Traditional Central Asian Musical Instruments: From the Collection of Ian Price

Opening in connection with Reviving Traditional Central Asian Music, virtual concert and discussion co-hosted by Wende Museum of the Cold War, Aga Khan Music Programme, and Aga Khan Council for the Western United States, March 12, 2021, 6 - 7:15 p.m.

We invite you to view, learn and listen through the images, text and sound bites that follow.  If you have any questions, please send them to and collector Ian Price will respond.

Ian Price has been involved in traditional music and dance from the Balkans, the Middle East, and Central Asia for almost 50 years. During this time he has amassed a large collection of musical instruments, some of which can be seen in this exhibition. 

The Dutar is a long-necked lute of about 130 centimeters with a pear-shaped head. The instrument is often made of mulberry wood. There are some 15 frets and two strings (made from silk or gut). The Dutar is the most popular instrument among the Uyghur people and can be found in many households. The two strings are tuned either d1 – g, or d1 – a.

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Like the Dutar, the Tambur is made of mulberry wood and has a pear shaped head. It is somewhat longer, usually about 140 centimeters and has nearly thirty frets and five steel strings. The instrument is played with a plectrum by flicking the strings with the index finger and thumb. The first two strings are used to play the melody while the other strings act as drones. 

The tuning is: strings: (1) (2)  (3)  (4) (5); tuning: a a d1 g g.

The Tambur plays a major role in the performances of the Uyghur Muqam.

The Ghijek is a spike fiddle with four metal strings. The neck is made of willow and the bowl of date tree wood. The playing face can be made of sheepskin, snakeskin, or thin wood (of walnut or mulberry). The instrument is about 70 centimeters long and, in the bowl are many holes, which help to facilitate the sound when played. It is played upright and the base sits on the player’s leg and is bowed with a regular western violin bow. The tuning is: strings: (1)   (2)   (3)   (4); tuning: e2 a1 d1 g – rather like a western violin.

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The Qushtar (Hushtar), so named because of the bird (Qush) carved on the top of the neck. This instrument is similar to the Ghijek, and is about 50 centimeters long with four strings (tuned like the Ghijek). It has a clear loud sound and is played in the same way as the Ghijek.

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The Rawap is another long-necked lute with a bowl at the end. The instrument is made from mulberry wood and, instead of a wooden soundboard, the opening across the top of the bowl has, snakeskin, donkey skin or sheepskin stretched across it. There are several regional versions of the instrument and the number of strings (steel) can vary from between seven and nine. The strings run across the skin membrane on the bottom, up the long fret board and connect to a peg box, curved backwards 180 degrees. Only some of the strings are plucked with a plectrum. The rest are sympathetic strings, vibrating in reaction to the actively played strings.

Something that sets this instrument apart visually are the lateral extensions above the wooden bowl, decorated goat horns mounted on the neck, curving towards the bowl.

One particular tuning (Kashgar Rawap) is:  strings: (1)   (2)  (3)  (4)  (5)  (6)  (7); tuning: c1 e B F#

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The Satar is a bowed instrument, about 140 centimeters long. It is made from apricot and mulberry wood and is one of the leading bowed instruments in Uyghur orchestras. It has one main steel string and twelve additional sympathetic strings with 18 gut frets along the neck. The instrument is positioned on top of the left leg when played with a western style violin bow.

The tuning is: strings: (1)   (2)  (3)  (4)  (5)  (6)  (7)  (8)  (9)  (10)  (11)  (12)  (13); tuning:   c1 c1   c1 d1  e1 g1   a1   c2   d2 e2  g2  a2 c3.

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The Dap is a frame drum made of grape wood. The drum skin can be of goat, horse, or snake. Inside the frame, there are many small hanging metal rings, which, when the drum is struck, make a rustling sound. The instrument plays an important role in Uyghur orchestras and is also used as a solo instrument for classic dance performances.

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The Qalun is a plucked instrument with strings in a horizontal position. The instrument is made from mulberry wood and it consists of a large trapezoidal shaped box (with one side curved). It is placed on a stand or on the ground when played, and a wooden pick is used to pluck the metal strings while a metal key in the other hand presses and slides on the strings giving a vibrato effect. The Qalun has several types, with anywhere from 16 to 40 metal strings.

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The Chang is a wooden trapezoidal instrument with metal strings that are laid out in a horizontal position on the instrument’s frame. The instrument is played using two light wooden handheld hammers, which strike the strings. The Chang has about 14 groupings of strings (three or four to a group) laid out on top of the instrument frame.

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Listen to the full playlist of sounds from the exhibition on our Soundcloud

Uyghur Musical Instruments by Wende Museum

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This online exhibition was curated by Ian Price and Thomas E Backer, Ph.D.  This exhibition was designed and supported by Anna Rose Canzano and Chloe Ginnegar of the Wende Museum.