Ploy (musical instrument)

The ploy (Khmer: ព្លយ​​ខ្មែរ) is a Cambodian wind instrument.[1] It is constructed of a gourd body with 5 to 7 bamboo tubes protruding from the body, and a bamboo pipe set at a right angle to the gourd.[1] Musicians blow air in through the bamboo tube, which fills the gourd "wind chest" and exits through the other bamboo tubes.[1][2] Each of the bamboo sound-tubes has a metal rod inside, that vibrate in the air passing through the tube.[1]

As well as blowing air out of the instrument, the musician can also suck air in, producing a different tone.[1] Notes are produced by covering and uncovering holes cut into the bamboo sound-tubes.[1]

The instrument is primarily rural.[1] It can also be found in Mondulkiri Province among the Phnoung and Tampuan peoples.[1] The instrument may be related to a Laotian instrument, the caen.[1]

Distant origins and relations

According to music historian Curt Sachs, the Chinese sheng was originally made with a gourd.[2] Over time the gourd was designed out of the Chinese instruments, but the earlier gourd types continued to exist "in the south and east of Asia."[2] He detailed one in Bengal, a "shêng" that used a bottle-shaped calabash" in which the calabash's neck became the pipe where the player put his mouth.[2] The calabash serves as a "wind chest" and was pierced by the sound pipes.[2]


  1. Khean, Yun; Dorivan, Keo; Lina, Y; Lenna, Mao. Traditional Musical Instruments of Cambodia (PDF). Kingdom of Cambodia: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. p. 141.
  2. Sachs, Curt (1940). The History of Musical Instruments. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 182-183.
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