Elblag Koboz

Large image of medieval Koboz


This is a reconstruction, commissioned by Ian Pittaway, of an instrument recently discovered during an archaeological dig in Elblag, in Poland. It is one of several instruments found in a latrine, where conditions preserved the wood remarkably well.

Reconstructed and original heads
Heads - reproduction and original
Koboz side view
Side View
Koboz Bottom View
Bottom View
Soundhole rose - wood and parchment, resembling a church window

It is usually called the "Elblag Gittern", but after much research and experimentation, and lengthy correspondence with the staff of Elbag Museum, we are now convinced that it is a medieval version of the Koboz (or cobza), an instrument which is still commonly played in eastern Europe.

There is no sign of frets on the original, and the shape of the neck would make tying on frets very difficult. String spacing at the bridge is very wide, which implies a specific playing technique. The modern koboz is much bigger, but all these features are plainly visible.

The original instrument is quite crudely carved. I have tried to keep the rustic feel, while smartening it up a little.

The original tuning is unknown. There is some evidence that the stringing was changed at some point during its life. Ian has experimented with various options, based on modern Koboz tuning and historical gittern tunings, and arrived at a very workable schedule which makes the instrument sing. It is double-strung on the lower three courses, with a triple top course :

g g'   d d'   g' g'   c'' c'' c'

YouTube has many fine examples of the modern koboz being played. It is usually played with a plectrum. Different players prefer modern guitar picks, goose quills, or a "risha", similar to that used on the Arabic Ud.

Ian is currently researching music from medieval Poland. A sound clip will appear below when he's recorded the result.

The tuning can, of course, be modified to your own specification. With slight modifications to the shape of the neck, and the addition of frets, it can be set up as a gittern, if you don't fancy East European medieval music.

Sound Clips

Coming Soon


Elblag Koboz
Excellent cases can be ordered from specialist manufacturers such as Kingham MTM, but they're pricy. I can supply an attractive, custom-built plywood case, black with chrome fittings, for £150 when ordered with an instrument.
Delivery price depends on where you live. Please enquire.
To order or enquire, please contact me