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.
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.
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.