The main instruments of the rondalla are the bandurria, octavina, laud, guitarra, and bajo or else the upright bass. In some cases, a piccolo bandurria is added for music that requires higher tones; a mandola for lower tones.
The bandurria is usually the lead instrument in the ensemble. It plays the main melodic line with a very fast tremolando using a plectrum, which gives the rondalla its characteristic sound. In the Philippine version of the bandurria, the instrument has fourteen strings instead of twelve only. The octavina is an octave lower than the bandurria and serves as the alto in the ensemble or plays counter melodies. The laud likewise tuned, carries the alto line of the music or plays counter melodies. Because of its rather dull timbre, many rondalla groups at present no longer use the laud, although it is still popular with chamber ensembles. The guitarra (guitar) serves as the accompaniment, playing the chords of the music. The bajo de uñas (bass guitar) gives the lower tones. But today the upright bass is more commonly used than the bajo de uñas: it provides the fundamental tone and reinforces the rhythm. Most rondallas also include now a drum set as well as varied percussion instruments.
Local wood is utilized for making these instruments; and the plectrum, or picks, are made from tortoise-shell.
Today, the instruments favored by rondalla musicians are manufactured in the province of Pampanga such as the Lumanog and Bandilla labels. Elsewhere in the country, the craft of rondalla instrument making is dwindling, like in Cebu where the industry was once flourishing. Rondalla instruments are readily available in music stores in urban centers although the preferred approach by many is to order them directly from the manufacturer to ensure quality.
The bandurria is a pear-shaped, short-necked lute with 14 strings and a round sound hole.
The laud also has 14 strings; it is pear-shaped with two “f” sound holes and a flat back.
The equally 14-string octavina is formed like a guitar but has a shorter neck and is smaller in size.
The guitarra (guitar) has 6 strings and has a long fretted neck.
BAJO DE UÑAS
The bajo de uñas (bass guitar) has 4 strings. It resembles a big guitar, and is played horizontally like a guitar using a large thick plectrum or the finger nail.
The upright bass has 4 strings and two “f” sound holes like the violin. It is 6 feet tall with a tailpiece that serves as a stand. The musician is standing while playing the instrument.