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.


  1. She needed "refuelling", or extra legs, lah (as in "Mommy bao bao!"). Take what balloon?! Needs too much energy to walk back across. *haha*

  2. Funny, because I think both approaches have truth. On my Dobro it takes 2 weeks after the resonator cone was removed for the tone to settle for the ideal "equilibrium" again. Things vibrate their way for the best contact everywhere.

    Despite this, I would rather vote for the first explanation as more reasonable. I can imagine that the constant pressure on the skin may cause an uneven sagging of the skin at the center, which will make its vibrating pattern uneven after a while. That oughtta influence tone I bet.

    The video is absolutely cute. I wonder if those balloons help walking by reducing gravity-fatigue or rather make the challenge tougher.

  3. Yes she's cute, but very naughty. The balloons helps us locate her among a sea of kids running around.

    I did ask the second erhu maker if leaving the bridge on will sag the skin. He replied that the skins of his Erhus will never sag. Hmmm.....

    But I agree with you Bayun. The first method probably does make your Erhu sound better in the long run.

  4. I had an erhu lesson with Bian Liunian yesterday. When he took his erhu out of its case, the bridge was already in place. I asked him about it, and he said that in dry climates, he leaves it there, but when the weather is humid, the pressure can cause the skin to sag. Hmmm.