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The Santur

The Santur

by Javád Náini

Originally published in American Lutherie #92, 2007

Also see,
Introducing Santur by Javád Náini

The santur is a traditional Persian dulcimer which is played with two light wooden hammers. Its isosceles trapezoidal shape, tuning plan, and playing methods are similar to the American hammered dulcimer and East Indian santoor. Origins of the santur trace back to ancient Persians in the Middle East, India, and perhaps ancient China. Modern santur design, however, is most likely no more than two centuries old. In this article, we focus on the design that is most popular in contemporary Iran or Persia.

The santur provides over three octaves of musical notes (e–f ´´´ or ≈164Hz–1396Hz), with eighteen unison courses of four strings. The strings in each course share the same chessman-style bridge. There are two columns of nine bridges; bass courses are on the right, treble courses on the left. Treble bridges divide each course into a higher and middle octave. This provides two consecutive octaves of notes, with one additional overlap note. The strings running to the right side of the bass bridge are not played.

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