Tuesday, November 27, 2007

To Buy or Not to Buy

Sometime back someone took his Guzheng to our shop to have it restring in preparation for his upcoming performance.

We noticed that the bridges are setup very close to each other and very close to the right side of the Guzheng. This affects the tone and resonance of the Guzheng. Curious, we asked the customer who setup his Guzheng. He said he did it himself. Oh and I suppose you bought it straight from China? No, he said he bought it from his teacher.

Now I was a little perturbed. Not because he bought the Guzheng from his teacher instead of me, but because he took delivery of a Guzheng in a 'straight from the factory' condition. I thought the barest minimum in buying a Guzheng (unless you have to send it overseas) is to have the bridges set up. And the idea of buying from your teacher is so that the teacher can choose a supposedly good instrument. But how can you test the sound of the instrument when it is not even setup? We know that some teachers choose an instrument based on factors other than the instrument itself, but at least make it seem like you did choose the instrument.

But sad to say, a lot of times students are the mercy of their teachers. If you don't buy from them, you're afraid they might be displeased and not teach you wholeheartedly. If you do buy from them, who do you go to when something goes wrong with your instrument? You've got no one to turn to if they pack their bags and go back to wherever they came from.

Not all teachers are like that though. There are responsible teachers who sits in my shop for half a day to pick an instrument for his or her student.

And so, what is this?

It is actually this....

Which ends up here....

So Sammi Cheng you got it correct. And they didn't ask me to pay for the broken headstock Erhu. Its difficult to ask your business associates to adhere to the 'once broken, considered sold' rule. They didn't look too pleased though. Luckily they were distracted by a fight that broke out between Wang Guo Xing and some others.

I've got some interesting John Goldie/Yen Choong video clips which I am having problems uploading to my blog. I think it might be because of the size. If anyone knows any free movie conversion software other than windows movie maker please drop me a note.

Monday, November 26, 2007

ezFolk Erhu Forum

Been very busy with work lately. For a quick post, I though I'll point you an Erhu forum that I've been reading lately.

There are quite a few interesting topics being discussed, more notably a thread where a Hungarian Erhu enthusiast hand-sculpted some Erhu bridges from various woods and posted his analysis.

Here it is:

I think you need to register to see the pictures posted.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Shanghai Music Fair 2007 Again

Ok, I've been busy with the John Goldie concert lately so I hardly have time to post anything. The concert's just ended and I must say the Erhu blended very well with the rest of the musicians. I'll post some video clips in a while.

But first, here are the rest of the Shanghai Music Fair 2007 photos:

First up a set of Erhu photos with funny headstock, taken from the Dunhuang booth. Don't mind the spotlight in the background.

This is Lu Lin Sheng's booth...

This is Lu Lin Sheng's booth on the second day. Their Erhus sure clear out fast!

This is Man Rui Xing's booth. They make fabulous Erhus, Gaohus and Pipas.

This is the booth of Zhang Zhong. I accidentally caught one of their Erhus on my bag and it fell on the floor and broke its neck. Ouch! I had a very good Erhu by them sold to someone in Louisiana.

Snakeskin for Jinghus....

Jinghus with dragon headstock...

Now this is an oddity from Shanghai Dunhuang Musical Instruments Co., Ltd. It is a newly designed Gehu. I wonder what is going through their minds when designing this.

And this is a 6 string Zhongruan = Guitar. The worse thing is it plays like a cheap guitar.

And this albino Liuqin looks like its missing something... Oh! Where are the pegs?

If you look closely, it uses guitar tuning mechanisms instead.

And what is this for? To be revealed...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dong Xue Hua Flutes and Xiaos

Our new batches of Dong Xue Hua Dizis and Xiaos just arrived.

Dong Xue Hua Dizis and Xiaos are arguably the best around. Don't just take it from me, but this is what I gather from my customers who are professional musicians.

Although I have brought in different brands of flutes over the years, most of my customers still swear by his flutes. They say his flutes are very responsive and sound the best.

I've previously sent Dizis of different makes to a well known Christian flutist in Ireland and he also likes Dong Xue Hua's flutes the best.

I have a few customers who collects every key of his Dizis and Xiaos.

This time I brought in only 5 of his Xiaos - 2 G, 2 F and 1 E:

You can purchase them in our online store.

His Dizis are here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Excessive Inhalation of Rosin Powder (EIRP)

My job has its own occupational hazards. One of it is called excessive inhalation of rosin powder (EIRP). The symptoms are running rose, watery eyes and headache.

Especially serious when setting up Shanghai Dunhuang's Erhus.

Sometimes you don't know whether to thank them or strangle them. Its good that you don't need to rosin new bows on new Erhus, but you see, the amount of rosin the factory puts on the bow is horrendous.

Check this out:

Its a Shanghai Dunhuang Aged Rosewood Zhonghu. Did you see the clouds of rosin powder billowing out from the bow?

The rosin are not only on the resonator, but all over the Erhu neck as well. It took while to clean up their Erhus.

So if next time you see me in my shop with a surgical mask, I don't have any communicable disease. Its EIRP prevention.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Would you pay US$50 for a Erhu bridge?

These are very expensive Erhu bridges:

They cost around US$20, US$30 and US$50 each.

I'm not sure if there is a market for it so I'm getting some feedback. So please move your eyes to the right side of the page and click on the poll.

They have a write up on why the bridge is good. I'll do a summary and translate it when I find the time.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Misc Pictures of Shanghai Music Fair 2007(Part 1)

Some long overdue pictures from the Shanghai Music Fair 2007.

Inside the exhibition centre....

Jinghus galore....

Hulusis galore....

...complete with costumes...

Spare parts of Erhu....

Erhu bridges by the hundreds....
Erhu bows by the bunches....
Dizis with dragon tattoos....
Yah, boring post I know.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Reverse Erhu Bowing

Ok I've another tip to share from one of the Erhu makers I met at the Shanghai Music Fair.

I call it the "Reverse Erhu Bowing". It has 3 functions: it removes noise, season new strings and relieves stress. Don't you just love 3 in 1s. You accomplish more by doing less.

This is what I could make out of the Erhu maker's whisperings amidst the cacophony around me in the fairgrounds: He told me that there are lots of ions unequally distributed in strings, especially new strings. By doing the reverse Erhu bowing, you warm up the strings and the ions in the strings starts to disperse evenly throughout the strings. As a result, some of the noise is gone and your new strings sound better.

Its better to do it without anyone around:

I've done it a few times but remains inconclusive whether it removes noise or speeds up the breaking in of strings.

But its a good stress reliever for me. Especially when there is an irritating wolf tone you can't get rid of, doing a few minutes of furious reverse Erhu bowing makes you feel satisfied and light headed.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Burn Baby Burn!

We did a presentation on "How to maintain your Chinese Music Instruments" to a group of secondary school students at the invitation of the Ministry of Education of Singapore on Tuesday.

Besides sharing what I know about how to maintain the instruments or improve the sound quality, the students also shared with us some of the things they come across.

Two suggestions were of particular interest to me.

I was talking about how to maximise the Erhu rosin. You know when you keep rosining a particular spot on the rosin, a groove forms on the rosin. Though its easier to rosin with a groove in the rosin, there is a lot of wastage from the mountains of rosin you built while cutting grooves left right centre of the rosin cake. So I suggested to rosin the cake down evenly so that you do not waste the rosin. So this guy from Chinese High told us that when the peaks of rosin forms, he melts them together again. He just takes a cigarette lighter and holds the rosin face down above the open flame. When the rosin melts together and before it drips down, he turns it front side up again. Good idea I thought. I'm sure the rosin will still retain its properties after a hot sauna.

A groovy kind of rosin...

Another girl shared with us another way to play with fire, with compliments from her Erhu instructor. The instructor suggested to use an open flame from a cigarette lighter and place it under your Erhu bow hair. The heat is suppose to straighten the Erhu bow hairs. The girl remarked that the bow looks nicer with straight hair rather than natural curls, but remains uncommitted as to whether it improves the sound in anyway.

Sounds a bit risky to me. Your whole bow might go up in smoke.

But if you got bows to burn, go ahead and try it.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Gravity Defying Erhu?

Ever wondered how did the lovely Chinese lady in Greek Goddess Garb managed to play her Erhu while prancing around?

No dark arts were involved in any way. She just used a belt clip like this:

The clip is fixed onto the base plate of the Erhu:

But it looks like rather complicated to affix. Not advisable for players without engineering degrees.

This version looks more straightforward:
Coming to our online store soon!

Friday, November 2, 2007

John Goldie, Chin Yen Choong and EIC

John Goldie is a famous jazz guitarist from UK and he is coming to Singapore on the 23 November for a one night only performance.

And he'll be pairing with our talented homegrown musician Chin Yen Choong on the Erhu!

This is the type of music John Goldie does:

And this is the type of music that Yen Choong plays: Liang Xiao

Wouldn't it be interesting to see them playing something together?

Joining in the night's performance are Jack and Rai from the famous Singapore band EIC. They'll be collaborating 1 or 2 numbers with Yen Choong as well.

For more details, please visit: http://www.citymusic.com.sg/latest.html

Pre-show tickets are priced at S$26 and are available at:
Eason Enterprises
City Music
The Arts House

(At the door ticket prices are S$35)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Zhonghu (Vertical Stretch 30%)

This is a Zhonghu from the "leave your bridge on for 2 years" Erhu master.

No I did not use Photoshop to stretch the photo.

Its a newly designed soundbox. I can't remember, but I thought he said something about drawing inspiration from the sound physics of a cello.

I tried it and t sounds surprising good. The notes are clean, resonant and the high notes of the outer and inner string sounds clear and penetrative.

They've got lots of funny shaped Erhus as well that really sound not bad at all....