The erhu also called nanhu (“southern fiddle”),and sometimes known in the West as the “Chinese violin” or “Chinese two string fiddle,” is a twostringed bowed musical instrument, used as a solo instrument as well as in small ensembles and large orchestras. It is the most popular instrument in the huqin family of Chinese bowed string instruments, together with the zhonghu, gaohu, banhu, jinghu, sihu, and numerous others. Used in both traditional and contemporary pieces, it is a versatile instrument.
The parts of the erhu:
Qin tong, sound box or resonator body; it is hexagonal (liu jiao, southern), octagonal (ba jiao,northern), or, less commonly, round.
Skin, made from python. The python skin gives the erhu its characteristic sound.
Qin gan, neck.
Qin tou, top or tip of neck, usually a simple curve with a piece of bone or plastic on top, but is sometimes elaborately carved with a dragon’s head.
Qin zhou. tuning pegs, traditional wooden, or metal machine gear pegs.
Qian jin, nut, made from string, or, less commonly, a metal hook.
Nei xian, inside or inner string, usually tuned to D4, nearest to player.
Wai xian, outside or outer string, usually tuned to A4.
Qin ma, bridge, made from wood.
Gong, bow, has screw device to vary bow hair tension.
Gong gan , bow stick, made from bamboo.
Gong mao (, bow hair, usually white horsehair.
Qin dian, pad, a piece of sponge, felt, or cloth placed between the strings and skin below the bridge to improve its sound.
Qin tuo- base, a piece of wood attached to the bottom of the qín tong to provide a smooth surface on which to rest on the leg.
The erhu is almost always tuned to the interval of a fifth. The inside string (nearest to player) is generally tuned to D4 and the outside string to A4. This is the same as the two middle strings of the violin.
The erhu is played sitting down, with the sound box placed on the top of the left thigh and the neck held vertically.
The bow is held with an underhand grip. The bow hair is adjusted so it is slightly loose. Tension is provided by the fingers of the right hand. The bow hair is placed in between the two strings and both sides of the bow hair are used to produce sound, the player pushes the bow away from the body when bowing the A string (the outside string), and pulls it inwards when bowing the “inside”
Aside from the usual bowing technique used for most pieces, the erhu can also be plucked, usually using the second finger of the right hand. This produces a dry, muted tone (if either of the open strings is plucked, the sound is somewhat more resonant) which is sometimes desired in contemporary pieces.
The left hand alters the tone of the strings by pressing on the string at the normal harmonic points. As the instrument has no frets, the tone is slightly muddled, but resonant. Techniques include hua yin (slides), rou xian (vibrato), huan ba (changing positions), etc.
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