1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gusla

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GUSLA, or Gusli, an ancient stringed instrument still in use among the Slavonic races. The modern Servian gusla is a kind of tanbur (see Pandura), consisting of a round, concave body covered with a parchment soundboard; there is but one horsehair string, and the peg for tuning it is inserted in oriental fashion in the back of the head. The gusla is played with a primitive bow called goudalo. The gouslars or blind bards of Servia and Croatia use it to accompany their chants. C. G. Anton[1] mentions an instrument of that name in the shape of a half-moon strung with eighteen strings in use among the Tatars. Prosper Merimée[2] has taken the gusla as the title for a book of Servian poems, which are supposed to have been collected by him among the peasants, but which are thought to have been inspired by the Viaggio in Dalmazia of Albarto Fortis.

Among the Russians, the gusli is an instrument of a different type, a kind of psaltery having five or more strings stretched across a flat, shallow sound-chest in the shape of a wing. In the gusli the strings, of graduated length, are attached to little nails or pins at one end, and at the other they are wound over a rod having screw attachments for increasing and slackening the tension. There is no bridge to determine the vibrating length of the strings. The body of the instrument is shaped roughly like the tail of the grand piano, following the line of the strings; the longest being at the left of the instrument. Matthew Guthrie gives an illustration of the gusli.[3] (K. S.)


  1. Erste Linien eines Versuchs über den Ursprung der alten Slaven (Leipzig, 1783-1789), p. 145.
  2. La Guzla, ou choix de poésies lyriques recueillies dans la Dalmatie, la Bosnie, la Croatie, &c. (Paris, 1827).
  3. Dissertations sur les antiquités de Russie (St Petersburg, 1795), pl. ii. No. 9, p. 31.