Launched to The World by Her Tamburs

Launched to The World by Her Tamburs

Elif Kızılhan who graduated ITU Turkish Music State Conservatory Instrument Making Department in 2001 is one of Turkey’s leading female luthiers…

Kızılhan, who decided to specialize in this field after meeting with one of the master names in making tambur Sacit Gürel, during her senior year as a student, has established a special world in her workshop in İdealtepe, İstanbul. We became a part of this world and shared the crafting venture of Kızılhan on our pages.

Master-apprentice relation is important

Elif Kızılhan, who specializes in the field of tambur at ITU Turkish Music State Conservatory Instrument Making Department, says, “The first semester of each year was towards making a different instrument. In this direction, I focused on classical violin, baglama, guitar and zither making. In the second semester of each year, I focused on the production of the tambur, which is my specialty.” After graduating, Elif Kızılhan, who worked with the oud production master Faruk Türünz, gives the following information about the transition process to her own workshop: “I worked with different masters until 2005. In 2005, we started making tambur with a friend in our own workshop. We separated our paths in 2007 and continued on in our own workshops. The key to being an expert in this field is your ability to be in a master-apprentice relationship with a name you can gain experience from. I am one of those who personally experienced this process. Fortunately, such important intersections have occurred in my life, and I am fortunate to be part of this profession. My workshop is a place where I can breathe.”

Kızılhan stated that she experienced great happiness when she was able to entrust her tamburs to the musicians who really value them and she said, “They reach me through both my social media accounts and our network of teachers, students, and masters. I came across many people who were surprised when they saw a female tambur master. There are too many women luthiers in Europe and in the world. The perception in Turkey is in the direction that generally the masters are men.”

Sound is created by many parameters

Touching on the importance of material selection in tambur production, Elif Kızılhan said, “The material is not chosen alone. Separate materials are selected for the body, handle, and soundboard. But the common point is that the wood is dry… The wood is an organic material. It is extremely important that the vein structures are smooth. For example, a straight-veined wood handle prevents the instrument from moving in an unwanted way. In the body, woods with a visual feature such as color are preferred. If I use mahogany, I would prefer wood to be dark. If I decide on the alder wood, I select the moire alder wood. They all have certain tricks. When choosing a soundboard wood, each master has certain criteria. I use materials that I have experienced and produced a good sound like walnuts or mahogany. Every instrument has a balance, it is very important to create this balance. It is essential to be able to look at the instrument as a whole. Because its sound is created by many parameters.” Kızılhan, who can make an average of 2 or 3 tamburs per month, places great emphasis on positioning the bridge in the right place, adjusting the pegs, tuning the instrument properly, and positioning the cords. Stating that all these factors are the factors that affect the sound, Kızılhan said, “For example, if the bridge stands in the wrong place, no key will be correct and the tambur will not sound. Even if you put on the most expensive soundboard, its balance will not be in place.”

The new generation does not persevere

Kızılhan summarizes the tambur production process as follows: “Tambur consists of 3 parts. Body, handle, and soundboard. First, a 19 or 21-section body is created. There are wedges in which the sections stick inside the body. A nest is opened for the handle into the largest wedge. I prepare everything that belongs to the handle outside; holes, bridge, edge groove, handle rounding, and rough leveling… Then I mount the handle and body at an angle. The next step is to attach the soundboard you see fit to the body. This process is followed by leveling and key processing. Then the polishing process is started. The most critical part is stringing the instrument. We connect about 62 keys and attach the cords. This process is followed by the tuning.”

Stating that the new generation does not know how to persevere, Kızılhan says, “When we were students, we were not in a hurry to become a master. We would like to observe our master for a long time and learn every detail from him. Of course, we were ambitious and excited, but we also knew how to wait. When my master said you would do the same job for two months, I would listen to him. But the new generation is not like that. This is perhaps because we live in a very fast world. Even if you have done everything correctly, you may not be able to make a very good instrument. The important thing in this business is to accumulate experience.”