Here are some
of the people and instruments who were important in the tarhu's development.
master yayli tanbur player, singer and composer.
I saw Erhan perform in
1976, and as a result changed direction completely - started making
spikefiddles, began learning Turkish music. No single person is
more central to the creation of the tarhu than Erhan (well.........except
for me, that is).
Habil Aliev; greatest
living exponent of Azerbaijani Classical Music, master of the kamancha.
Habil has a depth and
range in his use of tone colour that stands above all other players
of bowed instruments I know of, East or West. I heard a recording
of him in 1995 just when the tarhu was coming into existence. Habil's
playing helped me to form an image of what bowed sound could be
, and this has guided the development of the small tarhus ever since
(kamancha tarhu and tarhui).
Ross Daly; multi instrumentalist,
composer and master within several traditions from the Near and
It was Ross's interest
and ongoing support that encouraged me to start taking orders for
tarhus, and to change the focus of my instrument making work towards
making only tarhus. The Lyra Tarhu and later the Nak Tarhu came
into existence as a direct result of collaboration with Ross.
Greg Smallman: classical
guitar maker without equal (his guitars played by John Williams
since the early Eighties).
Greg and I both started
instrument making in the early Seventies, and we collaborated continually
in the early years before eventually becoming partners in guitar
making in the late Seventies. Some of the experimental work we did
was on the use of wooden cones in plucked instruments, which sowed
the seeds for the use of wooden cones in the tarhu some 20 years
Harry Partch; Just
Intonation exponent, theorist, composer and instrument maker.
Partch's wonderful sculpural
instruments pointed me towards developing new instruments when I
first heard them in 1974 (the year he died). His work in Just intonation
was very influential for me, and has been part of everything I have
done since discovering it. One of the Turkish tanbur's initial attractions
for me was it's suitability for exploring just intonation - the
longneck tarhu has facilitated a further step in that direction.
||The Turkish tanbur is
a long-neck bowed instrument with 6 strings arranged in pairs, with
only the highest pair being played with the bow. It provides the reference
pitch for Turkish Classical music with it's 27 tones-to-the-octave
fretting system. I had been experimenting with bowed banjo and just-intonation
prior to hearing Tanbur, so was very receptive.
Erhu is the classic 2 string spikefiddle of the Far East, originating
in China. The erhu is one of the only bowed instruments in which the
addition of a sound-post destroys sound quality rather than enhances
it. The bowing angle in the Erhu renders the use of a sound-post superfluous.
Duduk is a double-reed wind instrument found throughout the Near East,
Middle East and Central Asia. The duduk has been a much more important
source of inspiration for the sound of the small tarhus than any stringed
instrument (except for Habil Aliev's kamancha). The duduk is capable
of producing a most wonderful range of vowel-like tone colours.
||The kamancha from Persia
and Azerbaijan has been one of my favourite instrumental design forms
since before I started instrument making. Aspects of the kamancha's
form where important in developing a body for the tarhu concept to
inhabit, and became central once I started making small tarhus.
||The North Indian Vina
, or Bin, is the most quintessentially Indian of that countries many
stringed instruments. It is another of my all-time favourite forms,
and the work I did on Bin over a period of several years in the late
seventies/early eighties contributed significantly to the tarhu's
The Double Bass - one
of the few instruments that can be played at the highest professional
level as either a plucked or bowed instrument. This dual aspect
of the Bass was an inspiration for me to develop the Tarhu to be
equally adept at bowing and plucking.
gathered from these many sources gradually formed the desire for an instrument
that possessed the greatest
possible subtlety in tone colour variations, combined with strong projection.
All indications were that this sensitivity and power could only be achieved
using a very light-weight soundboard. The solution was provided by the
use of a cone made from thin strips of wood, and experiments
with bowed cones began in 1993.
1995 I brought all of my experimental work together into a new acoustic
design, which has been in a process of continuing development since then.
The present spherical body was developed in 1998, and has now been used
making instruments in a variety of styles and sizes. These instruments
have been directed towards any musicians from East or West whose interests
involve a subtle exploration of tone colour combined with unprecedented
strength and projection.
Stages in the Tarhu’s Evolution.
Yayli Tanbur - 1984
This Tanbur is
similar to the one I played from 1984 to 1995. It has been adapted
a few steps from the traditional Turkish form - the body was redesigned
to allow bowing of more than one string, and a sound-post was added
within the body.
It has three playing strings, and three sympathetic
strings in a channel down the middle of the neck.
Erhu with rearranged neck position - 1992
several adapted erhus in 1992 while working on composer Judy Clingan's
opera "Marco" (based on the travels of Marco Polo). I
needed the erhu sound, but in a configuration that would allow the
instruments to be played by violinists (fingers pressing strings
onto a fingerboard, rather than fretting in mid-air, as on the erhu).
These experimental erhus provided the opportunity for an up-close
look at erhu acoustics, which turned out to be very productive.
Instrument with gourd resonator. Here the Erhu bow direction was
maintained, but the neck and body rearranged to allow three playing
strings, two of which could be bowed at the same time (normally
not possible on the Erhu).
instrument using Erhu bow direction, this time with a lightweight
fibreglass cone instead of a flat skin soundboard.
The Erhu based
instruments, while very interesting, all had a limitation imposed
by the bowing direction – in order to be able to bow close to the
bridge, the soundboard had to be very small. This limited the available
pitch range considerably.
desire to integrate the Tanbur and Erhu threads of research gave
birth to the use of a larger cone and a new bridge design. While
the Tarhu bridge/cone configuration does not include a sound-post
as such, the bridge design performs the same function as a sound-post
by transferring vibrations from one plane to another.
had 4 playing strings and 8 sympathetic strings in a channel down
the middle of the neck.
i - 1998
This was the
first Tarhu in which the current aesthetic ideas emerged. The Kamancha
and North Indian Vina influenced the initial form inherited from
This is a small
instrument, with the same vibrating-string length as a violin, and
tuned around violin pitch range.
Tenor Tarhu - 1998
This was the
first tarhu to use a spherical body made up of many strips of wood.
The techniques involved came from lute-back construction, and I
first applied them to the making of wooden spheres in 1978/9 when
I was doing experimental work on the North Indian Vina.
Neck Tarhus - 1999 > 2003
this time period many forms of neck and stringing arrangements where
Traditional Turkish Tanbur neck, with long string-length and 6 strings
all on the fingerboard.
Shorter string length, 6 strings arranged as 3 playing strings,
3 sympathetics in a channel
Finally accepting the original concept of 4 playing strings and
8 sympathetics in a channel.
Tarhu - 2001
first kamancha version of the tarhu - turned wooden body.
Alto and Tenor Tarhus - 1998 > 2002
this stage I was exploring the possibility of creating a family
of tarhus that could all play together in a similar way to the violin
instruments, and many others from the tarhu archives, were shown
at an exhibition of experimental instruments at the Powerhouse Museum,
Tarhu - 2002
lyra tarhu came into being in collaboration with Ross Daly, for
whom this instrument was made. It is of a similar size to traditional
lyra, with the same 3 playing strings. It has 9 sympathetic strings
tuned with zither pins.
lyra tarhu was replaced in 2006 by the larger Nak Tarhu
Tarhu with Sympathetic Strings - 2003
This form of
kamancha tarha was developed in collaboration with Kayhan Kalhor,
and was the first of 2 instruments made for Kayhan. It had 4 playing
strings and 7 sympathetic strings tuned on the bass side of the
pegbox with harp pins.
body was closer to traditional kamancha shape than other tarhus.
This tarhu was
made for Ross Daly, and was the first long neck tarhu that used
a body made of 18 ribs.
Tarhu - 2004
tarhu (made for Habil Aliyev) was the first kamancha tarhu to use
a spherical body made of 18 ribs.
kamancha tarhu sound was developed in collaboration with Habil Aliyev.
Tarhu - 2006
Nak Tarhu developed out of the lyra tarhu after further collaboration
with Ross Daly. The Nak Tarhu eventually replaced the lyra tarhu.
head/neck design allows the sympathetic strings to be much longer,
making them more effective. The number of playing strings was also
extended from 3 to 5 strings.
Daly developed the stringing system for the nak tarhu, based on
the unidirectional horse hair strings of Central Asia. Ross uses
unidirectional nylon of various gauges.
adaptation of tarhu concepts, made for the Israeli cellist Rali
Tarhu - 2008
of brass tarhus were introduced in 2008 as a possible solution to
providing a cheaper alternative to the bodies made from 18 wooden
bodies were hand beaten using a concave mould and repeated heat
in 2012. (oh, my aching shoulder!)
Kaman - 2008
ongoing collaboration with Kayhan Kalhor culminated in this design
of Kamancha Tarhu with Sympathetic Strings - Kayhan found
such a name unwieldy, and suggested the name Shah Kaman
playing strings and 7 sympathetics, spherical body
Tarhu - 2009
alternative design for the holes in kamancha tarhu, introduced in
instrument was made for Imamyar Hasanov.