Musical instruments of China are all made from materials of the nature, for example bamboo. Each of them produce a different sound and effect that makes them unique to sound. These instruments are great when performing in solo. Also, due to their characteristics of high and low pitched sounds and its different effect it creates, putting them together in an orchestra enable them to make even greater music. A Chinese orchestra is made up of many different unique chinese instruments that will be introduced in the following table. Below selected instruments, you can download and watch or listen to scales and songs of those instruments.
|The String Section||Gaohu: This instrument is chiefly used in Cantonese music. It is also the main accompanied instrument in Cantonese opera. The sound box is covered with snake skin. Its two strings give a fine, delicate and graceful sound when struck.|
Erhu: The erhu is also known as the nanhu, nan being south, because the instrument first became popular in southern China. It is capable of producing a gentle but firm tone.
Erhu Scale [.wav 457KB] [.wav zipped 84KB] [.mov zipped 14.1MB]
Zhonghu: The zhonghu produces music of a lower pitch. The shade of the resonator varies from circular to octagonal.
Zhonghu Scale [.wav 222KB] [.wav zipped 155KB]
|The Plucking Section||Zheng: Zheng is popular during the Warring States. The instrument comprises 13 to 21 strings. In the orchestra, the zheng is employed when special effects such as the descending strains of cascading water is required.|
|Yangqin: Yangqin originates from Western Asia and was introduced into China during the Ming Dynasty. Two bamboo sticks are used to hit strings strung in pairs thus producing a high and tinkling timbre in its top registers, a soft and beautiful tone in the middle and a strong rich sound in the lower registers.|
Pipa: Pipa is one of the oldest and well-known instruments in the Chinese orchestra with 2,000 years of history. It is rich in expression and has diverse performing techniques. Pipa is one of the most symbolic Chinese musical instruments.
Pipa Scale [.wav 396KB] [.wav zipped 129KB]
|Liuqin: Liuqin is also known as liuyueqin. It is a two or three-string willow-shaped plucking instrument which was popular during the Tang Dynasty. It is now improved to a four-string plucking instrument. This instrument provides the high notes in a Chinese orchestra.|
|Ruan: The ruan is a short-neck lute with a history of 1,600 years. It is known as qin pipa or ruanxian during ancient times. There are different types of ruan: daruan, zhongruan, xiaoruan and diruan.|
|Woodwind & Percussion Section||
Dizi: A set of these instruments are often used including bangdi, qudi and xindi. They vary in size and key. The dizi or flute is made of bamboo. It is believed to have been brought in from Tibet during the Han Dynasty. It has a full, bright and smooth timbre.
Dizi Scale [.wav 375KB] [.wav zipped 73KB][.mov zipped 8.1MB]
|Guanzi: Guanzi is the oldest bamboo wind instrument of China. Today, it is sometimes made of wood. It can be used to depict humourous songs and imitate human voices.|
|Sheng: The instrument existed as far back as 3,000 years ago. By virtue of its construction, this is the only Chinese musical instrument capable of playing various notes simultaneously. Music is produced by blowing and sucking the air through a whistle at the base.|
|Suona: This double reed instrument was brought to China by Muslim travellers 500 years ago. It is able to produce both sad and lively sounds. It can imitate the sound of bird singing.|
|Drum: The drum has been in existence since 2079BC. In the past, its function was to launch an attack during battle. There are various kinds of drum - the twirling drum, the hanging drum, the type suspended on a foot frame to be beaten with two wooden hammers and the drum on a pedestal. Drums can be made of metal, bamboo or animal skin.|
|Gong: The gong is a popular folk musical instrument. It is also known as luo. The sound from the luo or gong is produced by the mallet hitting the metal plate.|
|Cymbals: Like the luo, the cymbals or bo is mainly used in theatres and on ceremonial occasions.|