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Chinese Culture >> Chinese Musical Instruments

Chinese Musical Instruments

By: Peter Emerson

Like every country has its own traditional music and musical instruments, China also has traditional musical instruments that have been developed over the centuries. Traditionally, Chinese musical instruments have been classified according to the materials they are made up of. These materials are namely, stone, silk, gourd, metal, bamboo, clay, skin, and wood. Among these, the stone and wood instruments have become outdated. Chinese musical instruments may also be classified into string, wind, or percussion instruments. String instruments may be classified into plucked string instruments and bowed string instruments. The older instruments consist of long zithers, panpipes, flutes, the sheng, or mouth organ, and percussion instruments, such as clappers, gongs, and drums. Various lutes and fiddles were introduced later to China from Central Asia.

ErhuErhu is a type of bowed string instrument. It is a two-stringed fiddle and is one of the most popular Chinese instruments in the Hu-qin family. Gao-hu is another bowed string instrument. Gao-Hu is mostly used for high-pitched tunes that Erhu cannot play and frequently used for performing vivid and brisk rhythms. Gao-Hu has louder volume yet brighter tones, and thus it serves as both a solo and leading instrument in performing Cantonese operas and folk melodies.

PipaPipa is a type of plucked string instrument and belongs to the Lute family. It is a four-stringed lute with 30 frets and pear-shaped body. The Pipa is to be held upright by the instrumentalist and played with five small plectra attached to each finger of the right hand. This musical instrument has a remarkable expressive power and an extremely dynamic range. Yueqin, a plucked string instrument, is a moon shaped lute with shorter neck and four strings. Gugin is another important plucked string instrument, which is like a seven-stringed zither.

DiziWind musical instruments are very popular in China. A Dizi, traditionally made of bamboo, is the simplest wind instrument. This instrument is especially popular, as it is a low cost instrument and is relatively easy to learn.

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