The Sounds of Chinese Musical Instruments

Our second stop in China is listening to the sounds of traditional Chinese musical instruments! Mary Clark, from the International Marketplace Coalition, introduces us to the performers, and we get a brief lesson in what all of these instruments can do! Take a listen!

2Brief Descriptions of Chinese Musical Instruments

  • Guzheng:

The Guzheng has existed for more than 2000 years and was popular at the central area of China. It has developed from 5 strings to 21 strings, which is the most prevalent form in current use. The body of the instrument is hollow and made of wood. The strings have a metal core covered by nylon and are supported by a triangle bridge at the middle of the instrument. The right-hand side is used to make the notes, while the left-hand side is able to raise the tone up to 4 semitones usually. The natural tones for this instrument are C, D, E, G, A – with no F or B.

  • Erhu:

The Erhu is so-called the “Chinese violin”. It originated in northern China over 1000 years agoin Tang Dynasty, and only has 2 strings. The body of the modern Erhu is made of wood,covered by boa skin on the bottom side. The bow is made of horsehair. Typically, the tones are set at D and A. The strings are also secured by cotton thread towards the upper body, and are tuned by rotating the pegs.

  • Pipa:

3The Pipa was once introduced to China via the Silk Road from the west around 2000 years ago. It has undergone significant evolution to become the current popular configuration with a signature curled neck, pear-shape body, 4 strings, 6 ledgesand 24 frets. The Pipa is tuned at A, D, E and Aby adjusting the pegs. It is played like a guitar but held upright.

  • Liuqin:

The Liuqin was created as a branch of Pipa within the last 200 years in the eastern region of China. It was developed from 2 strings and 7 frets to 4 strings and 24 – 29 frets in the 1970s. Liuqin is tuned at G, D, G, and D, and covers the high pitch range.

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