CHINESE MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

BOWED SECTION:

ERHU (VIOLIN/FIDDLE)

The erhu has been popular for 1,000 years (since Song Dynasty).  It is a two-stringed musical instrument played with a bow, and sometimes known in the Western world as the "Chinese violin" or a "Chinese two-stringed fiddle".  An erhu can play a spectrum of more than two octaves.

GAOHU (FIDDLE)

The gaohu is a high-pitched Chinese two-stringed fiddle, a member of the huqin family.  Its structure is very similar to the erhu, except the gaohu's body is slightly smaller.  It is often used in Cantonese music and solo performances.

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PLUCKED SECTION:

YANG QIN (HAMMERED DULCIMER)

Yang Qin was believed to have brought from Persia to China more than 400 years ago.  The Chinese loved it and developed it into Chinese style.  Yang Qin is a very versatile open string instrument which has more than 4 octaves chromatically.  In other words, it includes all the half-steps.  It is played with two bamboo strikers and hammers. Due to its versatility, it is positioned in the center of the Chinese orchestra.

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RUAN (LUTE)

The ruan is a Chinese plucked string instrument.  It is a lute with a fretted neck, a circular body, and four strings.  Its four strings were formerly made of silk but since the 20th century, they have been made of steel.  The ruan comes in a family of 5 sizes: Gaoyinruan (high pitched) plays soprano, Xiaoruan (small) plays alto, Zhongruan (medium) plays tenor, Daruan (large) plays bass, and Diyinruan (low pitched) plays contrabass.

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GUZHENG (ZITHER)

16-26 stringed zither with movable bridges.

PIPA (PEAR-SHAPED LUTE)

The pipa is a fairly large lute-like instrument with large frets and a broad finger-board.  It was introduced into China from Central Asia prior to the Tang Dynasty.

LIUQIN (LUTE)

Liuqin is a four-stringed Chinese mandolin with a pear-shaped body.  It is small in size, almost a miniature copy of another Chinese plucked instrument, the pipa.  The range of its voice is much higher than the pipa.  The instrument is played with a pick with similar technique to both ruan, whereas the pipa is played with the fingers.

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WIND SECTION:

DIZ (BAMBOO FLUTE)

The horizontal Dizi is one of the most popular instrument, and the leading sound in the orchestra.  The Dizi was historically recorded more than 3,000 years ago (Zhou Dynasty). Dizi is calved with 12 holes:  1 for blowing, 1 to be taped with a membrane, 6x sound holes for fingers to play on, 2 to determine the last tone, and 2 for decorative purpose.  Each flute can play a range of more than 2 octaves.

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PERCUSSION SECTION:

DAGU (DRUM)

There are hundreds of different Chinese percussion instruments.  The drums and cymbals are two examples.  They are of different sizes and made for different effects and purposes.  The Northern wind and percussion style is loud and noisy while the Southern silk and bamboo style is moderately ornamented with percussion.