The Sape – A Dulcimer-Like Instrument From Borneo

I first learned of the sape while watching a documentary about Borneo many years ago.


As both a dulcimer and clawhammer banjo player I am fascinated by this beautiful instrument and its music. Listening to the music of the sape and observing the techniques of playing it have helped me grow as a musician.

The two tunings I have heard of are either similar to 1-5-5 or open tunings based on a major chord. The sapes I have seen in pictures and videos commonly have four strings but I have also seen a few with three.

The strumming technique using the thumb is similar to strumming a dulcimer yet also reminiscent of clawhammer banjo.

The sape is a quiet instrument. Contemporary players often play electric sapes and often one sape player will be accompanied by another.

If a picture is worth a thousand words these videos should be worth much more!



And a sape lesson!