The name kemençe is actually shared by two different stringed instruments, one used in Ottoman music and the other in folk music of the Black Sea region. Until the middle of the 20th century, the first of these was known as the 'armudi' (pear) or 'fasil' kemençe, although these have now given way to the 'classical kemençe.' The second is rather a folk instrument, and is known as the Black Sea kemençe.
The classical kemençe is quite small, about 40-41 cm. In length and 14-15 cm. wide. It shape is reminiscent of a pear split down the middle. The head, threaded and in the shape of an oval, and the stem are carved out of one piece of wood. There are two 'D'-shaped holes on the body outside the rounded edges. On the rear side there is a back trough.
When played, the tail wedge is placed on the left knee, and the pegs leant against the chest in a perpendicular position, or else between the knees. The strings are some 7-10 mm. from the bridge. That is because unlike most stringed instruments, sound is not produced by pressing on the strings with the fingertips, but by sliding a fingernail gently down the side of them.
The neck, stem and body of the Black Sea kemançe are carved out of a single piece of wood. Its shape, however, is entirely different. As with other folk instruments, it is impossible to speak of a standard size of Black Sea kemançe. However, those used by professional musicians and the like tend to be about 56 cm. long. The body, with its straight sides and flat back is usually made out of plum or juniper wood. The thin chest area is made out of fir or spruce. In order for the strings to be able to cope with the pressure from the bridge, a raised dome travels the length of the body. The pegs are quite small, and attached at the front of the instrument. It is played by touching the strings with the finger tips.
If standing, the player holds the instrument in the air with his left hand. If seated, he rests it between his knees.