Name: Morin Khuur (in Mongolian, морин хуур), Ikil (Western Mongolia) and Ma Tao Qin (in Mandarin Chinese).

Type: Bowed > Chordophone.

Region: Mongolia > Inner-Mongolia (China) > Far East Asia.

Tunings: Bb - F.

Dimensions: Scale Length .

Acquisition Date:

Acquisition Source: A friend of David Di Santo, Mongolia.

The Morin Khuur is a bowed chordophone having two strings. It is also known by other alternate names, the names are Ikil or Ma Ta Qin in Mandarin Chinese. In China during the Qing Dynasty ( 1644-1901) the ma tau chin likely has originated from the same instrument. In the Chinese system of classification this khuur belongs to the huqin branch of the silk-instrument family. The khuur is one of the main instruments played for the "long song" or "epic song". A connection the naming is found in the Ikil which is the Western Mongolian name for the Khuur. The morin khuur is also played in the neighboring Buryat Republic which lies to the east of Tuva.

Playing Techniques: The Morin Khuur is played in an upright position similar to that of a cello. The similarities end in the fingering techniques used to play the instruments. Unlike a cello the on the left string or the first string of the instrument, the musician holds his finger nail on the string and applies very nimble pressure in which allows for vibrato and applied acoustic effects during performance. On the cello the musician places their fingers directly onto the string in which touches the fingerboard. Rhythmic techniques for this instrument include the simulation of galloping horses.

Construction: Typically the morin-khuur is usually constructed of wood, from body, neck, head stock and tuning pegs. Although double skin frame body is found on some morin-khuurs. The head stock is carved in the theme of a horses head with a serpents face. From the head stock where the serpents mouth is located the two strings travel across the bridge to the tail peace. In which the strings are actually held underneath tail piece rather then at the tail its self. The strings represent the fangs of the serpent. Several influences as borrowed from violin luthiers include the use of a sound-post and f-holes as ornamental sound holes. Details of this specimen are quite intricate including the additional outlay of the animals featured in the Chinese Zodiac including the rooster, rat pig, serpent or snake. The artwork on the Morin Khuur is also influenced by a shared heritage of Tibetan Buddhism. The pair of strings are called “Narin” and “Bhuddin”. In Mongolian the word “narin” means “thick” and “bhuddin” means “thin”. The Bhuddin or thicker strings has a count of 130 individually selected strands from a mares tale. The thinner strands of hair amount to approximately 105 individual strands selected from a horses tail.

A note about my two specimens: My first morin khuur is likely from Inner Mongolia and it was acquired from Clarion Music in San Francisco USA. A sticker from the manufacturer showed the same sticker that was present on a dizi flute that is also in my collection. My second specimen is hand made in Mongolia and brought back by a friend of a friend of mine.