.Rondalla (Bandurria and Octavina)

Notation &Techniques




The bandurria and octavina are part of the Rondalla, a Philippine ensemble of stringed instrument, which originated from Spain. The bandurria has a small pear-shaped body while the octavina has a shape similar to the guitar. Both has 14 strings grouped into 6 pitches.

Tuning & Notation


The notation for the bandurria and octavina are the same that is why it is not difficult for a performer to shift from one instrument to the other. The only difference is their sounding because the bandurria sounds 1 octave higher than the octavina.  

Some practices this kind of notation (see photos below):


However, someone who knows the piece well should be together with the people reading this kind of notation because rhythms are not notated at all times. Most of the rondalla players today read the Western style notation.


See table below for reference. 

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Playing Techniques

1. Existing Traditional Playing Techniques

Tremolo is done by rapidly striking the strings alternately up-and-down. It is used to sustain a note.


*Melody from a traditional Visayan lullaby, “Ili-ili Tulog Anay”

Glissando is done (i) by doing a tremolo or (ii) by plucking the string while sliding a finger to produce a smooth chromatic scale.





Mute is done by plucking the strings while lightly putting the palm of your hand over the strings being played. 


*Melody from a Philippine folk song, “Tong, tong, tong, Pakitong-kitong” 

Harmonics are done by lightly putting a finger, striking the strings, and releasing it at the right timing on specific frets to eliminate the fundamental tones thus producing a flute-like sound.


Pick scraping is done scraping the pick onto the strings to make scratching sounds. It can also be done by using objects other than the plectrum or pick. 


Finger taps/knocks/drum


*Mary Katherine Trangco’s notation of finger taps/drums in her piece “Hagikhikan”

** Jimuel Dave Dagta’s notation of finger taps/drums in his piece “Kulilal Para sa Bayan”


Bridge strum/ Nut strum is done by strumming the strings between the bridge and the endtail and above the nut respectively. 


This is how Prof. Maria Christine Muyco notated her piece using the bridge strum and nut strum technique. 

2. Existing Techniques but Are Not Used on the Bandurria/Octavina

Sul tasto 


Sul ponticello


*Melody from a Philippine folk song, “Sitsiritsit Alibangbang” 

Bartok pizzicato is done by pulling the strings away from the fingerboard to make them snap back to the fingerboard producing a pitch and a rhythmic snap. 


*Limitations: It can be only done to on the lower strings for it is hard to pull the 3 strings on the higher registers. 

3. Newer Playing Techniques

Guitar slide / bandurria/ octavina slide is done by plucking the strings while a guitar slide is on the top of the strings. 


Hammering is done with the use of a mallet  (I used a Yangqin mallet with rubber on the end.)

Limitations – too small string distance may lead to playing other strings unintentionally. 


The next techniques are created through my collaboration with Septian Dwi Cahyo and are used in his composition “Maghrib”. 

E bow / sustainer is done by simply putting the device on top of the strings to make a sustaining tone. Pitch can be altered by putting a finger or a guitar slide on specific frets.   


Electric bow on indicated strings (pitch.)


  • Soft to no sound on higher strings

  • Slow attack 

  • Might need amplification

  • Works well on 5th, 7th and 12th frets

Detuned / Scordatura 


: Pluck all strings on indicated pitch.

i.  Retuning strings 50 cents higher and 50 cents lower

ii. Limitations – tuning back to the original tuning in the middle of a piece or movement may take more time

Scordatura with Ebow/ Sustainer


Scordatura with Ebow/Sustainer and Pizzicato


: Electric bow on indicated strings(s) (pitches), while left hand piazzicato on the string to create beating effect. + accent, and notehead without line means pizzicato left hand.



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