Asian String Instruments: 10 Interesting Instruments From Every Country

These strings can be made from either artificial materials such as nylon or plastic or a traditional material such as silk, animal gut, metal, or vegetable fibers.

Nearly all Asian string instruments have one thing in common they use vibrating strings and either a soundboard or resonating chamber to amplify the sound they produce.

Asian string instruments can either be blown by the wind, rubbed, plucked, or struck. In this article, we will explore 10 of the most popular used Asian stringed instruments, and we’ve chosen one from 10 different countries.

chinese string instrument

What is the Asian stringed instrument called?

Stringed instruments are common across every Asian country, and most have their own traditional styles, such as the Koto from Japan and the Veena from India or the sitar from Pakistan.

Asia String instruments have a long and fascinating history; the vast majority are made from wood or other perishable types of materials.

The earliest instruments indeed back to Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Mediterranean. Southeast Asia and eastern Asia. Unfortunately, surviving specimens are we’ve learned what these instruments were from iconographic studies.

10 Asian Stringed Instruments

  1. Japan – Koto
  2. India – Veena
  3. Pakistan – Sitar
  4. Kazakhstan – Dombyra
  5. Vietnam – Dan Bau
  6. Turkey – Baglama
  7. China – Erhu
  8. South Korea – Kayagum
  9. Malaysia – Krem
  10. Thailand – Phin

1. Japan – Koto

What is the Japanese string instrument called? It is believed that the Koto was originally a Chinese zither, but now it’s a unique instrument commonly used in Japanese music.

Just looking at it, it’s difficult to differentiate between it and other instruments from Mongolia, Korea, Vietnam, and China. However, it does have a distinctive feature, and that makes it easier for knowledgeable people to identify.

It has an elongated body; usually over 70in Long and is about 8in wide it has 13 bridges and 13 strings and is usually made from paulownia wood.

Traditionally the bridges would be made from ivory, but newer ones are made from wood or plastic; instead, strings can either be made from silk or plastic. The Koto has remained popular in Japanese culture for hundreds of years, largely thanks to its popularity among the Japanese royal houses.

2. India – Veena

oriental string instruments

Sometimes spelled Vienna, like most Asian String Instruments, this is a multiple string instrument.

Popular throughout India dating back to 1.000 CE, musical historians would classify it as a stick zither Mission 4 ft in length; it has a large gourd that would have a movable body and four strings with which two make your melody and three metal drone strings.

Commonly musicians will play this instrument from a cease position holding us out of 45 angles away from their body but with one gourd resting on their left shoulder and the other between their knees.

Unlike the Japanese Koto, the Veena is very much a grassroots instrument. You are more likely to see it in the hands of a farmer than a banker.

3. Pakistan – Sitar

asian stringed instruments

One of the most common Asian String Instruments, sitars are is traditionally considered part of the loot family and as a popular Pakistani stringed instrument.

It is usually about 1.2 m or 4 ft in length as a pear-shaped gourd it’s distinguishing feature is its wide Long Hollow wooden neck. It has both side tuning pegs and front tuning pegs and features movable arched frets. Traditionally

In the stranger metal, you can have either one or two drone strings and five melody strings; these are used to accentuate the pumps are rhythm some kind of as many as 13 sympathetic strings located between the frets in the neck of the sitar.

Convex metal threats are attached to the neck of the sitar and can be moved as needed.

4. Kazakhstan – Dombyra


Here is a version of this instrument is called the date back to the Middle ages; a Tumblr-like musical instrument is referred to in the famous works of Aby Nasyr Al-Farabi.

There is a version of this instrument in virtually every country and Central Asia, the difference slightly from Regent region but in Kazakhstan, it has threats and is commonly played by strumming with one hand are simply plucking each individual string.

Some musicians will tap on the surface of the instrument to produce additional sound. Traditionally strings are made from sinews, but these days, nylon strings are more common.

5. Vietnam – Dan Bau

This is certainly one of the most unique and interesting string instruments on the list; it’s a rustic device, but when you’re listening to it, they can touch your soul it’s simple structure using just a single string is what makes this one of the most unique strength instruments in the world in the skilled hands of a master it can still produce every tone and emotion needed to express the melody of a song.

If the materials are carefully chosen, and the instrument is constructed by a skilled craftsman using silk strings, and mahogany body and frame can easily result in a stunning instrument being produced

6. Turkey – Baglama

chinese one string instrument

This is by far the most common string instrument to use in Turkish music, and depending on the region you’re in, it can vary greatly in size and tone.

For example, The Cure produces a very high pitch, and it’s the smallest of the family; as you move up in size on the instruments will produce the lower octave, the lowest coming from an instrument known as the disa.

Consisting of three distinct sections known as the stem chest and table, this is usually made from mulberry wood, the chest from spruce, and the stem is always made from the beach, preferably white beach the stem furthest away from the table is referred to as the pig, and this is where you will attach your strings it’s played in a plectrum style although fingering is popular in some regions of the country.

7. China – Erhu

This is an Asian stringed instrument that is traditional to China; it dates back over a thousand years and is commonly used in all parts of the country to this very day. This is a famous Chinese string instrument.

This is a bold string instrument and usually consists of two tuning pegs and two strings, a resonator and not the wood, and they both. The front part of the sandbox originator is usually layered with python skin; this is elastic in nature and helps the erhu produce its unique sound.

As technology became more advanced, most resonators are no longer covered with python skins; instead of that they use synthetic skin; while this is a more ecological alternative, a purist will tell you that it doesn’t sound the same as real python skin.

The bull will usually be fitted in a horizontal manner as it moves over the two strings; the sound is very similar to that produced by a violin, but because it’s two and not three strings, its pitch will be higher. This is a traditional Chinese stringed instrument, and a ancient Chinese string instrument.

8. South Korea – Kayagum

This board zither has a convex upper surface, 12 movable bridges, and 12 silk strings; it’s usually rectangular in shape around 160 cm or 62 in Long or 30 and 30 cm or 12 in wide.

When playing the instrument, musicians will sit on the floor, placing one side of the instrument on the right knee and resting the other side on the floor; the strings are plucked using the first three fingers and thumb of the righthand meanwhile the left hand either pulls or presses it down on the strings producing microtonal augmentations to the pitch and the vibrato sound that is very typical of Korean music.

This is Korea’s national instrument, and no matter where you go, you’ll find it played in many different instrumental or vocal accompaniments; it’s very common to have the changgo drum play with it.

9. Malaysia – Krem


As you’re beginning to see despite the size of the continent, stringed instruments across Asia are very similar in design and style.

This particular instrument, known as the Korean, is effectively and tube zither made from bamboo and is very commonly used among the different Malaysian tribes.

It’s two strings which used to be made from roots, are now commonly made from nylon and are threaded through a bamboo tube which is open at one end to produce its sound holes; you can either bow or pluck the instrument, and it is most commonly played by the women in.

10. Thailand – Phin

This loot is famous for its pear-shaped body; it’s commonly played by ethnic Laotians and is found throughout Thailand and Laos; it can have either two or three metal strings which are either plucked or picked and his friends in the neck to help with intonation, and it’s usually held in the right hand while the musician is playing.

What Instruments Originated In Asia?

Asia has a vast and diverse culture spread across the continent. With all the different people and cultures practiced, it wouldn’t be a surprise that a number of them would have their own traditional instrument for them to use for their traditional songs.

One of these is a traditional Chinese musical instrument called “Guzheng,” which is said to be invented by Meng Tian during the Qin Dynasty.

The Guzheng’s main body is made up of a rectangular hollow wooden box, with 21 strings stretched between two bridges and tied across the top. The bridge at the tail is shaped like an S. Due to how the instrument is designed; it is capable of performing in the manner of glissando and melodic lines.

Some techniques used in playing the instrument are plucking or using picks attached to the fingers. This unique instrument helps performers demonstrate a unique sound that is different from the instruments used today.

Although the instrument has ancient Chinese origins, it has gone through several changes since its modern-day restoration.

We hope you enjoyed this article on ten of the most commonly used Asian String Instruments.

Avatar photo
About Jayden Buckley

Hi, my name is Jayden and I am author/editor for PlayTheTunes. I remember the first time I hopped on the drums, I was hooked. Music has played an enormous part of my life, and I'm honored I get to share my experiences with you!