Bandura - Types


The Classical Bandura.

The classical bandura developed from its predecessor, the kobza, in the 14th-15th centuries. The first mention of a Ukrainian bandurist date back to Polish chronicles of 1441. The bandura differed from the kobza in that it had no frets along the neck and the major playing was done on the treble strings know as prystrunky, which were placed to one side of the strings across the neck.

The size and shape of the classical bandura has remained remarkably stable for the past 300 years. Instruments which date back to the 1600's are very similar to those used at the turn of the century by the wandering minstrels known as kobzars.

The classical bandura had 20 to 24 metal strings tuned diatonically. The back was hewn from a single piece of timber, with a soundboard of spruce or pine. The tuning pegs were made of wood and there was hardly any metal on the instrument. This instrument often had a belt to aid in holding it when being played or carried.

Few exponents of the traditional classical bandura exists today, although interest in the instrument is growing.


Kharkiv Bandura

Aka Poltavka. The Kharkiv style of bandura playing was developed by Hnat Khotkevych. He published the first textbook for bandura in 1909 in Lviv. This text introduced the method of playing the classical bandura with 20 strings. In the 1920's the bandura was introduced as an instrument taught at the Kharkiv Conservatory, and gradually a new instrument evolved having 30 to 31 strings, tuned diatonically through four octaves. The instrument was held in such a way that the player was able to use both hands over all the strings. It was later made in three orchestral sizes: piccolo, prima, and bass.

The Kharkiv bandura was developed into a fully chromatic instrument by the Honcharenko brothers and further development is taking place in North America. The Kharkiv bandura is now almost extinct in Ukraine and is only used among émigré musicians, mainly because the Kharkiv instrument is at present not available in Ukraine.

Click here for a chart of Poltavka string gauges.

Kyiv Bandura.

Aka Chernihivka. The Kyiv bandura was developed in the 20th century, based on the classical instrument. The instrument differed from the classical bandura in that it had many more strings, with additional chromatic strings introduced onto the instrument by the Kyiv Bandurist Chorus in 1918. Since that time the instrument has been stable in its shape and method of playing.

The contemporary Kyiv bandura is made in a number of sizes and types. The most common is the standard 'prima' instrument [Chernihivka] made by the Chernihiv Instrument Factory with 12 bass and 43 treble strings tuned chromatically through almost five octaves. The professional concert bandura is the same size and shape as the 'prima', however it has 62 to 65 strings and a mechanism like that of a harp to change the tuning of the strings. Smaller-sized instruments for children with 42 strings are also available, and alto, bass, and contrabass banduras are used in professional bandura choruses in Ukraine.

The Kyiv bandura has developed into a very capable virtuoso instrument, with original music being composed for it by professional composers. Gradually it is leaving the confines of its folk environment. Courses in bandura are now being taught in a number of conservatories in Ukraine.

Click here for a chart of Chernihivka string gauges.





Copyright © Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus 2003