Greek Clarinet<br>Turkish Clarinet<br>Klezmer Clarinet

TURKISH MUSIC SECTION => Turkish Keman / Kemence => Topic started by: crimson on June 25, 2014, 11:30:29 PM

Title: Klasik Kemence strings and tuning
Post by: crimson on June 25, 2014, 11:30:29 PM
Hi to all,
I'm Paolo and I'm writing from Italy. First of all excuse for my bad English... anyway, watching some videos of Loreena McKennitt I discovered klasik Kemence (politiki lyra), I immediately hit by its magic sound, an instrument really interesting with a strong personality, so I tried to document and listen as much as possible in the web. After a week I bought a Klasik Kemence on Ebay, an entry level model I supposed, Its price was 350€ but the seller had a 40% discount, so I took it home for 200 €. Now I'd like change the strings (because the original are in nylon  :angry:) but I don't know where and what buy  :huh: ...can you help me? Online I've read a lot of things about the strings but I'm confused. Can you tell me which material and gauge to use? I see also some stings pack for the creatan lyra they are adaptable for the kemence?

Anothe important thing... the tuning! I'd prefer to use the DGD or DAD, which one is more correct and which strings to choose this tuning?

Thanx angain!

P.S. this is my Kemence... what do you think I'd like have some opinion about it I'm absolutely a beginner  :wink:




Title: Re: Klasik Kemence strings and tuning
Post by: Apollonia on June 28, 2014, 01:36:04 PM
Ciao Paolo! Welcome to the GTC! Don't apologize for your English, you made it 100% clear what you want. I see you did your research and already know that the Greeks call it lyra politiki. Bravo, Paolo!

When you complain that your strings are nylon, do you plan on replacing them with metal or with gut ones? I think finding fitting gut strings outside of Turkey is going to be hard. And, honestly, do you really need to kill an animal to play an instrument? I think that is really bad taste, but you have to that decide for yourself. Steel strings are what is used in Greece, they are easier to play, easier to maintain, easier to find and replace, cheaper to buy and, only in my opinion, sound nicer. And your kemençe looks nice. Can you easily tune it, or are the pegs not so good? You could buy fine tuners if you need them.

DAD is a nice tuning, it would be the same as the 6 string bouzouki then. But you do need the proper string gauge for that. Most players tune their klasik kemençe in ADA - La re la. In Turkish music, this tuning is called Neva Rast Yegah (because they write it down as DGD - Re sol re, but you transpose and play it in ADA). Players like Derya Türkan and Sokratis Sinopoulos use that tuning and both of them play classical Greek and Turkish repertoire. The best part is that you can easily buy strings for this tuning! Sokratis Sinopoulos himself says: Lyra A (bass) = violin G string, lyra D (middle) and A (treble) = cello A and D strings respectively.

The lyra player in this video, Phaedon Sinis, has previously given out information on this matter and helped us all a lot by doing so! Check him out, please:
Title: Re: Klasik Kemence strings and tuning
Post by: elreyrico on June 29, 2014, 04:14:46 AM

the tuning is ADA (but the turkish say DGD because they call D the note at 440 Hz, which we usually call A)

NEVA (bass A string) : is usually metallic because gut would be too thick : use a violin G string medium tension

For the two treble strings G and A you can either use gut strings or metal strings:

for RAST (middle D string) :  a 1/4 size cello A string medium tension  or a gut string diameter 2-2.2 mm.

for YEGAH (trebble A string) : a full-size  cello A string soft tension or gut string diameter 1-1.1 mm

You can buy gut strings very easily here : 

Be carefull when changing the strings, that the bridge does not collapse.

If you want more info on the instrument, and courses via skype. I recomand  contacting Phaedon Sinis. He is a very good teacher (      and





If you want to use metal strings (easier to play) it is :

Title: Re: Klasik Kemence strings and tuning
Post by: Apollonia on June 29, 2014, 05:59:38 AM
What rico said is important, change one string at a time, so your bridge does not collapse!
Title: Re: Klasik Kemence strings and tuning
Post by: crimson on June 29, 2014, 09:22:54 AM
Hi guys, thank you so much!!!you have been very clear and very accurate  :wink:
Anyway I think that I'll go for the metal strings. I'm totally agree with Apollonia reguarding the issue for the animals, in addition I'm a beginner so I prefer something simpler and cheaper.
Sinopoulos is a Genius!!! is because of him that I discovered this fantastic instrument, I heard him play with Loreena McKennitt... so if he use this tuning and these strings it's perfect for me! I love its sound...

so, i'd go for:

A (low string): Violin string G Medium tension
D (central): Cello A 1/4 medium tension
A (treble): Cello D 4/4 soft tension

I have only a doubt, can you tell me if also the G violin string is full-size (4/4) like the D cello?

Apollonia, reguarding the pegs... they seems to keep the tuning but I will have to to trap them well into the hole otherwise they will not hold the tuning... I don't know if it's normal  :embarrassed:

Bytheway, could you tell me where to find a decent bow? the one supplied seems like a simple toy ... I could use a violin bow (maybe 3/4)?

Hey guys thanx for the links they are really interesting...  :beer:

Title: Re: Klasik Kemence strings and tuning
Post by: elreyrico on June 29, 2014, 12:25:57 PM

yes it is a 4/4 violin G string

for the bow i recently bought one traditional bow from this maker

you can also use a baroque violin bow like this

do not use a modern violin bow

you have to hold the bow like a viola de gamba bow,  not like a cello bow
Title: Re: Klasik Kemence strings and tuning
Post by: Apollonia on June 29, 2014, 12:41:33 PM
Good to see we share the love for Sinopoulos! I restrung one with a full size violin G and also full size cello strings. Of course they were a little long, so I started to put them on and just cut off the excess. About your tuning pegs, it's normal you have to push them a bit... But one thing I always advice violin and lyra players to get are fine tuners. They are called violin fine tuners, simply and depending on the size you get, will fit your instrument. The sizes don't vary too much, so it should not be a problem. The best thing for you would be a music shop near you which had such supplies, then you could take your kemence there and try them on. If you don't have a shop near you, they are easily ordered over the internet for a cheap price. I did a Google search to show you the two most common types. It depends whether you have a tailpiece cover.

If you do have one, you can find fine tuners to put in there. They are the black round metal parts in the tailpiece in this photo:

And the other variant is simply put on your strings in the same place, if you do not have a tailpiece cover there:

The Pontian lyra bows (karadeniz kemençe) are held in the same manner and are usually shorter than the violin bows, but they are a different kind of bow altogether and that is good. But for the klasik kemence and Cretan lyra, there too are traditional bows. They are not very different from violin bows, though. I would advice you to buy a regular one. Most players use them. The size is the biggest question, though. I personally find a full size too big for this playing style. Maybe that is because of my short arms and others like full size bows... But I've seen players use one which is one or two sizes smaller than a full size bow. You could get one in a regular music shop, from a violin luthier or too order one online.
Title: Re: Klasik Kemence strings and tuning
Post by: Jack Campin on June 30, 2014, 03:08:24 AM
A small mystery about this instrument.  In this wonderful video of Sufi music

the kemence player wears a scarf draped round her neck and over her bow arm.  I have often seen kemence players doing that before.  I presume it has a symbolic meaning.  What is it?
Title: Re: Klasik Kemence strings and tuning
Post by: crimson on June 30, 2014, 06:46:33 AM
Perfect! Finally I know where and which strings use for my Lyra!

For one thing I will buy the strings you suggested, then if I will take confidence with the instrument I'll buy a better bow... by the way Eric, thanx for the Petrakis link, If he made also bow for study (entry level) I'll buy it by him  :wink: otherwise  I will opt for one of the other solutions.

I really appreciate the suggestion of Apollonia (fine tuners) is a great advice ... I repeat if I manage to play this instrument certainly I'll buy them! The first solution seems more stable...

I only have one last suggestion to ask you, can you tell me some exercises to exercise the right and left hand? Or if there are instructional DVDs? here in Italy I will not be able to find a teacher  :cheesy:

Anyway I've just discovered this video... great song!!!! I like sharing it with you... you will know it already for sure but it impressed me very much, even the sound is spectacular!! (

All the best!!!
Title: Re: Klasik Kemence strings and tuning
Post by: Jack Campin on June 30, 2014, 07:03:53 AM
This is something I haven't seen before - klasik kemence as an accompaniment for a folk song:

She both sings and plays beautifully.
Title: Re: Klasik Kemence strings and tuning
Post by: saleas on June 30, 2014, 07:12:14 AM
Very sweet
Title: Re: Klasik Kemence strings and tuning
Post by: Apollonia on June 30, 2014, 12:02:31 PM
Great version, Jack!

Paolo, I don't know where in Italy you live, but is it possible to get in contact with a lira calabrese player? Obviously you are on a different, but related instrument and so you could get tips on posture and bow fluency. The thing that I practiced the very first is comfortably holding the bow, sitting well and getting a clean sound out of the open strings. No notes pressed with the fretting hand, just holding the neck. When I got a little feeling for how hard I have to press the bow and which angle to hold it to hit the strings best, I made a fluent motion out of this. I went from the bass string to the middle and to the treble, tried to play them all clean. First slowly, then faster when I could. Playing notes on the fretboard came after that and I think it's best to first practice with simple scales... C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C is what I played first on my Pontian lyra, to get a feel for where the notes are.

Practice makes perfect, Paolo! Don't ever be discouraged. Do you have a book or other material for learning the makam scales?
Title: Re: Klasik Kemence strings and tuning
Post by: crimson on July 02, 2014, 03:43:54 AM
Apollonia, unfortunately I live too far from calabria, I guess I'll do it alone  :undecided:... anyway I will follow your useful tips and surely I will do my best :wink:

but, Apollonia, what do you mean for "makam scales"? forgive my ignorance but I've never heard before these scales  :embarrassed:
Title: Re: Klasik Kemence strings and tuning
Post by: Apollonia on July 02, 2014, 01:15:17 PM
The musical system which classical Turkish (called Osman or Ottoman) music is build upon specific scales, different from western music. Makam is the singular and makamlar is the plural. You can definitely check YouTube, maybe you will find a tutorial video. By the way, the Arabic version is called maqam/maqamat. If you can read sheet music, then there are online sources out there making it easier to learn them. If not, you can still learn them of course, but it will be a little harder to find good material.

The makamlar include not only quarter tones, but also many micro tones. A quarter tone sits right in the middle between a half tone. A micro tone sits anywhere in between. So the Turkish scales are not well tempered like guitar or piano music and theory.
Title: Re: Klasik Kemence strings and tuning
Post by: crimson on July 02, 2014, 11:57:42 PM
really interesting though it seems not really easy  ;) ... anyway I will try now on the web these scales, Fortunately I read enough the music (I'm a guitar player).

By the way yesterday I've ordered the strings by the Eric's link  ;) ... I hope they get here soon, I'm very curious to hear the difference  :cheesy:

Thanx again to all... it was a pleasure to meet you  :beer: