The ala is a side-blown reedpipe played by the Bahnar of the Vietnamese Central Highlands. Into the side of a 55cm length of bamboo is placed a free reed, often made of bamboo, but in the case of this particular specimen, it is made from brass, the reed curving slightly upwards and away from the plate from which it was cut:
Around the reed a mouthpiece is built, the mouthpiece of this one being made from a short section of bamboo with a blow hole cut into it, held in place by wax. There are three finger holes for the left hand (actually, two finger holes and one thumb hole on this one), plus a tuning hole. Both ends of the pipe are open and the right thumb is used to open and close one end of the pipe to produce ornaments and bent notes. The ala has a range of a fifth with the right end of the pipe open, with additional lower notes that can be played by underblowing.
Vietnamese Institute for Musicology has some outstanding pages on the music and musical instruments of the various minority groups of Vietnam.
A Brief History of Mouth Blown Free Reed Instruments
What Is A Free Reed?
Origins Of The Free Reed
Eastern Free Reed Instruments
A Selective Discography Of Asian Free Reed Instruments
Western Free Reed Instruments
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