Plants for musical instruments making

Last update: February 27, 2021

What are the plants used in instrument making in Cambodia? One can distinguish the white woods ឈើ used for monoxyle instruments (drums, harp), the red woods and precious black woods for some drums (skor daey), the resonance boxes (roneat) and the structure of the fiddles (tro, tro Khmer). Let's not forget bamboo, or rather bamboos, of which various species are used in the making of instruments by both Khmers and ethnic minorities, and calabashes khlok ឃ្លោក.




  • anhchéy អន្ជ័យ: or, more correctly lêang céy; this name covers two species: Buchanania reticulata Hance and Buchanania siamense Mig. (Anacardiaceae)
  • beng បេង: Afzelia xylocarpa Craib (Caesalpiniaceae).

  • khnor ខ្នុរ nang: Artocarpus integra (Thunb.) Merr. 1917. This jackfruit tree is the variety bearing fruit with firm flesh.
  • khnor prei ខ្នុរព្រៃ, wild  jackfruit tree. 
  • koki  គគីរ: Hopea odorata Pierre.
  • kranhung ក្រញុង: Several species of the genus Dalbergia are used, particularly: Dalbergia cochinchinensis Pierre
, Dalbergia cambodiana Pierre (Papilionaceae), whose wood was formerly reserved for the needs of the king.

  • krakahSindora maritima Pierre or 
Sindora cochinchinensis Baill.
  • krasang: Feroniella lucida (Scheff.) Swingle. (Caesalpiniaceae).
  • neang nuon នាងនួន: four species of equal quality can be used: Dalbergia lanceolaria L., Dalbergia dongnaiensis Pierre, Dalbergis mammosa Pierre, Dalbergia bariensis Pierre.
  • roluoh រលួស: Erulhrina orientalis (L.) Merl'. (Papilionaceae).

  • samrong សំរោង: There are several samrong in Cambodia but only one is used seems to be used for musical instruments: Sterculia foetida L. (Sterculiaceae).
  • thnong ធ្នង់: Pterocarpus macrocarpus
  • trayoeung  ត្រយ៉ង: Diospyros pilosanthera Blanco var. helferi (C. B. Clarke) Bakh. 


russey ឬស្សី: large bamboo growing in bunches (roneat ek/thong xylophone blades, jew's harp).

pok: fine bamboo notably used for the khloy flute of the Khmers.


Two types of calabashes are used in the making of instruments in Cambodia, both of the Lagenaria genus. The first, robust, is used by ethnic minorities to make the resonance boxes of their zithers (stick zither, tube zither with metal strings). The second, fragile, is used as a resonance chamber for the Khmer kse diev zither.

This cucurbitaceae of the genus Lagenaria grows wild in the Cardamom Mountains. But it is cultivated exclusively for the manufacture of the soundbox of the  kse diev zithers or as human food. Indeed, musicians are looking for thin walls in order to have a great resonance, which excludes its other utilitarian use, such as a container, which is the case for gourds grown in Ratanakiri.