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How to Make an Erhu


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#1 Chris Weimer

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Posted 03 February 2007 - 02:17 AM

Hello everyone. Ever since I first indulged in classical oriental music some years ago, especially digging the erhu, I've fallen in love with it. I want to know a couple of things. First, is there a place at which I can buy a cheap erhu? If not, how does one go about making an erhu? I looked online, but figured also there were several knowledgeable members who might even have already done so (talk about you split infinitive!). Finally, I'm looking for recommendations on erhu artists, etc...

I did browse through the stickied link, and although appreciating the many links and discussion, I didn't see anything which directly answers my queries. Many thanks in advance.

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#2 fireball

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Posted 25 October 2007 - 04:01 AM

Hello everyone. Ever since I first indulged in classical oriental music some years ago, especially digging the erhu, I've fallen in love with it. I want to know a couple of things. First, is there a place at which I can buy a cheap erhu? If not, how does one go about making an erhu? I looked online, but figured also there were several knowledgeable members who might even have already done so (talk about you split infinitive!). Finally, I'm looking for recommendations on erhu artists, etc...

I did browse through the stickied link, and although appreciating the many links and discussion, I didn't see anything which directly answers my queries. Many thanks in advance.

Chris Weimer



I would say that you should go to your local China town. During certain time of the year, like before New Year or so, you may be able to get a free Chinese yellow page in the Chinese grocery stores (or restaurants). They may have an English listing of Chinese classical music instrument stores. Also, you could go to the local Universities and check for their Asian culture/language department (or music department) and see if any professors there knew how to get an erhu.

Regarding to make it, it's a fairly simple instrument (I think). I think it's probably easier to make than gitar or violin. However the concept is probably the same. The key is the body (the music box) itself, and there are only 2 strings. Also, don't forget about the bow. How hard can it be to make it? :P Ha! That's my famous last words. Anyway, the best way is to get one from China town. The cheap way is to get one from China if you travel there. It's just a bit hard to get it back here without damage. Oh! you can also place ads in your local universities or Chinese grocery stores and restaurants for the erhu. There may be someone who wants to sell his cheaply.

#3 Kimchee

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 01:40 PM

Hello everyone. Ever since I first indulged in classical oriental music some years ago, especially digging the erhu, I've fallen in love with it. I want to know a couple of things. First, is there a place at which I can buy a cheap erhu? If not, how does one go about making an erhu? I looked online, but figured also there were several knowledgeable members who might even have already done so (talk about you split infinitive!). Finally, I'm looking for recommendations on erhu artists, etc...

I did browse through the stickied link, and although appreciating the many links and discussion, I didn't see anything which directly answers my queries. Many thanks in advance.

Chris Weimer


Chris,

I share your love of the instrument... but I know my shortcomings so I'll leave the erhu music to the professionals! LOL. However, I've seen several websites that sell Chinese instruments online... this one offers the instruments for sale from a little over a hundred dollars to about $600, depending on the wood used. I've seen others that sell for even more!

http://www.shoppingchinanow.com/

Or then, again, there is this cute little project of building an erhu with a cookie tin! In the article, it says that it doesn't sound very good, but at least it might be practice for when you're ready to make one with finer materials.

http://www.oriscus.c.../opera/erhu.htm

Good luck!

Kimchee
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#4 kaiselin

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 08:53 PM

I just saw a movie last night that you might want to see if you get a chance.

It is a Korean movie called "The Bow"
In the movie the lead character takes his Archery Bow and makes it into an instrument that is similar to a erhu. It shows in fairly close detail as he assembles the bow to play it.

While it may not be an erhu it is worth watching.

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#5 TengAiHui

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Posted 22 July 2008 - 09:46 PM

Hello everyone. Ever since I first indulged in classical oriental music some years ago, especially digging the erhu, I've fallen in love with it. {snip} Finally, I'm looking for recommendations on erhu artists, etc...

For CDs, I guess you could always start here. My personal favorites are 12 Girls Band. Then again you may not like them as they are a fusion of classical and pop rather than straight classical. Also, they are easy to find on youtube, if you are interested.

Edited by TengAiHui, 22 July 2008 - 10:00 PM.

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#6 Kimchee

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Posted 24 July 2008 - 03:08 PM

Japanese musician, Kitaro, uses erhu musician, Yu Xiao Guang, in his albums all the time... Unfortunately I can't find anything specifically about him... but when I hear him play, it sends me floating into the atmosphere! So beautiful.

:ATT12:

Kimchee

edit: One of my favorite pieces, "Caravansary"... sorry, could only find it on You Tube.


Edited by Kimchee, 24 July 2008 - 03:50 PM.

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#7 hsie

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Posted 25 September 2008 - 09:09 PM

Hello everyone. Ever since I first indulged in classical oriental music some years ago, especially digging the erhu, I've fallen in love with it. I want to know a couple of things. First, is there a place at which I can buy a cheap erhu? If not, how


Not an easy thing to build an erhu yourself, even you can do it, the sound wouldn't be good as those cheapest one offered online. And you need the snakeskin, where can you find it?

My father ever built such one, but he commands the playing well enough, so still I think the self-made one is ok.

There was ever one TV series by China's CCTV which made detailed instroduction to the erhu-making, but only in Chinese.

#8 chy

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 01:24 AM

Building a musical instrument is never easy. Yes, it will make noise, but that's it, not music. I work on classical guitars and have a lost lots of sleep and hair making them sound better! The erhu is somewhat of a cross between a violin and a banjo in that there's a resonating box and a tensioned "head" (like a drum) and it's bowed.

To learn about erhus and other Chinese instruments, you can start here at the Chinese Traditional Music Forum :

http://starvoid.prob.../index.cgi#Trad

To buy an instrument there is of course ebay, but for good advice even though you can't try the instrument beforehand take a look at these two sites, both based in Singapore :

Eason : http://www.eason.com.sg/

Cadenza : http://www.cadenzamusic.biz/index.htm

Eason's owner, Tan Sung Wah also has a very interesting and active blog :

http://tansungwah.blogspot.com/

Just looking through the Eason blog and site is a great learning experience.

Here's something to whet your appetite for Erhu music, not classical, but accompanying the hot songstress of the era :


http://www.youtube.c...feature=related
http://www.youtube.c...feature=related

And you can see the original film that the clips are from :
http://www.archive.o...ls/street_angel

Good luck!

Edited by chy, 26 September 2008 - 01:38 AM.


#9 jhf0551

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 04:04 PM

Hello everyone. Ever since I first indulged in classical oriental music some years ago, especially digging the erhu, I've fallen in love with it. I want to know a couple of things. First, is there a place at which I can buy a cheap erhu? If not, how does one go about making an erhu? I looked online, but figured also there were several knowledgeable members who might even have already done so (talk about you split infinitive!). Finally, I'm looking for recommendations on erhu artists, etc...

I did browse through the stickied link, and although appreciating the many links and discussion, I didn't see anything which directly answers my queries. Many thanks in advance.

Chris Weimer

Hi, I'm an erhu player. I learned it when I was 3. For the renowned erhu players, I highly recommend my instructor, Zhao Hanyang 赵寒阳, currently the associate professor in China Central Conservatory of Music and the Chair of Erhu Division. He composed lots of songs and plays very well. You can google him out for his songs. Another one is Song Fei 宋飞. She made numerous instructive videos on how to play erhu. They can be easily found on Youtube on typing her name "Song Fei". Below is her video for "Jiang He Shui" (江河水):



I brought my erhu with me when I came to America a couple of years ago. It cost me 500 Yuan (aprx. $60) in China. I tried to find cheap erhus in the States but with no luck. I think you can find them on ebay for $150 or up. It's especially difficult to make it because the snake skin is not easy to find, but except that, it is relatively easy.

The most famous erhu songs were composed by Liu Tianhua in 1920s, such as "Zhu Ying Yao Hong" 烛影摇红, "Yue Ye" 月夜, and "Guang Ming Xing" 光明行. Then Hua Yanjun's "Er Quan Ying Yue" 二泉映月 and "Ting Song" 听松 in 1940s. Many many great songs were still coming out after 1949. They are "Xi Song Gong Liang" 喜送公粮, "Yi Zhi Hua" 一枝花, "Yu Bei Xu Shi Qu" 豫北叙事曲, "Lan Hua Hua Xu Shi Qu" 蓝花花叙事曲, "Shan Cun Bian Le Yang" 山村变了样, "Ben Chi Zai Qian Li Cao Yuan" 奔驰在千里草原, etc.
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#10 chy

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 06:00 PM

Hello jhf0551,

Can you tell me...why are women erhu players always so beautiful?!!

Humour aside, the erhu is another instrument I'd like to learn. Like the dizi, the sound of the erhu can be very "pei" in Cantonese (apologies for not being able to write it in Chinese), emotional and beautiful.

I am very interested in instrument making and have thought about trying an erhu too. Could you take some pictures of your erhu from the back? Somewhere I remember reading something about a weight inside the sound box and was wondering what its function is. I've also thought about replacement materials for the snakeskin. Maybe next year I'll try making an erhu.

I've just finished making an imitation dizi from PVC pipe but haven't tuned it yet. It makes noise! However, it doesn't look quite right as the finger holes are based on calculations for western flutes. Do you know anything about how the dizi finger hole placement is calculated or do you have a dizi that can be measured? Making an instrument that looks like the original is relatively easy, but understanding and implementing the nuances developed over time is the very, very difficult part.

#11 jhf0551

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 06:17 PM

Hello jhf0551,

Can you tell me...why are women erhu players always so beautiful?!!

That's what I'm wondering too. hehe

Humour aside, the erhu is another instrument I'd like to learn. Like the dizi, the sound of the erhu can be very "pei" in Cantonese (apologies for not being able to write it in Chinese), emotional and beautiful.

I am very interested in instrument making and have thought about trying an erhu too. Could you take some pictures of your erhu from the back? Somewhere I remember reading something about a weight inside the sound box and was wondering what its function is. I've also thought about replacement materials for the snakeskin. Maybe next year I'll try making an erhu.


Actually, the sound box is empty with nothing inside, but typically, the heavier the sound box the better. The sound comes solely from the vibration of the snake skin at the front. The source of the vibration is a tiny bamboo piece placed between the strings and snake skin. That piece is called "Ma" (码). I have no idea about the material to replace the snake skin. The strings on erhu are the same as that of the violin. But where to place your fingers on the strings depends on the length of your arm.

I've just finished making an imitation dizi from PVC pipe but haven't tuned it yet. It makes noise! However, it doesn't look quite right as the finger holes are based on calculations for western flutes. Do you know anything about how the dizi finger hole placement is calculated or do you have a dizi that can be measured? Making an instrument that looks like the original is relatively easy, but understanding and implementing the nuances developed over time is the very, very difficult part.


I don't know about bamboo flute, sorry for that.

Chinese instruments are different from Western ones in that they are very simple in structure, but requires skills to perform. The simpler the instrument, the more difficult to perform.
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#12 chy

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 06:26 PM

Here's a "ma" from the Shang dynasty :)

http://tansungwah.bl...;max-results=10

And...why are women dizi players also always so beautiful? !!!!

#13 jhf0551

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 06:42 PM

Here's a "ma" from the Shang dynasty :)

http://tansungwah.bl...;max-results=10

And...why are women dizi players also always so beautiful? !!!!

Nice picture about "Ma". It is the first time that I know the English name for "Ma" is "Bridge"....

The following is the sound box of my erhu. It was made in Xinghai Folk Instrument Manufacturer in 1987.
Posted Image

Edited by jhf0551, 26 September 2008 - 06:47 PM.

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#14 chy

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Posted 26 September 2008 - 07:16 PM

Nice picture about "Ma". It is the first time that I know the English name for "Ma" is "Bridge"....


Yes, like a violin. The principle is similar in that it tensions the strings and transmits the vibrations to a resonating surface (snakeskin), which in turn "pumps" air out of a tuned chamber, the sound box thus amplifying the sound.

The following is the sound box of my erhu. It was made in Xinghai Folk Instrument Manufacturer in 1987.


I see it's a round body. Is this less common or is the 6-sided body used in more recent instruments? I've seen both (only pictures though) but after thinking it over, don't think that one or the other is easier to make. In fact, I'm inclined to think that the round body is easier to tune, ie. remove wood to adjust thicknesses to tune the resonances. Also, since it's 21 years old, have you had the snakeskin changed and do you have to adjust the tension occasionally (like drums and banjos).

Many questions! One of these days I must visit an erhu, dizi and pipa maker! Thanks for the picture, I wish I could meet you in person to see and hear it!

Edited by chy, 26 September 2008 - 07:19 PM.


#15 Xiaolong

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Posted 19 October 2008 - 01:26 PM

A round soundbox is less common, a hexagonal or octagonal soundbox is more common. But it depends on the region. As far I know off a hexagonal soundbox will give a bright and sweet tone, a octagonal soundbox a deep and warm tone. Erhu with a hexagonal soundbox are common in south china while octagonal soundbox are common in north china. It's the same with Guzheng. Guzheng from the north are deep and warm. Guzheng from the south are bright and sweet.




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