It is assumed that the Kra Chap Pi, a stringed Thai musical instrument, originated from India and dates back for over 2,000 years. This instrument has four strings and is made of teak or jackfruit wood. It is one of the oldest Thai classical instruments but has rarely been used since the 20th century. Kra Chap Pi is used in central Thai classical music and is usually played at royal ceremonies. It is usually played together with the Sor Sarm Sai, a three-string spike fiddle with a coconut shell body. Because of Kra Chap Pi’s soft intonation, its sound is drowned out by other musical instruments. This musical instrument became less popular since the Ratanakosin Era though it did not disappear totally from the Thai cultural scene. However, there are not many persons left in Thailand who are capable of playing this kind of musical instrument.
When playing Kra Chap Pi, the players will either sit with the legs folded back to one side or sit cross legged. The Kra Chap Pi’s body will be placed in their laps and the players will hold the fret bar to the left side at a 45 degree angle. A pick or plectrum is used to strum the strings following the rhythm of the song. Kra Chap Pi has several playing techniques such as normal and fast strumming etc. Playing rhythms is flexible which differs from playing Cha Khae. The distinguishing feature in Kra Chap Pi playing is that the players can skip and/or change rhythms within the song. Typical songs played with Kra Chab Pi are called “Pleng Song Chan” (short songs with moderate rhythms and are easy to remember). Tuning up Kra Chab Pi has no strict pattern. It depends on the player’s skill and liking. There are three styles of tuning commonly used:
1st style: the inner pair of strings tuned to “do”, the outer pair of strings to “sol”;
2nd style: the inner pair of strings tuned to “re”, the outer pair of strings to “do”;
3rd style: The inner pair of strings tuned to “sol”, the outer pair of strings to “do”.
Presently, it is quite difficult to find people capable of playing Kra Chap Pi but it is encouraging to find groups of people discussing this musical instrument on the internet. Also some musical associations are trying to reintroduce it in Thai musical – symphony orchestras. The production of Kra Chap Pi has developed and presently we can find them for sale in various shapes and sizes at musical instrument shops.