The tarhu came into existence to make available a range of musical styles that couldn’t previously be played on one instrument. The long slender neck allows 2½ octaves to be played on a single string with the melodic fluidity encountered on traditional instruments that employ along-the-string techniques.

The use of 4 playing strings also facilitates playing across the strings (with similar string-crossing techniques used by the violin family), and extends the range of easily available notes to over 4½ octaves.

The Tarhu is capable of playing a large range of styles from East and West, using either bow, several different forms of plectra, and fingerstyle.

One of the first musicians to take up playing the tarhu was the master of many traditions, Ross Daly (from Crete).

Tarhu (as pictured below):
4 playing strings with 8 sympathetics - Body made from 18 ribs of figured Blackwood, Blackwood neck, Ebony and/or Boxwood fingerboard, Schaller gold machine heads

The necks have an adjustable truss rod, with sympathetic strings passing along a channel in the middle of the neck.

The vibrating string length is 80cm, which is the maximum length available using cello strings.

The price above does not include case or freight. Long neck tarhu cases $600 for all models (laminated wood construction)




MP3 Sound Samples and Videos

3 Tarhus played by Ross Daly - small Turkish ensemble

Tarhu played by Ross Daly - Greek ensemble

Tarhu played by Ross Daly - solo

A range of bowed and plucked samples played by Peter Biffin (listed on a separate page)

Video of Ross Daly playing tarhu with Kelly Thoma:



Stringing and Tuning

Playing strings consist of (from highest to lowest): Cello E (used for 5 string cellos); CelloA; Cello D; Cello G. A variety of tunings have been used, including:


g,d,a,e (same as lowest 4 strings on a guitar);




a,d,g,c (same as cello)

a,d,a,A (my own favourite, with lowest two "a" strings tuned an octave apart)

Sympathetic strings are of plain steel/brass in a range of gauges. These strings sound best if the tension is kept low, which also means that breakages are very uncommon. The sympathetic strings are usually tuned to whichever scale is being played, or alternatively to a selection of chromatic notes when the music played involves a lot of modulation.


Fretted and Fretless


Traditionally, long-necked bowed instruments are fretted with threads tied around the neck, and this method has been found quite suitable for the tarhu. Many different tuning systems are available using tied frets, as the threads are moveable, and frets are easily added or removed. Systems range from Western 12 tone equal temperament, thru to traditional Turkish tanbur fretting of 27 notes to the octave.


When playing with a bow, the traditional Turkish fretting produces a result that is close to fretless, in that the tones are so close together that an almost smooth glissandi can be achieved. However, once a fretless longneck tarhu has been tried, it becomes clear that there is a big difference between a fretted "almost smooth glissandi" and a fretless glissandi that is actually smooth. There is also a deeper level of tone colour exploration possible without frets. When used as a plucked instrument, there is a huge difference between fretted and unfretted tarhus, glissandi of any sort not being possible with frets.

For some musicians, the security that frets provide for accuracy of intonation can not be easily dispensed with. However, it is worth considering that for bowed use, frets do not guarantee accurate intonation - one still has to place the left-hand fingers very accurately, and in many ways the tied frets operate principally as a marking system. On a fretless tarhu, one can substitute an alternative marking system, with marks etched or inlaid down the side of the fingerboard according to whatever system the individual musician is familiar with. For bowed use, intonation on a fretless tarhu then functions almost identically to a fretted tarhu, but with an entirely new vista of possibilities opening up when the tarhu is used as a fretless plucked instrument (fretless sound samples will appear on this page soon)