Maths Museum Museum
    Sansa (Thumb piano) Maths Museum
Sansa (Thumb piano)
© Islington Artefact Library
The sansa is a plucked instrument consisting of a number of metal or split cane tongues over a wood board or box. The tongues are held in position by a cross bar, with one end of each tongue free to be plucked. Plucking is usually done with the thumbs, which has led some people to call this instrument a 'thumb piano'. Although occasionally found elsewhere, the sansa is primarily an African instrument. It is usually held in the hands or rested on the lap, and the player uses his thumbs or forefingers to pluck the tongues. The pitch of a tongue is determined by its length, which can easily be altered by sliding the tongue back and forward under the lateral bar. The longer the tongue, the lower the note. Often the board or box is decorated by carving or painting and sometimes the sound is modified by wrapping wire around each tongue to produce a buzzing effect when plucked.
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