Coconut Er-hu (mongolian Violin)




About: Himalayan Hearts

This er-hu (Mongolian violin) was made a while a ago. At the time i did not take pictures of the process so i do not have detailed step by step instruction but none the less Its quite simple. I am bet anyone could make this in a few hours tops.

sound sample in mp3 below..
mixed in with guitars and other percussive and drone instruments..

Things needed.

1 - coconut ($1.75 at grocery store)
1 - broom stick or a 1 inch dowel.
2 -10 gauge guitar strings. used left overs.
1 - stick of bamboo
roll of string (used red nylon as stronger)
Small piece of left over plywood.
to stick it all together Glue. (I use sumo(brand) glue as it sets fast and bonds tight within minutes)
& other misc thing when it comes up.
total cost about 20 dollars max. Violin bow (bought the bow for 5 dollars a pawn shop).

Step 1: Coconut Sound Body.

...Sound body...

Cut coconut in half, scoop out the coconut flesh then let dry (spoon works great)
After its dried (few minutes in the sun) we need to level it so the plywood rests on top evenly.
To achieve this glue some sandpaper on a flat surface (table) then with a circular motion sand the cut face of the coconut, till the all the edges are flat to the table. This is the most difficult step as it takes some patience. The outer husk hair also takes time to sand to a clean surface.

The photo shows a a different coconut half for an idea to work with. Also changed the neck rest on this project for better neck rest.

Step 2: Plywood Top

Placing the coconut on a plywood, trace an outline on the plywood. This gives you the shape for the top sound board. Cut the plywood with a coping saw. Once the cut is finished, drill then file a sound hole somewhere in the mid of the plywood. Not to high up as we need to glue the neck to the plywood. After so, leave it aside for the moment as we move to the neck.

Step 3: Neck

cut the broom stick (dowel) to a length you think will be right for you. Now same as the coconut try to flatten it on the sandpaper stuck to the table. You should have a half circle or a flat top dowel.

Step 4: Glueing the Erhu...

With some tight bonding wood glue, I then glued the flat portion of the neck to the plywood just over the sound hole (pic 1)

To glue the plywood top to the coconut I had to trace out the necks girth on to the coconut. Then with a file i rasped it close to the shape of the neck but went a little over trace lines but works so lets move on.

After the hole was made. I glued the plywood top to the coconut.

Step 5: String Bridge and Hold Down.

A. cut a small piece of bamboo. Drill tiny holes for the string hold and another from the top to tie the nylon string. (pic a)

B. Drill a small hole so that a guitar peg fits snug. this will hold the nylon string that hold the strings tension. (pic b)

Step 6: Tuners

The tuners were made on a lathe when a friend asked if i wanted to use his after some interest looking at bowl being shaped. Then i had no idea it would come to use as these. The second pic shows some hand carved that I've been working on. But any stick with would suffice. just drill a small hole in the middle so you can string em strong without loosening.

Drill small holes on the neck end so the tuners fit. As they are friction holders it best that you slowly do so with constant checks.

Step 7: String Nut and Fret...

to level the strung strings to the height of the sound body a small loops was made on top of the strings. This makes the nut tunable to change the pitch of the strings up and down.

I was tring to find all the frets i had made for the instrument once but think they got chucked as i felt i could make better metal ones. But the the one shown is just a chopstick cut to length then tied with a loop under the neck. Which also can be placed along the neck for tunable frets. (Sitar concept)

Step 8: Last Words

Wish i could give you a sample of the sound. I'll have to buy a decent recorder to do so as its not that loud. Also a person offered me horse hair to make a bow. Once i receive the hair. I'll get to work so check for some updates. I have a feeling the horse hair will make a better bow. Till then folks.

Green twist... this is no over unity solar engine but who needs one when you've got music.



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    20 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Great instructable, love your composition with all the instruments. I wonder what would happen I used violin strings, will it have the erhu sound? I'm going to try this with a bowl!

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    I used one of those Danish Butter Cookie tins. Y'know, the ones that Babczia stores her sewing supplies in and basically guards with her life. I had to skip the country when she realized that it was missing. Send help please.

    Thanks for this! I made one based on your description, with a few changes. I used a staircase bannister for the neck, and upgraded the appearance a bit with a rosewood fingerboard and soundboard.

    I have a set of two videos showing the whole process of making it, start to finish:

    Part 1 (coconut preparation to finished body)
    Part 2 (adding the pegs, strings etc and showing the finished instrument)

    Now I just have to learn to play it. :)

    4 replies

    Reply 1 year ago

    I learned to play it in roughly the same way as any other fretless instrument. I took a wax crayon and the GuitarTuna app on my phone, tuned the melody string to E4, and plucked the string repeatedly, moving my finger up and down the string until I found any note on the Chromatic scale, then marking the position of my finger on the fingerboard, then doing this over and over again until I had every chromatic note on the fingerboard marked. As long as it's kept in tune, this method will serve you pretty reliably well.

    This is also how I managed to convert a Diddley-Bow into a functional cello.

    Also, the Er-hu is ridiculously fun to play as a slide instrument.

    I know this was many years ago but I hope that you are still an active member. Your videos are no longer available. I would really like to see them. Do you have them posted elsewhere?

    I must make this instrument. I would like to know how yours turned out and would like to hear it even more.

    Thank you regardless.

    Beautiful work with the whole instrument! This makes me really happy. Wishing could give u a big hug at the moment.. here xoxo..

    ok so for what i see would help you from the video posted are..
    l. a nut and a bridge would give more volume and keep the strings at equal length so tuning is of ease
    o. nylon strings do sing well after enough resin gets coated on..
    v. frets, and you have a two string uke! too
    e. good work. happy.

    also Right, thought for a staircase banister. Have some cabinet doors, sound like wind harps..

    Thanks for giving me happiness..


    2 years ago

    I have some beautiful leather and I was wondering if I could use that instead of the wood board and if so would it change the sound.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Very simple and easy to make. Wanting to make 'violin-like' instruments for ages but most were too difficult. Sounds nice.


    8 years ago on Introduction

       This is the enstrument, which can give an authentic wonderull woice I've ever heard. Thank you very much. 
       Some yeears ago, I made an enstrument like that with 4 strings. This is my style !!!



    8 years ago on Introduction

     thanks for your comments.. Update : added a mp3 of the er-hu.. Recorded and mixed with other instruments..


    8 years ago on Step 8

     This is exactly what I was looking for. I wish I could hear what it sounds like, though. Nice, nice work.


    9 years ago on Step 8

    VERY cool! reminds me a lot of a cigar box guitar and gives me some ideas on how to build my next cbg. Thanks for the great instructable.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Any update regarding a sound or video sample? I'd really like to hear how this self made erhu sounds. :) Did you get that horse hair bow? Did it effect the sound quality?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    They make a similar instrument in India. I don't know what they call it(has diff names in diff places). It gives out a very loud sound, because they use a tough hide instead of plywood to support the bridge. perhaps some of u cud experiment on that aspect.


    This is absoloutely brilliant! I'm midway through making one of these, but i'm not sure how to play it once done? Any tips? I demand video/audio of you playing this thing!!! :D


    9 years ago on Introduction

    its weird, but the Erhu doesn't have a fret board xD... nice anyway


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nice Instructable. I've always wanted an erhu, just didn't want to spend the money. You got my vote right there. You're aware that the erhu bow goes UNDER the string, right? Nice, still.