Due to China's Tang Dynasty opening of doors to the Japanese, the Japanese musical development and style somewhat resembles that of the Chinese music. As for Japanese musical instruments, they also greatly resemble China's musical instruments. The koto
is a good example of this. It actually originated from China at B.C 2000, known as Kin.
Japanese Music Instruments
Koto: The koto is the chief of modern Japanese instruments. Nowadays, it is the last of a long series of instruments. One developed out of another, some with more strings, some with less, but four principal and several minor varieties remain in
use presently. A number of strings stretched over a long narrow sounding-board is the standard description for all kotos. The strings should be of tightly twisted silk, soaked in wax and applied with a lighter or heavier coating of wax. The main variati
ons consist in the dimensions and treatment of the sounding of strings, and consequent tunings. The minor variations, in the shape of tsume, or playing nails, the quality of strings, height of bridges and so forth, these changes are being made in r
ecent times to improve the quality of the tones.
The numerous forms of the instrument can be divided into three groups.
- One or more strings tuned in unison or to a fifth, attached to tuning-pegs, and played with tsume, the notes being produced by stopping.
- Fixed bridge at each end, with many strings tuned in different ways, but without tuning-pegs, the strings being permanently stretched, and the notes produced by stopping as before, but tsume, not being used in general.
- Movable bridge for each string
The Japanese Koto originated from China at B.C. 2000, known as Kin. The Kin measured 7 feet 2 inches (about one foot longer than modern instruments), and had only five strings. In the Chew Dynasty, 150 years later, a sixth string was added,
and later, a seventh. The early Kin remained a seven-stringed instrument for a long period of time.
Biwa: Due to the fact that the Koto is only able to accommodate the one-third of the string-length to produce notes, the biwa is designed to gather the strings below the bridge into a narrower compass and reduce the sounding-board into a neck. The b
ody of a Biwa is made of shitan, the neck of of willow, and tuning handles of peach. This is a smaller and more dedicate instrument than the Bugaku-Biwa, from which it was develop in Kagoshima, where it was afterwards used to accompany the Heike
-monogatari recitations. It has four larger frets, rather less than half an inch in breadth, are place on the neck, but in different positions from those on the Chinese Biwa.
Kokyu: The Kokyu is a four-stringed instrument, measuring 5.5 inches long, by 4.9 inches broad, by 2.3 inches deep, the neck, 18 inches long, its breadth tapering from .7 to .6; the pegs, 2.5 inches; length of horsehair, 2 feet 6.5 inches.
Flute: The flute is said to be originated from in North-West Asia and then came to China and Japan. However, the Japanese claim their Flute as indigenous to the country. The Japanese Flute, or Yamato-fuye, is lacquered red inside and closely bound outside
between the holes with string laid on with paste, and afterwards fixed with lacquer. The string is a subsitute for strips of the cherry-tree bark which was formerly used. The top is plugged with lead wrapped in rolls of paper fastened with wax, and finis
hed at the end with wood decorated either with brocade or a highly finished metal ornament.
Other really cool japanese relate music clips: