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From Library of Congress Medium of Performance Thesaurus for Music


  • A pear-shaped Japanese lute.

  • URI(s)

  • Instance Of

  • Scheme Membership(s)

  • Collection Membership(s)

  • Variants

    • chikuzen-biwa
    • gagaku-biwa
    • gaku-biwa
    • gogen-biwa
    • heike-biwa
    • kōjin-biwa
    • mōsō-biwa
    • nishiki-biwa
    • satsuma-biwa
  • Broader Terms

  • Sources

    • found: New Grove dict. of mus. inst.(biwa: a pear-shaped plucked lute, usually with four or five strings)
    • found: De Ferranti, H. Japanese musical instruments , 2000:p. 91 (pear-shaped plucked lutes generically named biwa)
    • found: Wikipedia, February 25, 2014(The biwa is a Japanese short-necked fretted lute, often used in narrative storytelling; The biwa came to Japan in the 7th century and it was evolved from the instrument pipa, while the pipa itself was derived from similar instruments in Western Asia. This type of biwa is called the gaku-biwa and was used in gagaku ensembles and is the most commonly known type. While the route is unclear, another type of biwa found its way to the Kyushu region, and this thin biwa (called mōsō-biwa or kōjin-biwa) was used in ceremonies and religious rites)
    • found: Wikipedia, February 25, 2014(There are more than seven types of biwa, characterized by number of strings, sounds it could produce, type of plectrum, and their use. As the biwa does not play in tempered tuning, pitches are approximated to the nearest note. Classic biwa: Gagaku-biwa; Gogen-biwa - Recently this instrument has been revived for historically informed performances and historical reconstructions. Not to be confused with the five-stringed variants of modern biwa, such as Chikuzen biwa; Mōsō-biwa - A biwa with four strings used to play Buddhist mantra and songs. It is similar in shape to the chikuzen-biwa, but with a much more narrow body; Middle and Edo biwa: Heike-biwa - A biwa with four strings and five frets used to play Heike Monogatari. Its plectrum is slightly larger than that of the gagaku-biwa, but the instrument itself is much smaller, comparable to a chikuzen-biwa in size; Satsuma-biwa - A biwa with four strings and four frets. Modern biwas used for contemporary compositions often have five or more frets, and some have a doubled fourth string. The frets of the Satsuma biwa are raised 4 centimeters from the neck allowing notes to be bent several steps higher, each one producing the instrument's characteristic sawari, or buzzing drone; Modern biwa: Chikuzen-biwa - A biwa with four strings and four frets or five strings and five frets popularized in the Meiji Period by Tachibana Satosada. Most contemporary performers use the five string version. Its plectrum is much smaller than that of the Satsuma biwa, usually about 13 centimeters in width, although its size, shape, and weight depends on the sex of the player; Nishiki-biwa - A modern biwa with five strings and five frets popularized by Suitō Kinjō. Its plectrum is the same as that used for the Satsuma biwa)
  • General Notes

    • A pear-shaped Japanese lute.
  • Change Notes

    • 1986-02-11: new
    • 2014-06-13: revised
  • Alternate Formats