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Range and Registers of the Bulgarian Kaval in D

The Bulgarian Kaval in D

As you probably know already, the kavals can be different in length and their name comes from the note, produced when all the finger holes are closed. The most popular one is the Kaval in D, which means that, when we close all the holes, the note that the kaval produces is D. In this article I am going to focus mainly on that particular version of the Kaval – the D-Kaval.

Range and Pitch Notation System

The range of the Bulgarian kaval is nearly three full octaves. It is nearly, because it is not entirely chromatic. But what does that mean? The chromatic scale is a scale consisting entirely of half steps (semitones). The semitone is the smallest musical interval used in Western tonal music. If you want to know more about the chromatic scale you should check out some music theory lessons, because this matter is a little out of the scope of this article.

Range Kaval in D - Zhivko Vasilev
Range Kaval in D – Zhivko Vasilev

Take a look at the illustration – Figure 1. It shows the range of the kaval. This is the range that I use in my practice. I’m sure that many people would disagree with me, because it really depends on the musician and the instrument. Some Kaval players might not be able to play the highest notes, others might be able to play notes even higher. In fact I can play higher notes than the ones on the illustration, but this is the range that, in my opinion, sounds good. Anything higher than that is pretty much useless – either out of tune or so highly it’s even annoying when one plays it. The illustrated range goes high enough but not too high. It’s totally usable and playable.

You probably wonder what the D4 and C#7/Db7 mean. That is the American Pitch Notation System. In that system the Middle C is marked as C4. I’m going to use that particular system in this article, so let’s go through it quickly so that you can understand exactly what it is. 

Using the Pitch Notation System allows us to identify frequencies using letters, numbers, and symbols and quickly refer to a specific pitch. This lets you avoid having to explain a note by its position on the staff, or by its relative location on the piano keyboard. For example, instead of saying or writing “the C# three octaves above middle C,” (which is the highest note we can play on the Kaval) you would simply write – C#7.

Figure 2 – Kaval in D Range – D4 – C#7/Db7

So what are the missing notes? I mentioned above that the kaval is not entirely chromatic. In fact it could be entirely chromatic, again depending on the player. All the notes are possible to be played, but some of the require extended techniques and knowledge. The blue and the red notes (B4, C5, C#5/Db5 and D#5/Eb5) in the illustration above are the ones that are a bit tricky. The blue ones are a bit easier, the red ones require extended techniques. So, as I said before they are not really absent, they are just a bit tricky to play.


The Bulgarian Kaval has five basic registers – Kaba, Low Register, Low-Middle Register, High-Middle Register and High Register. In addition to those there are a few, not so popular but pretty cool ones – the Clarinet Register, the Trumpet Register and the Persian Ney Register. Their names, of course, come from the instruments that they resemble in sound. Those three registers require a different embouchure. Take a look at the video. In it I demonstrate the clarinet register of the Bulgarian Kaval. It’s an amazing technique, that requires a lot of practice and takes a lot of time to master. The main issue with that register is the vibration of the lips caused by the change of the embouchure when doing it, it interferes with the regular embouchure and makes it more difficult to go back to it. Of course, it’s a matter of spending enough time to practice it.

Don’t forget to check out my article about the Fingering Chart of the Bulgarian Kaval in D. In it I explain in details what holes you need to cover in order to change the pitch and what are the different fingerings for all the basic registers. Here is a LINK to it.

9 thoughts on “Range and Registers of the Bulgarian Kaval in D”

  1. A really nice explanation for both beginners and those already playing kaval, it’s necessary to learn from Master. Nice job Zivko!

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  5. I think Low Register, Low-Middle Register, High-Middle Register and High Register are what we could call register 1, 2, 3, 4 based on the fact that in register 1, the fundamental frequency f1 is produced for any particular fingering. In register 2, likewise, the f2 = 2 * f1 is produced (one octave higher than f1). In register 3, the f3 = 3 * f1 = 3/2 * f2 is produced (one fifth higher than f2 and one octave and a fifth higher than f1), etc.

    Therefore registers 1, 2, 3, 4 are the only real registers.

    I think kaba, clarinet, trumpet and persian ney should be called modes.
    For kaba mode, no embouchure change is required, it’s produced by special breathing, perhaps by a whistling with the teeth at the embouchure which makes the flute resonate at both f1 and f2 (octave) at the same time.
    For clarinet mode, the embouchure correction (tube length correction) changes and the flute becomes a pipe closed at one end, hence changing frequency. I think the possible harmonics here are f1, f3, f5 etc.
    Same goes for persian ney mode, but the flute is still open at both ends, only embouchure correction changes.
    I’ve never seen trumpet mode in action, could you please make a demo for us ?
    Thanks !

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  7. Hello there,
    It’s very interesting indeed!! (Your website is a great place to learn some intricate details about Bulgarian Kaval… Congrats)
    By the way, what are the distances to each hole, starting/measuring from the top(mouthpiece) for this D kaval?
    Thank you
    J Warren

  8. Re: Hello there,
    It’s very interesting indeed!! (Your website is a great place to learn some intricate details about Bulgarian Kaval… Congrats)
    By the way, what are the distances to each hole, starting/measuring from the top(mouthpiece) for this D kaval?
    Thank you
    J Warren

    Dear Mr Z Vasilev,

    I bought a “Re kaval” which seems to produce some notes that are not quite right!!! So if you, as an expert in the area, provide me with the needed info above I will be able to pinpoint the problem and rectify it!
    Thank you in Advance,
    J Warren

    1. Hey Jeff, thanks for your comment. I only resell the kavals, to be completely honest I don’t know the exact distances, it actually depends on some things, like the size of the openings and others. Also, the kavals in my store are a bit different then the conventional kavals, because me and the luthier spent months developing and tweeking different things, including the distances, until we found what works best for my playing. Then we decided that this could be of value to other people as well and decided to sell them to other people. Maybe in the future I’ll visit him and make an in depth video or artice of how to produce a kaval.

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