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About Vietnamese Guitar

About Vietnamese Guitar

The Vietnamese guitar, properly known as Guitar Phím Lõm, comes from the southern region of Vietnam and is characterized by its scalloped fingerboard.
It is used to perform traditional music Cải Lương, and is used in performance at funerals and other religious ceremonies.
The scalloped fingerboard allows for the bending of strings so as to create an expressive vibrato sound.

String Setting

Apart from its unique fingerboard, the Vietnamese guitar has the same structure as a standard guitar. Of course, one can use regular gauge guitar stings on a Vietnamese guitar. However, below we offer some examples of how strings are often set in Vietnam. By using light gauge strings, the performer is able to bend the strings as much as possible when playing.

■1st and 2nd Strings
– Strung with strings made for Vietnamese guitars.
– The strings are 17〜19em, an extremely light gauge.
– Some string makers produce different types of strings for specified use on acoustic and electric guitars. However, these strings are often used interchangeably on either type of guitar.

18em and 19em strings are pictured above.
We are currently checking with local stores selling these strings so as to learn more about the specifics of the em unit of measurement. Please note that the end ball is larger than those found on typical guitar strings. With this, the end ball may not fit the bridges of some guitars. Of course, these strings fit all lõm guitars without issue.


■3rd to 6th Strings
– Strung with standard guitar strings.
– Strings are set one gauge lower for each string. That is, a gauge normally used for the 2nd string is used for the 3rd string, the 3rd for the 4th and so on.

A package of Alice AW432 strings shows the gauge of strings to be used.
3rd String → 2nd String .015 inch gauge
4th String → 3rd String .024 inch gauge
5th String → 4th String .032 inch gauge
6th String → 5th String .042 inch gauge 

The approach to setting strings varies from performer to performer.
For example, some may use the same gauged 18em string for both the 1st and 2nd string. The 3rd string may be set with an entirely different gauge depending on the preference of the guitar player. Please find a string setting that works best for you.


The Vietnamese guitar is tuned significantly lower than the standard guitar tuning.
An open D tuning is typically used. Please note that the tuning to a specific note is not always pitch standard. For example, A is not necessarily tuned to an exact pitch standard of 440kHz. Instead, a tuning that sensibly matches the other instruments is made by ear. Further, when accompanying a vocalist, the tuning of all six strings may be adjusted so as to match the key in which the vocalist is singing.

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