Rondalla (Bandurria and Octavina)

Notation &Techniques




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

Tuning & Notation


The notation used for the bandurria and octavina are the same. This is why it is not difficult for a performer to shift from one instrument to the other. The only difference between them is their pitch range: the bandurria sounds one octave higher than the octavina.  

Here is an example of notation for the bandurria or octavina:


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


The table below shows the notation and tuning for each pitch on the bandurria and octavina. 

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Playing Techniques

1. Existing Traditional Playing Techniques

Tremolo is created by rapidly striking the strings alternately up and down. This technique is used to sustain a note.


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

Glissando is created in one of two ways: (i) by playing a tremolo or (ii) by plucking the string while sliding a finger to produce a smooth chromatic scale.





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


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

Harmonics are created by lightly placing a finger on the string, striking the strings, and releasing it at the right time on specific frets to eliminate the fundamental tones. This technique producing a flute-like sound.


Pick scraping is created scraping the pick onto the strings to make scratching sounds. It can also be executed using objects other than a 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 created by strumming the strings between the bridge and the endtail, and above the nut. 

This is how Prof. Maria Christine Muyco notated the bridge strum and nut strum techniques in her piece Pagpi-Piko:

2. Existing Techniques that are not used on the Bandurria or Octavina

Sul tasto 


Sul ponticello


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

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


*Limitation: this can be only done on the lower strings as the 3 strings in the higher registers are much harder to pull. 

3. Newer Playing Techniques

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


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

*Limitations: small distances between strings may lead to playing other strings unintentionally. 


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

E bow / sustainer is created by simply putting the bow on top of the strings to create a sustaining tone. The pitch can be altered by placing 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 is created by retuning strings 50 cents higher and 50 cents lower


: Pluck all strings on indicated pitch.

*Limitations: tuning back to the original pitch in the middle of a piece or movement takes time.

Scordatura with Ebow/ Sustainer


Scordatura with Ebow/Sustainer and Pizzicato


For this effect, the electric bow is placed on indicated strings(s) (pitches), while the left hand plays piazzicato on the string to create a beating effect.


Accent, and notehead without line indicates pizzicato with left hand.

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