About the Phin Guitar
Although there are a few standard rules, the phin is very different than a guitar or western instrument. Traveling across Thailand, you are likely to encounter a number of different tuning. The most common tuning, however, for a phin is E-A-E. With this type of tuning, the notes across the fret-board are as follows.
You may notice that every single note (except for that pesky A#) is in the key of G MAJOR. This means that as long as the song is in G it is impossible to hit a bad note! In this way it is very similar to a harmonica.
The beauty is that you cannot accidentally fall out of key!
For an electric phin, we recommend using 0.11 for the high E, 0.16 for the A and 0.24 for the low E. These are the same gauges that you will get when you buy a package of standard guitar strings. For an acoustic phin, it often sounds nicer to play on something a bit heavier. I prefer using 0.13 for the high E, 0.17 for the A and 0.26 for the low E.
Because phin players are limited to a single key, they rely on really unique phrasing and modes. This involves quick trills, hammer-ons and pull-offs and clever pauses. Truth be told, there is no better way to master this other than listening to local Thailand and Issan music and doing your best to play along and imitate it. Have a look at some videos at the bottom of this page.
However, when it comes to the phin remember that there are no absolutes! Feel free to adjust your tuning to meet the needs of your song or style. Many players do this all the time; I have managed to get some great blues and rock riffs out of my phin by experimenting with alternative tuning.
| This is my main phin guitar. Although it has a few flaws, I love it because it has smooth bamboo fretting, it's plays really well and the pickups sound great.
You can see from the picture that unlike a standard guitar, there are fewer frets. The spacing looks random and at times too large; this is intentional. It allows phin players to constantly stay in key and makes improvisation, which is very important in Issan music, much easier.
The fret system on the phin is the same that is used for the Sueng, Chapey Dong Veng, and several other Asian instruments.
If you have any further questions or thoughts on any of this I would love to hear from you. Drop us a message!
Your KingPhin orders will come to you from the folks at Roman Anton (Thailand) Limited. Please see www.romanton.com for more goods and information.
I always liked this blog, this guy has a passion for the phin and looks into building one himself.
This page is about recreating some phin sounds on a standard guitar. It also has some other unique information about the instrument.
Vice Documentaries recently did a piece on the renaissance and modern resurgence of the phin. Well worth a read!
Some YouTube Videos
We thought these 3 videos captured the wide range of the phin as well as some great performances!