Before entering fully into the meaning of the term chordophone, we are going to proceed to know its etymological origin. In this case, we can state that it is a word that derives from the Greek, exactly from “chordae”, which can be translated as “string”.
The term chordophone does not appear in the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE). The concept is used to name the musical instrument whose sound is produced by the vibration of one or more strings.
The chordophone strings are tensioned between two fixed points. In general, the instrument has a body that works as a resonance box, amplifying the sound produced when these strings vibrate.
There are different classifications of chordophones. However, one of the most generalized is the one that divides them into zithers, which are simple chordophones, and compound chordophones, which include both harps and lutes.
Specifically, it is interesting to know that there are four ways to play the aforementioned chordophones, as we are going to analyze in depth below. We are referring to rubbing, with a bow or with a wheel; to the plucking, with the fingers or mechanically; by percussion, with hammers or rods; and by vibration by sympathy.
String instruments can be qualified in different ways. Those with plucked strings, as their name indicates, sound when the string is plucked or plucked by the fingers or by a plectrum (plectrum): the guitar, the bass, the harp, the lyre, the lute, the ukulele and the charango, among others.
Rubbed – string chordophones, on the other hand, require a bow to rub the strings to produce the vibration. In this group we find instruments such as the violin, the double bass, the cello and the viola.
There are also chordophones with struck or percussive strings. In this case, the strings of the instrument vibrate through blows that are made with pieces known as hammers, which are linked to keys. The piano and harpsichord are examples of this class of stringed instruments.
Chordophones are used in numerous musical styles and genres. The guitar can appear in tango, the harp in opera, the violin in Celtic music, and the piano in jazz, to name just a few possibilities. Chordophones usually appear accompanied by other types of instruments: percussion, wind, etc.
Other interesting facts about chordophones that are worth knowing are the following:
-Most of the chordophones used on the European continent come from instruments from the Middle East.
-The bandurria, the requinto, the laudín, the Venezuelan cuatro, the guitarrón or the guembrí are other chordophones that exist.
-The material from which the chordophone strings can be made is very diverse. Thus, they can be made with synthetic fibers but also animal hair, silk, tendons from various animal species, wire…
-In orchestras, the most common chordophones that can be found are the harpsichord, the harp, the double bass, the guitar, the piano, the viola, the violoncello and the violin.