The national musical instrument of Ukraine

The bandura is the instrument that best embodies the voice and soul of Ukraine. From a musical perspective, the bandura unifies acoustic principles of both the lute and the harp. This produces a sound that is emphatic and gentle, resembling that of a harpsichord, but with a wide range of dynamics and tonal control.

The bandura’s development closely reflects the history of the Ukrainian nation, dating back hundreds of centuries. It was first noted in a 6th century Greek chronicle in reference to warriors from Ukrainian territories who played lute-like instruments. In the 15th and 16th centuries, it became prominent in the courts of Eastern Europe and among the Ukrainian cossacks. Throughout its history, the bandura was used primarily for song accompaniment, dance melodies, and traditional dumy pieces - epic narrative set to music. The bandura was historically played by blind minstrels who traveled from village to village singing these epic ballads and historical songs. Over centuries, the instrument has evolved in various forms.

The modern bandura has between 20 and 65 strings and is tuned like a piano rather than a guitar. There are three styles of the modern bandura: the classical bandura, the Kharkiv (also called Poltavka) bandura, and the Kyiv (also called Chernihiv) bandura.



The classical bandura has 20 strings and wooden tuning pegs.


The Kharkiv bandura has 34 to 65 strings and often includes a key-changing mechanism. This style of bandura has virtually vanished from Ukraine and is at risk of becoming extinct.



The Kyiv bandura is the most common bandura found today. It was mass produced during the Soviet Era in two areas of Ukraine and has 55 to 64 strings.