It is distinct from the Ukrainian kobza, an instrument of a different construction and origin.
The Romanian cobza is metal-strung (although nylon-strung models exist, mostly in Hungary), and has a very short neck without frets, with a bent-back pegbox. The back is ribbed. It is usually double or triple strung, and often has a characteristic flat end clasp.
The cobza is played with a plectrum in elaborate and florid melodic passagework, and has a pick-guard similar to that of an oud. Its strings are widely spaced at the bridge to facilitate this technique. It has a soft tone, most often tuned to D-A-D-G (although tuning depends per style, region and player).
The origins of the Romanian cobza are thought to be a local adaptation of the Persian barbat or Turkish oud, probably brought to the area by itinerant Romani musicians in the 15th century (a Romani musician is called lăutar, literally lute-player). A cobza player specifically is called a cobzar.
The Romanian-Hungarian cobza was also played by Ukrainian musicians in various music ensembles in the Bukovyna region in the mid war periods, being replaced totally by the mandolin and 4 stringed domra when this area became incorporated into the Ukrainian SSR.
The name of the instrument comes from the Turkic "kopuz".
- Gregory F. Barz, Timothy J. Cooley (eds.) (1997), Shadows in the Field: New Perspectives for Fieldwork in Ethnomusicology, Oxford University Press, New York, p. 187
- Viorel Cosma (1960), Figuri de Lautari, Musical Printing House, Bucharest, p. 230
- Mizynec, V. - Folk Instruments of Ukraine. Bayda Books, Melbourne, Australia, 1987 - 48с.