Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Introduction of Chinese Bamboo Flute (Dizi) Video

Check out this introduction of Chinese Bamboo Flutes by a guy called Raymond Robinson. The Dizis he used in the video are Dong Xue Hua flutes from us.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Dizi That is Too Clever For Its Own Good

Saw this newly designed Dizi at the Shanghai Music Fair:

It has a bronze plate attached to the dizi for you to slide over the dimo hole. The purpose is to protect your dimo after you fix it on your dizi when it is not in use.

One end of the dizi that is made of bone or buffalo horn can also be detached to reveal a secret compartment where you can store your dimo and er jiao.

Clever right?

Except that the bronze cover creaks and feels like it needs oiling when you slide it. And the secret compartment feels like its going to drop off any moment, spilling all the secrets in your dizi....

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Performances by Lovely Ladies in Greek Goddess Garb

Finally managed to find a video converter to compress the AVI files to a more manageable size for upload.

Here's the lady on Erhu hand syncing:

The lack of microphones and pick-ups gave her away.

Here's the lady on mouth Dizi playing live:

Here's the whole lot of them hand syncing:

But I do believe all of them are able to hold their own. Perhaps they cannot play live because of the lack of proper equipment.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

To Move or Not to Move? That is the Question...

I was talking to LLS about how to most effectively break-in his Erhus.

He told me that it takes approximately 6 months to a year for his Erhus to break-in. But what is interesting is that he said to remove the bridge when not playing the Erhu. This is because if the bridge is left in the centre of the snakskin, the centre of the snakeskin would be unnaturally seasoned by the pressure the strings exert on the snakeskin. When you are playing the Erhu, the vibrations from your playing would be seasoning the whole snakeskin instead of just the centre. Hence, you remove the bridge when you are not playing even if you're breaking in your new Erhu.

Fair enough I thought.

Then I went to another Erhu maker, JJ and picked a really good Erhu to bring back to Singapore. When the JJ was putting my Erhu back into the case, I noticed the bridge was still in the centre of the skin. Thinking of what LLS just said a while ago, I asked if I should remove the bridge from the Erhu. His reply was no, leave it there for 2 years. 2 years?!??! But why? He said moving the bridge unnecessarily will disrupt the equilibrium the bridge has built up with the snakeskin. Only after 2 years, use a pencil or dongle to release the pressure off the snakeskin on alternate months. Hmmmm...

So who is right and who is wrong?

Maybe if you are the hardworking type, listen to LLS. And if you are the lazy type, go with JJ.

I leave you with this video:

No it has nothing to do with the topic. A post without video or pictures is boring, so my daughter decided to make a cameo appearance.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Interesting Erhu Cases

I've been trying to upload some interesting videos eversince I came back but I get errors all the time. I guess the videos will have to wait till I figure them out.

I came across some exhibitors dealing in Erhu cases at the Shanghai music fair. These Erhu cases particularly caught my eye:

They've got lovely skins.

But I'm not too impressed with the interior, which is lined with stiff foam.

The Erhu does not seem to be well protected, especially at the area where the soundbox rests on. It's fixed with a hygrometer. Whether it actually works and for what purpose I do not know.

But I'm particularly impressed with this Erhu case though. The exterior is made of those materials that is used to make Cello hardcases:

The interior is lined with soft and plush cushioning. Rather heavy though.

But too bad, it's only a prototype and not for sale yet.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Song Rosin (not Song's Rosin)

I've got a good piece of Erhu rosin to recommend.

Now I'm not saying its good because its got my middle name written on it, but I tried it and I like what I hear and feel. The rosin gives a smooth tone and has a good grab without sounding harsh.

I actually heard good things about the rosin sometime back and came across a booth selling the rosin in the Shanghai music fair. So I bought 2 boxes to try out. The maker says the rosin is specially made for the Erhu. They carry other models for violins and cellos as well.

The round rosin costs US$5 and the one in a box costs US$6.

You can purchase them here:
- Professional Rosin by Song
- Professional Rosin by Song (Box)

And by the way, I've put all the bridges in the post "Bridges Over Troubled Snakeskin" for sale as an item on my website.

Here is the link: 9 Assorted Erhu Bridges

Update: This rosin goes onto the bow hair very easily and it is very powdery. Not advisable for people with asthma.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Longest Chinese Bamboo Flute, Dizi I've ever seen

I saw this very long Dizi in one of the booths in the Shanghai fair.

I'm not sure how long, but it is much taller than an average Chinese man.

You'll need 3 persons to play the flute: 1 to blow the flute, the other 2 to do the fingerings.

The flute has 2 mokong (the hole where you put the dimo) because the vibrations from 1 is not enough.

The flute is in the key of C.

Below is a slightly shorter low D dizi, placed alongside a low G and a low Bb. The low D dizi has 2 mokong as well but can be handled by 1 person alone.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Most Expensive Guzheng in the World

Presenting ladies and gentlemen, the most expensive Guzheng in the world till date!

It is made by Shanghai Dunhuang to commemorate its 50th anniversary.

It is worth its weight in gold, literally.

The decorations and wordings are made of 18k solid gold. Even the tips of the bridges where the strings rests on are made of gold.

Feast your eyes on this utter.....well....I am at a loss for words.

And what price is the most expensive Guzheng in the world?


= S$100, 000!

= US$66,666!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Crystallized See Through Electric Erhu

Well, I went back to Shanghai Dunhuang's exhibition booth to have a go at the see through Erhu played by the 'lovely Chinese girl in Greek goddess robes'.

It feels alright, a little plasticly, but because it is shaped like a Erhu, it feels like a Erhu. The sound however, is a little flat and contained. They replaced the snakeskin with the skin of another animal as you can see from the picture from the earlier post. I was a little perturbed when I heard what kind of animal skin they used. Not for public consumption, but email me if you are dying to know.

After playing the Erhu, I confirmed my suspicions that the 'lovely Chinese girl in Greek goddess robes' was hand-syncing during her performance the other day.


While I was walking around the exhibition grounds, I saw another see through Erhu. Except that this Erhu is an electric Erhu with built in pick up and equalizer.

Here's a short clip of it:

The tone that came out of the electric Erhu is similar to what you would get from a electric violin. Although it doesn't have the warmth, sweetness and richness of a standard Erhu, it still sounds ok. (The sound quality in the clip is compromised when I converted the original video file to smaller file) The sound came out of a speaker that was connected remotely by a wireless transmitter attached to the pickup of the Erhu.

Take a closer look at it:

The headstock...

Another shot of the headstock...
The soundbox with electronics.....

Another shot of the soundbox with electronics....

Complete with tone and volume knob controls....

They use fishing line to tie the qianjing. The Erhu strings seem to be of a heavier gauge.

Pretty interesting eh?

They also have see through electric Pipa and Zhongruan!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Shanghai Music Fair 2007 Part 1

Well, I brought my laptop with me to Shanghai and lucky thing the hotel has internet connection. So I can write something in case I forget.

The weather in Shanghai is great, with temperatures ranging between 17 - 24 degrees celsius. Here's a picture of where the Shanghai Music fair is held:

Here's something that greeted me the first moment I stepped into the fairgrounds.

A lovely oriental woman in Greek goddess robes playing a see-through Erhu! What a way to start my day.

I wanted to upload a video clip, but with an upload speed of 4kb/s, the 22MB clip will have to wait. It looks like she is just hand-syncing, because I don't see any way the Erhu is mic-up. The other Greek goddess on the mouth Dizi played live though. I'll upload their videos when I get back home, along with a 5 minute clip of a whole gang of lovely oriental women in Greek goddess garb prancing around the stage hand syncing "Tian Ya Ge Nu".

But you're not here to see lovely oriental women(I think), so I took some close up shots of the see-through Erhu that was on display on Shanghai Dunhuang's booth.

Not exactly one of their new products as it was already featured in last year's show. But I thought you might be interested. I'll try it tomorrow to see how it sounds.

So stay tuned! Lots of interesting stuff coming up.....

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Shanghai Music Fair 2007

I'll be going to the Shanghai music fair from 16 - 20 October.

There are quite a few music fairs in China every year, but the one in Shanghai is usually the better organised, with the largest number of exhibitors.

I'll be looking for some exceptionally good Erhus and see if there is anything else interesting.

Watch this space next week.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

An Instrumental Guide to the Chinese Orchestra

There are not a lot of books on Chinese Orchestra Instruments in English. So I thought this book deserves another mention.

The title of the book is 'Qi' - An Instrumental Guide to the Chinese Orchestra. It gives a good overview of almost all the music instruments that is used in a Chinese Orchestra.

You should buy this book if:
- You are a student and ethnomusicology is one of your subjects
- You are a teacher in an educational institution with an ethnomusicology department
- You like to listen to traditional Chinese music. I'm sure you would want to know a little bit more about the instruments that produces those beautiful melodies.
- You plan to take up a Chinese music instrument and cannot decide which instrument.
- Your kids are in the Chinese Orchestra of their school. Read this book and wow them with your superior knowledge in Chinese Orchestra Instruments.

The author Samuel Wong Shengmiao, is one good Singaporean Pipa player. His previous books include 'Impressions of a Pipa player' and “An Impression of the Pipa: A Recording in 24 hours”. He is currently studying his PhD in University of Sheffield. Click here to read more about him.

Click here for the contents page of the book.

And here for an except of the book.

If you would like to purchase the book, click here!

For bulk purchases, please email Natalie at natalie.teng@gmail.com.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Video: Rosin Your Bow

Just made a short video on how to rosin the Erhu bow.

The first part is on how to rosin a new bow. When I first started learning the violin, I gave my new bow a few strokes of the rosin and expected it to sing! Rosining a new bow is hard work, especially the Erhu bow because it is longer than the violin bow and you have 2 sides to rosin.

The second part is how I usually rosin the bow attached when to the Erhu. I like to put the Erhu lying down on my lap. To prevent the bow from moving about while you rosin, you might want to rest the tip of the bow on the snakeskin protector of the resonator in a diagonal position like in the video.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Erhu with the weird snakeskin

I have in my possession an interesting Erhu.

The Erhu is made of black sandalwood from Suzhou.

What is interesting is the snakeskin that was used on the Erhu. Its a species of python different from the usual python. The skin colors are lighter and brighter. Looks quite attractive actually.

It sounds mediocre initially. But after letting it stand and playing it for a while, the sound improved tremendously. Now it sounds rich, mellow and has good volume.

Click here for a sample video clip of the Erhu.

If you like something different from the rest, this is the Erhu for you.

Click here for more details.