Overview of Tambura Instrumentation
 
Tamburitza refers to the family of mostly flat-back acoustic stringed instruments indigenous to the former Yugoslavian provinces of Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Vojvodina.  The grouping consists of the following five basic instruments --
 
 
Prim (preem) or Bisernica (be-SER-neet-sa) -- a small four-tone soprano instrument utilized primarily for melody or harmony.  It most often is pear or oval shaped and is most frequently tuned to a G, D or E format.  At first blush, the prim might appear to be similar to the American mandolin, but a closer examination reveals significant differences in construction and tuning.
   
 
Brac' (BRAATCH) -- a four-tone midrange stringed instrument utilized for lead, harmony and counterpoint.  It is two to two-and-a-half times larger than the prim and is tuned frequently to a G, D, A or E format.  To the casual observer, the brac' may be mistaken for a guitar, but the brac' is usually about 2/3 the size of a guitar.  The older style brac' is often oval in shape, appearing to be similar to the lute.
   
 
C'elo (CHE-low) -- a four-tone stringed instrument used primarily for counter melody.  Unlike the traditional orchestral cello, the C'elo is held horizontally (like the guitar) and picked rather than bowed.  Most commonly, the c'elo is tuned one octave lower than the brac', usually in G or A.
   
 
Bugarija (boo-GA-ree-ya) -- a three or four tone stringed instrument that is similar to the c'elo in size, weight and physical design.  The bugarija utilizes lighter-gauge strings, and its function is that of providing rhythm chording.   It is most often tuned in the G, D or A format.
   
 
Berda (BEAR-dah) -- a fretted bass with heavy gauge steel strings and a short bridge.  Like the c'elo, the berda is played with a pick rather than a bow.  Similar to the bass, the berda provides the "beat".   It is usually tuned to G, D or A format.
   
 
These five instruments comprise the basic tambura family of instruments.  They often are augmented, however, with other traditional instruments, such as the violin, the bass and the accordion.  Also, some musicians employ other ancient stringed and wind instruments that have historical roots in Balkan folk music; occasionally modern western instruments find their way into tamburitza performance.
 
     
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