The most notable difference between the two instruments is in the strings. While the pipa is generally four single strings, the shahàyreu has five paired strings.
In both cases the origin of the instrument is lost to time. This has led to speculation that the instrument was brought to one or the other planet by mercantile explorers or anthropological surveyors. This is enhanced by the fact that the Chinese have pipas with more strings, and the Xentorns have at times made shahàyreau without paired strings.
Another subtle difference comes, simply, from a difference in Xentoran music: It is tuned so that the first string pairs are one third of a note between B and C. This is typical of Xentoran music which uses a musical notation that relies on dectets of notes with several partial notes between, and thus contains many notes not commonly found in Terran music.
The body’s construction is generally of klaireo wood, a dark, rich red wood visually like mahogany or cherry, but like ironwood in texture and hardness. There are a few other woods that may be selected, for example some current popular Xentoran musicians swear by a maker who has taken to using haeré wood from Xentor’s southernmost tundra, but the purists and the temple music masters believe they produce weaker, duller notes. An acceptable, if uncommon, alternative material is muealri, a kind of soft blue marble.
The strings seem to always be made of an alloy primarily of silver, irydra, and caesium. The strings are soft enough to be plucked with human fingernails; give a rich, vibrant tone; and are quite resistant to temperature changes and stress, reducing breaks and limiting the need to adjust tuning. Due to the rarity of irydra it is worth noting that the total mass of that precious and semi-sacred metal in the strings is slightly less than 1/100th of a percent.