Gayageum

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A 12-stringed gayageum

The gayageum or kayagum is a traditional Korean zither-like string instrument. It has 12 strings, though some more recent variants have 21 or other numbers of strings. It is probably the best known traditional Korean musical instrument.[1] Its body is made of Paulownia wood.

History[change | change source]

According to Samguksagi ( the three kingdoms history book), the first gayageum was made for King Gasil in the 6th century.[2] This was after he observed a Chinese musical instrument. He ordered a musician named Wu Ruk to compose music for this new instrument. The original name was gayago. It was further improved by Wu Ruk.

Construction[change | change source]

Sanjo gayageum player

There are two types. The beobgeum gayageum is 160cm long by 30cm wide by 10cm deep. Its body is made of a single piece of paulownia wood. The resonator chamber is hollowed out of the wood body. It is used in court music.[3]

The sanjo gayageum is about 142cm long by 23cm wide by 10cm deep. The soundboard is made of paulownia, but the sides and back are of a harder wood such as chestnut or walnut. It is used in folk music.[3]

Technique[change | change source]

The player usually sits cross-legged. The gayageum is played put on the player’s knee (usually the right knee). One hand plucks the strings to make a sound. The other hand decorates the sound by pressing, shaking, and vibrating the strings.

References[change | change source]

  1. Jan. 11, 2007,Korean Instruments Seoul Metropolitan Government
  2. Thomas Rossing, The Science of String Instruments (New York: Springer, 2010), p. 192
  3. 3.0 3.1 Emerging Intelligent Computing Technology and Applications, eds. De-Shuang Huang; et al. (Berlin; New York: Springer, 2009), p. 213

Other websites[change | change source]