List of musical instruments by Hornbostel-Sachs number: 322.11

This is a list of instruments by Hornbostel-Sachs number, covering those instruments that are classified under 322.11 under that system. These instruments may be known as arched harps. These are instruments in which one or more strings produce sound by vibrating, and where the string carrier and resonator are physically united, with strings at right angles to the sound table, no pillar and a neck that curves away from the resonator. The arched harp is probably an evolution of the musical bow, distinguished by the addition of strings and the fusion of the string holder and the soundbox.[1]

Arched harps are found in Southeast Asia, East Africa, and elsewhere, and are historically strongly associated with Ancient Egypt and India. Two categories of arched harps exist, though are not distinguished in the Hornbostel-Sachs system: those in which only one stick constitutes both the neck and the string holder of the instrument and those in which two separate sticks are used. The oldest harps of Egypt used the one stick construction, but this later changed to two sticks, which is now also used in the Burmese saung gauk and many other forms.[2]

The arched harp saung gauk is seen as a national instrument of Myanmar, and its history there dates back centuries. In the music of India, arched harps are strongly associated with Buddhism, and are frequently depicted in images of Buddhist deities and were formerly played in the royal courts of Buddhist dynasties. The arched harp receded in prominence in India after the rise of Hinduism in that country,[3] and the instrument's modern presence in India is apparently limited to the Pardhan people of Madhya Pradesh.[4]

The arched harps of Egypt, sub-Saharan Africa and Myanmar share a few features, including a stick to which each string is attached at one end and a piece of skin with a cavity underneath it, attached to the stick. However, it can not be conclusively determined that these instruments are related to each other.[5] The similarities between the arched harps of Southeast Asia and East Africa are part of a broad group of cultural relations, and the distribution of arched harps in Africa follows roughly the route by which the yam apparently spread across the continent after being introduced from Indonesia.[6] The Egyptian shoulder harp is also the earliest known instrument to have soundholes.[7]

3: Instruments in which sound is produced by one or more vibrating strings (chordophones, string instruments).
32: Instruments in which the resonator and string bearer are physically united and can not be separated without destroying the instrument
322: Instrument whose strings are at right angles to the sound table, such that a line between the lower tips of the strings would point at the neck (harps)
322.1: Instrument without a pillar (open harps)
322.11: Instrument has a neck that curves away from the resonator (arched harp)

These instruments may be classified with a suffix, based on how the strings are caused to vibrate.


Instrument Tradition Hornbostel–Sachs classification Description
Kenya 322.11 Arched harp[8]
Uganda 322.11 Arched harp[9]
Kafir Harp
Music of northern Afghanistan,Nuristan Providence 322.11 Arched harp[9]
ladle harp
Ancient Egypt 322.11 Ladle-shaped arched harp[10]
Pagan harp
Pagan Kingdom 322.11 Arched harp with a thick and blunt neck, only slightly curved[11]
Pardhan harp
kidim-baja, gudum-baja (both derogatory), bin-baja
Pardhan of India 322.11 Arched harp made from a single stick, with five strings, played with a plectrum and attached to a sawtooth-shaped carrier, with one soundhole and a waisted body[4]
Pyu harp
Pyu city-states 322.11 Fourteen-stringed arched harp with an outward curving neck and a bird or phoenix carved on the apex[12]
Myanmar 322.11 Arched harp with a curving neck and large soundholes, made from two sticks[12][13]
shoulder harp
Ancient Egypt 322.11 Arched harp with a boat-shaped hollow body surrounded by a skin membrane, with ten soundholes and traversed and punctured by one or two sticks to which the string is attached;[5][14]
shovel harp
Ancient Egypt 322.11 Shovel-shaped arched harp[10]
Ancient India 322.11 Arched harp (vina now refers to a stick zither, 311.222)[15]



  1. Alvad, pg. 154
  2. Knight, pg. 16
  3. Becker, pg. 21
  4. 1 2 Knight, pg. 15
  5. 1 2 Lawergren, Acoustics and Evolution, pg. 110
  6. Lawergren, Acoustics and Evolution, pg. 112; Lawergren stresses that the direction the arched harp traveled can not be known.
  7. Lawergren, Acoustics and Evolution, pg. 118
  8. Lawergren, Acoustics and Evolution, pg. 122
  9. 1 2 Baines, pg. 151
  10. 1 2 Lawergren, Reconstruction, pg. 166
  11. Becker, pg. 22
  12. 1 2 Becker, pg. 18; Becker notes that two Pyu harps are known, one with an outward curving neck and one with an inward curving neck, no carving and an unknown number of strings. The outward-harp is better-documented, but it is likely the inward-harp is more closely related to the modern Myanmari saung-gauk.
  13. Lawergren, Acoustics and Evolution, gp. 125
  14. Knight, pg. 12
  15. Wrazen, Louise (Autumn–Winter 1986). "The Early History of the Vīṇā and Bīn in South and Southeast Asia". Asian Music. University of Texas Press. 18 (1): 35–55. doi:10.2307/834157. JSTOR 834157.
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