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Two Tuvan Instruments

Two Tuvan Instruments

by Thomas Johnson

Originally published in American Lutherie #98, 2009

Originally, the igil and morin khuur (also spelled morin huur) were made by nomadic people with rudimentary tools. Instrument making in Tuva remains a cottage industry, and the master makers have mostly died off without leaving a trained younger generation.

It can be difficult to find wood big enough for Tuvan instruments, and it is becoming common practice to build up the piece by gluing extra bits on. For example, the height of the horse’s head above the fingerboard of an igil is enough to significantly increase the block of wood required. A maker can easily use a smaller block and, using a piece cut from it, add to the height by gluing it to the top. As the wood is from the same block, it can be fairly invisible. This is also possible for the soundbox and the fingerboard; two equal-sized cheeks can be added to either side to enable the correct dimension to be achieved.

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