Morin Khuur – A Folk Instrument Full Of Detail & How to Play

Mongolia's folk instrument, the morin khuur, is not only a national instrument, but also a significant component of their heritage and culture. It has been performed by nomadic peoples of the grasslands for ages and has finally found a home on the large stage.

Morin Khuur

Nomadic Origin

The earliest string instruments of the Morin Khuur are claimed to have originated in East Asian nomadic civilizations. They discovered that rubbing the strings of two bows together produces music. The origins of the morin khuur are also explained by a mythology among Mongolians. A cruel khan assassinated a boy's favorite white horse. In the middle of the night, the horse's soul appeared to him and told him to construct a musical instrument out of its body. The earliest morin khuur's neck was made of horse bone, the string was made of horse hair, and the main body was wrapped in horse skin. They remained inseparable after that.

Horse Head Fiddle

Because the neck of the morin khuur is customarily carved into the shape of a horse, the instrument's name literally translates to "horsehead violin." The instrument is played while seated, between the player's knees. On the morin khuur, there are two strings: one composed of 130 horse hairs from a male horse and the other composed of 105 horse hairs from a female horse. The morin khuur was traditionally used to accompany epic poems or stories, which were often performed by shamans. This legacy is now being carried on by young musicians, the majority of whom are Mongolian.

Battulga Wanchindorj is a music student from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, who is now pursuing her education at the St. Petersburg Conservatory.

He finished his basic training at home before moving to Russia to seek a professional career. He demonstrated his instrument, which is a modernised morin khuur with nylon strings and a wooden body.

Singing in the throat

The morin khuur's music is frequently accompanied by throat singing.

Battulga is gifted in both genres, performing morin khuur melodies as well as throat singing folk melodies. Throat singing is not available to all morin khuur players. It is a distinct discipline that necessitates years of instruction beginning at a young age. Mongolian warriors may have used throat singing, according to Battulga.

“It may not sound frightening right now, but imagine if an entire army of troops started singing at the same time.”

The morin khuur travelled to Europe with Marco Polo, a famous 13th-century traveller who was in China during the Mongolian Yuan dynasty's reign. With the Mongols, the morin khuur has spread to various regions of the world. Apart from Mongolia, it is also popular in Russia's south and China's Inner Mongolia. From traditional tunes to classical pieces, the modern morin khuur has been developed to perform any sort of music.

Mongolian Nomadic Culture Is Dominated By The Morin Khuur

Mongolian nomad culture is dominated by the morin khuur, a two-stringed fiddle. Written texts from the Mongol empire of the thirteenth and fourteenth century allude to string instruments ornamented with horse heads. The significance of the violin extends beyond its function as a musical instrument, since it was formerly a vital part of Mongolian nomads' rites and daily routines.

The Design of the Morin Khuur

The design of the morin khuur is inextricably related to the major horse religion. The hollow trapezoid-shaped body of the instrument is linked to a long fretless neck with a carved horse head at one end.

Two tuning pegs extend out like ears from either side of the neck just below the head. The strings and bow are composed of horsehair, and the soundboard is coated in animal hide. The sound of the instrument is created by sliding or stroking the bow across the two strings. Multiple right-hand stroking and a variety of left-hand fingering are common approaches. It is usually performed alone, although it is occasionally accompanied by dances, long songs (urtiin duu), mythical tales, rites, and ordinary duties involving horses. Some tunes (tatlaga) specially designed to calm animals have survived in the morin khuur repertory to this day.

Mongolian traditional culture would always impress you if you visit the country. The Horse-headed Fiddle, also known as Morin Khuur in Mongolian, is one of the most distinctive musical instruments. It plays an important role in Mongolian music, dancing, celebrations, and even visual art. Although this traditional music instrument just has two strings, it can produce a wide range of melodies.

Mongolia's Most Artistic Musical Instrument

Mr. Yadamsuren, a visual artist, created a famous painting titled "Uvgun Huurch," which translates to "The Elder Fiddler," in 1958, when he was 53 years old. The basic idea for sketching 'The Old Horse-head Fiddler' was presented to Mongolian novelist Rinchen.B in the early 1950s. The artist combined Euro-Mongolian specialities with mixed drawing method. This work has become a symbol of Mongolian national pride. This amazing drawing is now on display in Ulaanbaatar's Art Gallery. If you enjoy art, you should add this destination to your itinerary.

Morin Khuur performed the most ancient music.

The Great Mongol Empire had its own national anthem, "Ancient Splendid," in the 14th century. “Ancient Splendid” was the most revered and ceremonial song of big festivals, according to several historical accounts. This National Anthem has always featured a Horse-headed Fiddle melody that dates back to the Yuan Dynasty.

The theme of Mongolia's Naadam Festival is now "Ancient Splendid."

Mongolia's Most Popular and Official Musical Instrument

Horse-head Fiddle was designated as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2008. Since that year, every Mongolian family has placed the instrument in their homes with reverence and as a symbol of national pride. Mongolian National Horse-head Fiddle Ensemble (MNHFE) is a fantastic ensemble that performs Morin Khuur's folk music and international classics.

Ice-Instrument with the Most Ingenious Design

Aside from folk music, this instrument inspires a plethora of creative endeavours. Flash mobs, rock bands, and EDM remixes are examples, but there is a whole other level. The violin with the horse's head is made of ice... That's pretty cool, right? They also sound just like a standard Horse-head violin. Every year during Mongolia's winter, there are numerous Ice Festivals to visit.