"Zongorã" is the name given to the guitar in the villages in northern Transylvania (Maramures, Oas). It seems that the instrument, which probably existed to play the "serious" music of the local aristocracy for some hundreds of years, filtered down to country music towards the end of the last century. During Béla Bartók’s survey of the region in 1913, he discovered the zongorã in Maramures and noted that it had only two strings tuned at a perfect fifth apart (D - A).

Since then, a number of strings have been added to the guitar- zongorã which now has four tuned in a major scale (D - F# - A or A - C# - E), a sign that country people have already associated their music with "classical" scales. Towards the 1960s, the guitar-zongorã also became the accompanying instrument in neighbouring Oas.

The zongorã is played by musicians of moderate talent, who do not have to know anything more than how to strum the strings (with a wood or plastic pick or plectrum). A regular rhythm is dictated by the melody and to change the tuning from time to time by moving the index finger of the left Read More
"Zongorã" is the name given to the guitar in the villages in northern Transylvania (Maramures, Oas). It seems that the instrument, which probably existed to play the "serious" music of the local aristocracy for some hundreds of years, filtered down to country music towards the end of the last century. During Béla Bartók’s survey of the region in 1913, he discovered the zongorã in Maramures and noted that it had only two strings tuned at a perfect fifth apart (D - A).

Since then, a number of strings have been added to the guitar- zongorã which now has four tuned in a major scale (D - F# - A or A - C# - E), a sign that country people have already associated their music with "classical" scales. Towards the 1960s, the guitar-zongorã also became the accompanying instrument in neighbouring Oas.

The zongorã is played by musicians of moderate talent, who do not have to know anything more than how to strum the strings (with a wood or plastic pick or plectrum). A regular rhythm is dictated by the melody and to change the tuning from time to time by moving the index finger of the left hand up and down the neck, pressing all the strings down at the same time. Zongorã musicians buy their instrument in stores, replace the strings and play it in an unusual position, with the curved side pressed against their left side (or right if the musician is left-handed like the musician in the photograph) and the face of the instrument turned slightly towards the face. Zongorã players are often singers as well and perform folk songs, drinking songs (song de bãut) and dances (dant). They also call dance tunes (Bãrbãtescul and Învârtita in Maramures, the Dantul and Roata in Oas).

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Zongorã (Maramures Guitar)

The zongorã (Maramures guitar)

This instrument does not belong to the Museum’s collection but is on loan from a private collector.

Museum of the Romanian Peasant

wood, plastic, metal strings
94 cm x 34 cm, H : 8 cm
© Museum of the Romanian Peasant


Zongorã (converted guitar from Maramures)

This instrument does not belong to the Museum’s collection but is on loan from a private collector.

Museum of the Romanian Peasant

wood, plastic, metal strings
94 cm x 34 cm, H : 8 cm
© Museum of the Romanian Peasant


According to some historians, the guitar was introduced into Romania during the 16th century. At first it was a musical instrument of the upper classes. Only 150 years ago, people still thought that well educated ladies should learn to play in effort to entertain family guests. At the same time, the guitar became popular and was taken up by musicians in small traditional groups in Oltenia (to the south) and in Maramures (in the extreme north west of the country). In Oltenia, the guitar replaced the local folk lute called the cobzã. In Maramures, where it does not seem to have replaced any previous instrument, the guitar was called the zongorã. This name means "piano" in Hungarian and is further testimony to its "serious" origin.

Rural musicians have transformed the guitar-zongorã into a harmony and rhythm accompanying instrument. This functional development has had an impact on its tuning, the way the instrument is held and its playing technique. The zongorã has only three or four strings (at the beginning of the century it had two), tuned in major tuning (at the beginning of the century it was tuned in perfect fifths). I Read More

According to some historians, the guitar was introduced into Romania during the 16th century. At first it was a musical instrument of the upper classes. Only 150 years ago, people still thought that well educated ladies should learn to play in effort to entertain family guests. At the same time, the guitar became popular and was taken up by musicians in small traditional groups in Oltenia (to the south) and in Maramures (in the extreme north west of the country). In Oltenia, the guitar replaced the local folk lute called the cobzã. In Maramures, where it does not seem to have replaced any previous instrument, the guitar was called the zongorã. This name means "piano" in Hungarian and is further testimony to its "serious" origin.

Rural musicians have transformed the guitar-zongorã into a harmony and rhythm accompanying instrument. This functional development has had an impact on its tuning, the way the instrument is held and its playing technique. The zongorã has only three or four strings (at the beginning of the century it had two), tuned in major tuning (at the beginning of the century it was tuned in perfect fifths). In order to obtain successions of three-note chords, zongorã musicians press the instrument firmly against their side or left knee, move the index finger of the left hand up and down the neck, thereby changing the note, and strike the strings with a pick or plectrum. Today, no one can imagine that the guitar-zongorã could have ever played tunes since musicians now only know how to play rhythm backup, mainly for dance tunes.



© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Zongorã: Audio

Zongorã: Audio

Canadian Heritage Information Network
Canadian Heritage Information Network, Centre des recherches et études andalouses, Centre des musiques arabes et méditerranéennes Ennejma Ezzahra, Musée de la musique, Laboratoire de recherche des musiques du monde, Musée acadien de l'Université de Moncton, Canadian Museum of Civilization, Musée d'art et d'archéologie de l'Université d'Antananarivo, Musée ethnographique Alexandre Sènou Adande, Musée national du Mali, St. Boniface Museum, Lycée de langues étrangères Alexandre Dumas, Museum of the Romanian Peasant

© 1999, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Understand that music is an expression in all cultures
  • Understand that the relationship between personal feelings and music transcends borders and cultures
  • Develop respect for music from a variety of cultural contexts
  • Examine traditional music practices in selected Francophone countries
  • Demonstrate geographical awareness by identifying Francophone countries
  • Be aware of the musical contributions of various cultural groups in their own community
  • Understand that all world music can be organized within a standard classification system

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