There are three types of string instruments differentiated from each other by the way in which sound is produced on their strings. In the first group of chordophones we find the instruments plucked with the fingers or a plectrum. These include the husli, the kobza, the torban, and the bandura.
The second group is that of the fricative chordophones. It contains the lira (hurdy-gurdy), the hudok, the violin, the basolia, and the kozobas. The third group - percussive string instruments chordophones are represented by the hammer dulcimer.
PLUCKED STRING INSTRUMENTS
The word husli was, in the times of Kievan Rus', the generic word for a string musical instrument. This Later the word became associated with a psaltery-like instrument that existed in Kievan Rus' and continued to be played in Ukraine until well into the 19th century. The root of the word is derived from the early Slavic word "gosl," which meant "string" and can be found in other Slavic languages have formed terms dealing with string music instruments. In Bulgaria and Yugoslavia "gusle" denotes a one-stringed fiddle. In Western Ukraine and in Byelorus' it is often used to denote a fiddle and sometimes a ducted flute. A special school of music was opened in Hlukhiv in 1738, Chernihiv province, which taught bandura, violin and husli. It is thought that the husli influenced the introduction of treble strings on the bandura and that because of this, the bandura replaced the husli. In the 19th century it was played primarily by townsfolk and clergy. The husli had 11 to 36 gut or metal diatonically tuned strings and was made in various sizes. It is thought to have come to Rus' from Byzantium. The husli were primarily used by the landed gentry and was made redundant by the introduction of keyboard instruments. They are no longer in widespread use as a Ukrainian folk instrument, though they continue to be used in Russia
The history of the kobza can be traced back to 6th century Greek chronicles and it was often mentioned by wandering Arab scholars who visited Rus' in the 10-11th centuries. The term itself is thought to be of Middle Eastern extraction and was thought to have been introduced into the Ukrainian language in the 13th century with the migration of a large group of people from Abkhazia to the Poltava region. The term came to differentiate this instrument from other string instruments generically known as husli.
The kobza became a favorite instrument of the Ukrainian Cossacks and was widely played by the rural masses and in the courts of Polish kings and Russian tsars. Here it served a role similar to the lute in Western Europe. Unfortunately, the kobza, like its close cousin the lute, fell into disuse and was gradually replaced by the bandura, guitar and mandolin. The term kobza later became a synonym for the bandura. The instrument kobza was traditionally carved out of a single piece of wood and consisted of a soundboard with strings strung across it. The number of strings could vary from three to eight. Occasionally it would have frets made of gut, and three to four additional strings strung along the soundboard. The strings were either plucked with a plectrum or with the ends of the fingers.
In recent times attempts have been made to revive the original fretted kobza. In 1968-70 Kyivan instrument-maker Mykola Prokopenko has designed several fretted kobzas which have become the standard in Ukraine. (However this has met however with only limited success.) The contemporary fretted kobza is made in two versions. The first is a seven-stringed instrument that uses an open G tuning similar to that of the seven-string guitar. Other variants of this instrument having a six-string guitar tuning are becoming popular as well as a double course twelve string model.
The legendary Cossack Mamai playing the fretted kobza
The second is a four-stringed orchestral variant. The orchestral kobza is tuned in fifths like the strings of the mandolin and violin, and is played with a plectrum. It is used in orchestras of Ukrainian folk instruments, and is produced in prima, alto, tenor, bass and contrabass sizes. The Romanians and Moldovans also have a similar fretted instrument that they call a Cobsa which appeared in the 16th century and has eight to twelve gut or metal strings tuned in fourths or fifths. This instrument is thought to have originated in Bukovyna and is also the term used in Rumania to describe the guitar.