Xinjiang Uyghur Musical Instrument – Tambur

Tambur is another long-neck lute from Central Asia that exists in different shapes, and is the wire-strung companion of Dutar . musical instruments
Tambur has a pre-Islamic history in the Middle East. It has been found in Ancient Persia and Baghdad Iraq during the Akkadian era (3rd millennium B.C.). In the Sassanid period 5 to 6 century C.E., Tambur in lute form was all ready in use. Later Tambur spread throughout the Middle East and also became popular in Mesopotamia and later on in Babylon. The influence of the Tambur is quite wide spread from Turkey, Kurdistan, Iran to Xinjiang China (Turkistan).
Tambur is either played solo or accompanied by other instruments arranged in ensembles to orchestras. The repertoire being played on the UyghurTambur is called “On Ikki Maqam” or “the 12 maqam”.
musical instruments




Tambur is made almost entirely of wood. The shell is assembled from strips of hardwood called ribs joined edge to edge to form a semi-spherical body for the instrument. The number of ribs traditionally amounts to 17, 21 or 23, yet examples with slightly wider and consequently fewer ribs (7, 9 or 11) can also be found among older specimens. Traditionally, thinner strips called fileto are inserted between the ribs for ornamental purposes, but are not obligatory. The most common tonewood veneers used for rib-making are mahogany, flame maple, Persian walnut, Mecca balsam wood (Commiphora gileadensis), Spanish chestnut, Greek juniper, mulberry, Oriental plane, Indian rosewood and apricot. Ribs are assembled on the bottom wedge (tail) and the heel on which the fingerboard is mounted.




The soundboard is a rotund thin (2.5–3mm) flat three-, two- or single-piece plate of resonant wood (usually Nordmann, silver or Greek fir). This circular plate measuring about 30 to 35 cm in diameter is mounted on the bottom wedge and the heel with simmering glue and encircled with a wooden ring. A soundhole is either wanting or consists of a very small unornamented opening (mostly in historical specimens), giving the instrument its peculiar sonority.




The neck (Sap) is a mince (only 4-4.5cm in diameter) 100–110cm long D-section fingerboard made of light wood and carries catgut frets adjusted to give 36 intervals in an octave. Catgut frets are fixed on the neck by means of minute nails. The main bridge is trapezoidal and mobile, and since the shell lacks braces to support the soundboard, the latter slightly yields in under the bridge. The smaller upper bridge between the pegbox and the neck is traditionally made of bone.




The plectrum is made of tortoiseshell and is called “bağa” (meaning turtle). Cut in an asymmetrical V-form and polished at 45 on the tip, it measures 2-2.5mm x 5–6mm x 10–15cm. Nowadays it has seven strings. In the past tamburs with eight strings were not uncommon.

by Xiao Xiao @

P.S. We need people with similar passion to join or partner with us in promoting ethnic handicrafts! Please contact us at to make any suggestions that you may have in co-operating with us, or join as Affiliate.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s