs on the top. It can be used in a number of ways, within an ensemble, accompanying vocalists as well as playing a solo. If you have the chance to hear a musical performance while you are on holiday in Vietnam keep your eye open for it.
It is believed that the Dan Tranh dates back as early as the 13th Century when it had 14 strings. In later years, it increased to 15 then 16 which was the standard in the 19 and most of the 20th Century. However, in recent years, there have been zithers made with anything up to 25 strings though the more common ones are still around 17 strings.
It is up to 120 cm. long with a curved op plate, six side pieces and a flat bottom plate. The plates are usually made with paulownia wood with everything else hard wood. The bridges are like an inverted ‘’V’’ with the largest used with the shortest string. The strings vary in diameter and all are made of steel. Players pluck the strings with a pick that can be metal., tortoise shell or plastic.
The strings are plucked with the right hand and bent with the left so that there is quite a range of tones available. When it comes to the tradition tunes, performers usually use 2 or 3 fingers but modern compositions are often played with all four fingers and thumb. Indeed, there are even times when musicians use both hands to produce even more complex melody.
Music is an integral part of Vietnamese life. If you areenjoying travelling in Vietnam, it is likely you will encounter musical performances within your Vietnam tour package. You have only to ask a Vietnam travel agency if you want to go to enjoy a musical evening during your holiday and something will certainly be arranged. If you are in the country during any of the many festivals, you are almost certain to hear plenty of music played wherever you go. The Dan Tranh is likely to be one of the instruments you will hear.