A Song From A Far Away Place P1

Each of the instruments has a long history and is beautifully handcrafted. The ancient Chinese classified an instrument according to the material it was made of. The term Pa Yin, the eight kinds of sound, refers to the following materials:

Chin (metal), Shih(stone), T’u (earth), Ke (hide), Szu (silk), Mu (wood), Pao (gourd) and Chu(bamboo).

These materials and the sounds that are produced by instruments made of them have a distinctive relationship. However, because instruments are often made of a variety of materials, it is often more practical to classify them according the way sound is produced. The Sachs-Hornbostel system classifies instruments as follows:

  • aerophones, or wind instruments, in which the sound is produced by a vibrating column of air;
  • chordophones, or stringed instruments, played by plucking, bowing;
  • membranophones, or drums, in which a stretched skin is caused to vibrate;
  • idiophones, such as bells, rattles, in which sonorous materials vibrate to produce sound; and
  • electrophones, in which vibration is produced by oscillating electrical circuits.

These categories are somewhat arbitrary because instruments can be played in a variety of ways. For instance, a tambourine is both a membranophone and an idiophone. A guitar is normally a chordophone, but by striking the body it can be used as an idiophone. Musicians are generally more interested in the sound qualities of instruments and the techniques required to play them.

拉弦樂器 (Bowed Instruments)

吹管樂器 (Air Instruments)

打擊樂器(Percussive Instruments)

彈撥樂器 (Plucked Instruments)




A Song From A Far Away Place PII


Erhu (chordophone)
Erhu, a stringed instrument with a small wooden body and a long neck, is one of the most widely used bowed instruments in China. Throughout its 500-year-old history, it has been constantly improved, so that its tone is now mellow and bright. Played with a variety of techniques, it is now extremely popular for both solo and orchestral performances. The name erhu is derived from ‘er’ meaning ‘two’ and refers to the fact that it has two strings, normally tuned a fifth apart. The sound box is covered by a snakeskin membrane which gives the instrument its distinctive tone colour. It is played upright with a bow moving horizontally between the strings. Its sound is similar to the violin, but with a thinner tone due to the smaller resonating chamber.




Pipa (chordophone)
The pipa or ‘teardrop guitar’ is a Chinese lute with a history of more than 2000 years. Because it has a resonant, delicate, clear and enchanting timbre, the pipa holds a unique position among China’s many plucked instruments. As an instrument of fine handicraft, its exquisite workmanship and beauty appeal to musicians both in China and abroad. There are 19-26 bamboo frets glued on the belly of the lute, which, together with the six ledges, are arranged as stops. The strings are mainly of three kinds, to be used according to need: steel wire covered with silver, steel wire covered with nylon, and silk strings. Pear-shaped and constructed of wood, it has four strings tuned by means of conical pegs in the neck and has a varying number of frets on both the neck and the body. Playing techniques vary widely. It resembles the Spanish guitar in some ways, with long fingernails being cultivated to pluck the strings. It is prominent in Chinese opera orchestras and as a solo instrument. The pipa’s resonant, clear and delicate timbre has widespread appeal.

遠在公元前三世紀,中國就有長柄,皮面,圓形音箱的琵琶。漢代亦有木面十二柱的琵琶出現。 現在的琵琶就是在秦、漢琵琶的基礎上,吸收梨形琵琶的長處改造發展,並經過後人不斷改革由十三品增至廿六品,具有十二個半音。演奏方法最初用木撥彈奏,唐代中葉改用手指,彈奏技巧經長期發展,日趨複雜,表現力益豐富。現今傳遍中國南北各地,除做為演奏、重奏、合奏等純樂器的形式出現外,在戲曲、曲藝、歌唱等伴奏樂隊中也廣泛地被應用,是我國相當重要的彈撥樂器。


Ruan (chordophone)
Also known as the ‘moon guitar’ because of its shape, the ruan is a short-necked lute with a history of 1600 years. It has four strings tuned by means of pegs. The neck has 24 frets in semitones. It comes in different sizes and pitches. It is used in orchestras and for accompanying opera.

阮具有悠久的歷史。相傳晉時竹林七賢中的阮咸善彈此樂器,故又名「阮咸」。傳統阮共四弦,每兩弦定為同度音, 音域較窄,音階也不完備。有大阮、中阮、小阮、低阮四種形制。小阮、中阮音色圓潤柔和,大阮和低阮音色低沉豐厚。阮在樂隊合奏中視相當重要的彈撥樂器,在民間戲曲及說唱樂中常見。在現代國樂團合奏中多參與伴奏。目前最常用的為中阮及大阮。


Sanxian (chordophone)
Meaning ‘three strings’, the sanxian is a long-necked, fretless lute with a snakeskin membrane stretched over a resonating chamber. Its rich tonal quality, great volume, and wide range have resulted in many uses, such as the accompaniment of epic singing, solo performances, and orchestras. It is made in three sizes: small, medium, and large. It is known as the samsien in Japan.

三弦又名「弦子」。由秦代的「弦」發展而來,三弦的名稱最初見於明代文獻中。在民間說唱音樂中,如北方的《 大鼓書》 (亦稱說書)、南方的《 清音》 、《 道情》 等,三弦均為一種主要伴奏樂器,由於其聲音鏗鏘有力,在樂隊合奏中,常用來加強節奏效果。此外三弦也是一種極富特色的獨奏樂器。


Yangqin (chordophone)
It came to China in the 16th century from the Middle East. In Europe, it evolved into both the dulcimer and a predecessor of the piano. Initially the name came from the character for ‘yang’ which means ‘foreign’. This character has more recently been changed to a different one for ‘yang’ which means ‘elevated’. It is played by striking the strings with bamboo mallets covered with rubber or leather. The vibration of the strings is transmitted through the bridges to the wooden soundboard. Recent modifications to its design provide semitones and increase the range. Sliders and roller permit modulation and quick and accurate tuning. It has a bright, clear, melodious sound and can also be played to sound like a harp or a piano. The yangqin is one of the principal instruments of the Chinese orchestra.


A Song From a Far Away Place PIII


Dizi (aerophone)
A traditional side-blown bamboo flute, the dizi is over 2,000 years old and originated in Asia Minor or Central Asia. There are many varieties of lengths and construction. Dizi have a two octave range but traditional instruments can only be played accurately in three keys so players carry a chromatic set so they can play in a variety of tunings. Dizi sometimes have a membrane of reed or reed tissue covering the hole between the mouth hole and the finger holes which creates a distinctive rattling sound. It is a unique solo instrument and also used extensively in ensembles and orchestras.


Zheng (chordophone)
Also known as the guzheng, this famous traditional Chinese plucked instrument is the Chinese zither. Sizes vary from 13 to 17 strings and has a range exceeding three octaves tuned to the pentatonic scale. The zheng developed from a small instrument made of bamboo originally used by ancient herdsmen. It proved to be very popular even in ancient times, as early as the Ch’in Dynasty (255 BC – 206 BC). It has an arched surface and is elongated-trapezoidal with 13 to 21 strings stretched over individual bridges. Although metal strings are common today, the strings were of silk in ancient times. The zheng rests on two pedestals and is played using three to four imitation fingernails. On the right side of the bridges, both hands pluck the strings and on the left side, the left fingers bend the strings to change pitch or to provide embellishment. The tone quality of the zheng is mellow and clear.




Sheng (aerophone)
This is one of the oldest varieties of Chinese instruments and consists of a bundle of between 17 to 36 pipes seated on a small wind chamber. A free brass reed is placed in the root of the instrument. Coming in soprano, alto, and tenor models, they have a great clarity of tone and compensate for the lack of brass in tutti orchestration (which means that all instruments are to take part).



Konghou, as a legendary  instrument that has been apart of the Chinese civilization for thousands of years. It represents not only a kind of music instrument but also the deep national concept and cultural deposits. Since 30s in last century, thousand of people, including musicians and music instruments craftsmen, have participated in developing and improving Konghou. In 1984, Zhao Guangyun, professor in Shen Yang Conservatory of Music, successfully developed the first double-stringed pedal Konghou of all modulation, which solved problems in the reforming Konghou, like modulation, pressure trembling, voice quality, sound, appearance structure, etc, achieving breakthrough results. The new double-stringed pedal Konghou succeeded the beauty and luxury of the ancient phoenix` headshaped Konghou and adopted the modulation mechanical principles of western harp, so it not only can play Chinese traditional music typical of eastern style music but also perform western music of polytonality mainly on harmony and polyphony, which is kind of Chinese plucked musical instrument of world-wide musical characteristics integrated with varieties of cultural concepts. As a new kind of music carrier, double-stringed pedal Konghou, praised in the world field of harps, will be sure to open a new space for the communication of musical culture.

箜篌作为承载中华民族千年文明的“神器”,所代表的不仅仅是一件乐器,而是一个民族深 刻内涵和文化底蕴的体现。从上世纪三十年代起,就有音乐家、乐器工艺师等数千人参与了箜篌的挖掘和研制活动。1984 年,沈阳音乐学院乐器工艺系赵广运教授在总结前人经验 的基础上,成功的研制出中国第一台双排弦踏瓣式“全转调箜篌”,解决了多年来箜篌改革中亟待解决的转调、压颤、声音品质、音响及外观结构等方面的尖端问题,取得了突破性 成果,并不断改进完善;新型双排弦踏瓣式“全转调箜篌”承袭了古代凤首箜篌的雍容华贵,汲取了西方竖琴的转调机械原理,既擅长演奏以中国传统音乐为代表的具有东方韵味的“中国化”旋律,又能方便演奏以和声、复调为主体的多调性西方音乐,是一件融会并蓄多元文化内涵、具有世界性乐器特质的中国拨弦乐器;更受到国际竖琴界的好评。