This instrument is a double-sided harp that is strung and played 
like a Kora. There are 10 strings on the right side and 11 on the 
left side.

Note: www.oddusic.com (an excellent site) features my Harp Kora
in it's "Gallery". They also include a sound sample of this
Click here to access Harp Kora article on oddmusic.com.

This is Kora master, Prince Cissokho playing my Harp-Kora in Dakar - November 2011, Senegal
(This particular instrument (my prototype) is now owned by Brother Boris, head Kora builder
at Senegal's Keur Moussa Monastery)

It's construction is very like that of an "elongated" bowed 
psaltery. I got the idea for this instrument after absentmindedly 
plucking the strings of my bowed psaltery & noticing just how rich 
and loud it sounded! This Harp-kora measures 31 & 1/4"" tall. Just 
about nothing is at all critical. All measurements (except perhaps 
string spacing) can be off by a few percent without any 
degradation in sound or playability.

Two handles, like on an African Kora, provide a very solid way of
holding, when playing the instrument.

Undoubtedly, it'd be nice to have an actual African Kora, but 
these are not generally available in this country. Even to make 
one requires some hard-to-get materials. This Harp-kora provides a 
very pleasant and workable alternative.

The Harp-kora's tone is decidedly resonant and beautiful, with 
good volume as well. While it resembles the tone of a Kora, the 
metal strings and wooden soundbox give it a bit different, 
harp-like voice that is in no way objectionable. The overall tone 
and volume is constant "high-to-low". The thinnish strings are 
quite easy on the finger and the thing stays in tune nicely, even 
after only a week of "settling".

It only took me a few days of spare time to build & get up and 

I made the two sides (soundboards) from the 1/8" sides of an old 
door (an excellent source of such wood). The simple frame is made 
from rock maple. I would never use any other wood than rock maple, 
as I have had a number of bad experiences with using other woods 
with zither-pin tuners (oak even slips -- rock maple never does).

Elderly instruments sells zither-pins, which I've used for tuners 
on many instruments, for 22 cents each (2001 price) & I recommend 
these pins. A tuning wrench is required for tuning. I also used 
these same zither pins (slightly modified) for "hitch-pins" at 
each string's other ends. Any thick nail (etc) could be used for 
this purpose, but I really like using zither-pins, if for no other 
reason that their heigth can be easiliy adjusted up and down. They 
can be modified for this purpose by hacksawing an anagled slot in 
the top that receives the string and holds it in place.

As for strings --- on the right side (and shortest three strings 
on the left side too) I used.013" hardened steel wire. I obtained 
this by unwinding the eight lengths of hard steel wires inside of 
5/16" clear, green, vinyl-coated clothesline sold at all K-marts 
and Wal-marts for about three dollars per 50' roll. This wire 
makes first rate music wire. For the longest 8 strings on the left 
side, I used. 020" (#8) music wire left over from a hammered 
dulcimer project. Elderly Instruments in East Lansing, Michigan 
( http://www.elderly.com ) sells this (& many other gauge) wire. 
I thought I would need a thicker string for the low C note, but am 
quite happy with the. 020".

I am very pleased with the way that this thing turned out.

Notes on playing:

The Kora is a sort of "stringed Kalimba" in that to play a scale, 
one has to alternate between sides:

                  left   right
                  side   side
                  ~~~~   ~~~~~
                   do .
                         . ti
                   la .
                        . so
                   fa .
                         . mi
                   re .     
                         . do  <--- Start of scale

Once you get the hang of it, this alternating is quite satisfying.

The Kora encompasses two octaves, plus 6 extra notes (2 notes 
higher & 4 lower). Here's the string configuration showing the 
lowest full octave. 

                            LEFT     RIGHT 
                            SIDE     SIDE    
                             B--|   |
                             G--|   |--E
                             E--|   |--D
     One octave    --> (do') C--|   |--C      <-- Two octaves
    above Middle C      (la) A--|   |--A          above Middle C
                        (fa) F--|   |--F  etc.   
                        (re) D--|   |--D       
                             B--|   |--B (ti) 
                             A--|   |--G (so) 
                             G--|   |--E (mi)  
     One octave    -->       C--|   |--C (do) <-- Middle C 
    below Middle C              |___|             (start of scale)
                                                  (notice offset)  
Unlike the Kalimba, on the Kora there is a somewhat odd "offset" ie: 
the first note of the scale starts on the lowest string on the right 
side, but the second note of the scale starts way up on the 5th string 
on the left side. Takes some getting used to.

Harald Loquenz has a really fantastic computer shareware program that 
has many actual Kora tunes completely transcribed in an easy to 
understand tablature system. Drag the cursor from left to right over 
the tablature and the notes are made audible --- at the same time, an 
on-screen chart shows you where to put your fingers & thumbs for that
particular note. You can also make it so the tune plays itself, at 
whatever speed desired -- all the while showing which notes are being 
played and which strings to pluck with what fingers! Great program. 
The text is all in German, but it only takes a few minutes to 
learn the few German commands. So far removed from anyone who can 
teach you to play the Kora, Harald's program is very useful. 
With "drive" and patience, his program could undoubtedly teach you 
how to play the instrument. Harald's program (downloadable on the 
internet) is a fully functional but basic version containing only 
a few tunes, however his full program can be purchased from him.

Click here to access David Gilden's "Cora Connection" webpage

Dennis Havlena - W8MI
Cheboygan, northern Michigan

Key words: build make diy kora west africa gambia senegal construct homemade home made