Tro Khmer

Last updated
A musician at the Cambodian Royal Palace plays a three-stringed tro khmer fiddle (Tro Khse Bey), c. 1866 -- 1870. The instrument's sound box is made from a coconut, chosen to resemble the silhouette of an elephant's head from the front, the trunk the instrument's leg. Emile gsell cambodian woman.jpg
A musician at the Cambodian Royal Palace plays a three-stringed tro khmer fiddle (Tro Khse Bey), c. 1866 — 1870. The instrument's sound box is made from a coconut, chosen to resemble the silhouette of an elephant's head from the front, the trunk the instrument's leg.

The tro Khmer (Khmer : ទ្រខ្មែរ ) is a traditional bowed string instrument from Cambodia. Its body is made from a special type of coconut covered on one end with snake skin, and it has three strings. [1] Instruments are not standardized, and coconuts vary in size; however the instrument's sound bowl may have dimensions 16.5 cm by 14 cm. [2] In the past the strings were made of silk. By the 1960s, metal strings were in use, and the sound of the instrument changed, becoming sharper. [1]

The tro Khmer is closely related to a Thai instrument called saw sam sai .

The instrument may be related to the similarly shaped Indonesian version of the rebab, arriving there from Muslim culture, c. 15th century a.d. [1] A difference between the two is the number of stings; where the Indonesian rebab has two strings, the tro Khmer has three. [1]

Related Research Articles

Music of Cambodia

The music of Cambodia is derived from a mesh of cultural traditions dating back to the ancient Khmer Empire, India, China and the original indigenous tribes living in the area before the arrival of Indian and Chinese travelers. With the rapid Westernization of popular music, Cambodian music has incorporated elements from music around the world through globalization.


The kokyū (胡弓) is a traditional Japanese string instrument, the only one played with a bow. The instrument also exists in an Okinawan form, called kūchō (胡弓/くーちょー) in the Okinawan language.

Bowed string instruments are a subcategory of string instruments that are played by a bow rubbing the strings. The bow rubbing the string causes vibration which the instrument emits as sound.

<i>Rebab</i> String instrument

The rebab is the name of several related bowed string instruments that independently spread via Islamic trading routes over much of North Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and parts of Europe.


Huqin is a family of bowed string instruments, more specifically, a spike fiddle popularly used in Chinese music. The instruments consist of a round, hexagonal, or octagonal sound box at the bottom with a neck attached that protrudes upwards. They also usually have two strings, and their soundboxes are typically covered with either snakeskin or thin wood. Huqin instruments usually have two tuning pegs, one peg for each string. The pegs are attached horizontally through holes drilled in the instrument's neck. Most huqin have the bow hair pass in between the strings. Exceptions to having two strings and pegs include variations of huqin with three, four, and sometimes even more than five. These include the zhuihu, a three stringed huqin, the sihu, a huqin of Mongolian origin, and the sanhu, a lesser-known three-stringed variation.


The banhu is a Chinese traditional bowed string instrument in the huqin family of instruments. It is used primarily in northern China. Ban means a piece of wood and hu is short for huqin.

Tro (instrument) Traditional bowed string instruments from Cambodia

The tro is Cambodia's traditional spike fiddles, bowed string instruments that are held and played vertically. Spike fiddles have a handle that passes through the resonator, often forming a spike, on the bottom side where it emerges. The family is similar or distantly related to the Chinese erhu or huqin. The instruments have a soundbox at the bottom of the stick, covered with leather or snake skin. Strings run from pegs at the top of the stick and secured at the bottom, running across the soundbox. The larger the soundbox, the lower the pitch range. Instruments in this family include the two-stringed tro outro sau thomtro sau toch and tro che, as well as the three-stringed tro Khmer spike fiddle. The two-stringed tros are tuned in a fifth, while the three-stringed tro Khmer is tuned in fourths. The tros, with the exception of the tro Khmer, are strung so that the bowstring is permanently placed between the two stings. When the musician plays, the placement of the bow causes the strings to be played at once, one from below and one from above. In contrast, western fiddles are played with the bow pushing on each string from the outside, as is also the case with the tro khmer.

Saw sam sai

The saw sam sai is a traditional bowed string instrument of Thailand. Its body is made from a coconut that has "three lobes". The coconut is cut in half vertically and the shape is reminiscent of the silhouette of an elephant's head. The coconut bowl is covered on one end with animal skin, and it has three silk strings. Typically, the player glues a jewel onto the skin before playing, to reduce the skin's resonance.

The yehu is a bowed string instrument in the huqin family of Chinese musical instruments. Ye means coconut and hu is short for huqin. It is used particularly in the southern coastal provinces of China and in Taiwan. The instrument's soundbox is made from a coconut shell, which is cut on the playing end and covered with a piece of coconut wood instead of the snakeskin commonly used on other huqin instruments such as the erhu or gaohu. As with most huqin the bow hair passes in between the two strings. Many players prefer to use silk strings rather than the more modern steel strings generally used for the erhu, giving the instrument a distinctly hollow, throaty timbre. The instrument comes in various sizes. In Chaozhou music it is a leading instrument, and is tuned quite high. In Cantonese music it can be quite large and is often tuned to a relatively low pitch, lower than the erhu. It is used as an accompaniment instrument in the local musics and operas of various areas, including Guangdong, Fujian, and Taiwan. It is an important instrument in the music of the Chaozhou and Hakka peoples. In Taiwan, a variety of yehu used in Taiwan opera is called kezaixian.

Traditional Cambodian musical instruments

Traditional Cambodian musical instruments are the musical instruments used in the traditional and classical music of Cambodia. They comprise a wide range of wind, string, and percussion instruments, used by both the Khmer majority as well as the nation's ethnic minorities.

Saw duang

The saw duang is a two-stringed instrument used in traditional Thai music. The sound is produced by the bow made from horsetail hair which goes between the strings made from silk. The bow has to be tilted to switch from one string to another. Saw duang is light and played vertically on the lap. It creates a bright tone unlike the Saw u which produces a mellow sound. Another instrument which is similar to the Saw duang is the Chinese stringed instrument called Huqin.

Saw u Thai bowed string instrument

The saw u is a Thai bowed string instrument. It has a lower pitch than the saw duang and is the lowest sounding of the saw family.


The chakhe, or krapeu, is a fretted floor zither or lute with three strings used in Thai and Khmer music. The Thai and the Khmer instrument are virtually identical.

Roneat ek

The Roneat Ek or Roneat Aek is a xylophone used in the Khmer classical music of Cambodia. It is built in the shape of a curved, rectangular shaped boat. It has twenty-one thick bamboo or hard wood bars that are suspended from strings attached to the two walls. They are cut into pieces of the same width, but of different lengths and thickness. Originally these instruments were highly decorated with inlay and carvings on the sides of the sound box. Now they are simpler. The Roneat is played in the Pinpeat ensemble. In that ensemble, sits on the right of the Roneat Thung, a lower-pitched xylophone. The roneat ek is the analogous equivalent to the Thai xylophone called ranat ek, and the Burmese bamboo xylophone called "pattala".

Roneat thung A low-pitched xylophone

The Roneat Thung or Roneat Thum is a low-pitched xylophone used in the Khmer classical music of Cambodia. It is built in the shape of a curved, rectangular shaped boat. This instrument plays an important part in the Pinpeat ensemble. The roneat Thung is placed on the left of the roneat ek, a higher-pitched xylophone. The Roneat Thung is analogous to the ranat thum of Thai.


The krap is a Southeast Asian musical instrument used in Cambodia and Thai for percussion.


Roneat is the generic Khmer word for referring to several types of xylophones used in traditional Cambodian music; the pinpeat and mohaori.

A kongahyan is an Indonesian musical instrument played by drawing a bow across one or more strings. Kongahyans are similar to the rebab, which can be found in Java, Bali and Sunda Islands. This musical instrument is played for shows on those islands. The kongahyan is smaller than two other Indonesian instruments, the tehyan and sukong.

Tube zither

The tube zither is a stringed musical instrument in which a tube functions both as an instrument's neck and its soundbox. As the neck, it holds strings taut and allows them to vibrate. As a soundbox or it modifies the sound and transfers it to the open air. The instruments are among the oldest of chordophones, being "a very early stage" in the development of chordophones, and predate some of the oldest chordophones, such as the Chinese Se, zithers built on a tube split in half. Most tube zithers are made of bamboo, played today in Madagascar, India, Southeast Asia and Taiwan. Tube zithers made from other materials have been found in Europe and the United States, made from materials such as cornstalks and cactus.

Minangkabau music

Music of Minang is a traditional and living genre of Indonesian music that grows and develops in the Minangkabau culture area. Music whose origins are related to Malay Music is generally played by musical instruments such as Talempong, Saluang, Minang rebab, Serunai, Tmbourine, Aguang, Gandang, and Violin. Minang music is also played to accompany various dances such as the Pasambahan dance and the Piring dance.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Kersalé Patrick. "Fiddle - tro khmer". Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  2. 1 2 Khean, Yun; Dorivan, Keo; Lina, Y; Lenna, Mao. Traditional Musical Instruments of Cambodia (PDF). Kingdom of Cambodia: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. p. 59.

See also