Lecture 4

“Plucked String Music: Evolutions”
Day 1 – 2:30pm-3:45pm

New Acoustic Bracing System for Bamboo Kacapi Zither

Speaker: Endo Suanda (Indonesia)


In the past eight years I have been involved in making musical instruments that are traditionally wooden, out of bamboo. Two challenges I am facing: craftsmanship and structural acoustic design. I will focus on the second one, designing a bracing technique for the traditional Sundanese kacapi zither of West Java. I learned about the bracing system almost entirely from my experience with guitar making, but in making kacapi, firstly it has a different shape and structure; and secondly, I do not want to make a kacapi sound like a guitar.
Kacapi, like zither instruments all over the world, do not usually have a complicated bracing design. The soundboard in traditional wooden kacapi is made out of one plank of wood. A bamboo kacapi, however, has to have bracing to hold a number of small planks together, to become a relatively strong larger board.
Bracing has two basic functions, one is for the strength, and second for acoustic. In this conference I will particularly show the journey of my experience in bracing structures of several bamboo kacapis, how it works acoustically, and how the traditional musicians respond to its sound.


Endo Suanda studied and performed traditional arts (music, dance, puppetry) from early age. He entered the dance academies (Bandung and Yogyakarta), studied ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University and the University of Washington. He has taught, performed, participated in seminars, and conducted workshops in Indonesia and around the world. He was the chairman of the Society for Indonesian Performing Arts, and the principal editor of Gong art magazine. Presently he is the director of TIKAR (audiovisual documentation, archiving, and publication of traditional arts) in Bandung, and the director of LPSN (Lembaga Pendidikan Seni Nusantara, multicultural art education) in Bogor, West Java. He has involved in research and development of new approaches to bamboo instrument making, includes making unusual bamboo kacapi (traditional Sundanese zither) with bracing system.