Saturday, December 22, 2007

Something About Erhu Strings

I am not much of an Erhu strings person, not yet anyway.

As in, I have not done much in depth analysis of how different kinds of Erhu strings affect the tone and sound of the Erhu - unlike bridges.

Partly because it takes 2 seconds to change a bridge. Whereas to change strings on an Erhu takes at least 3 minutes and you need time to season the strings before the full effect kicks in. Moreover, the strings cannot be sold once I fitted and unfitted them from my Erhu.

But yesterday I had a changing strings experience. I was playing this Indian small leaf sandalwood Erhu. It has a really clean and rich tone. I enjoyed the sound coming out of the Erhu very much. But the problem is the inner string is not very responsive. I had to bow harder to get the same balance as the outer string.

Someone in the shop suggested to changing the strings to see if the responsiveness improves.

I changed to a set of Mudan Erhu strings.

While changing, I noticed immediately that the Mudan Erhu strings are significantly thinner than the strings on the Erhu. When I played the Erhu with the new Mudan strings on, I noticed the tone is significantly thinner and softer, although the inner string is more responsive now. Because if the thinner gauge, it is easier on the fingers when you do vibrato. Granted, the Mudan strings are new and needs a period of seasoning before it performs to what is expected.

The one who put the snakeskin on the Erhu was in the shop at the time. He commented that because the snakeskin he used is slightly thicker, the thinner gauge strings might not send strong enough vibrations to the snakeskin for the rich tone to come out.

Possibly. I'll monitor the tonal changes on the Erhu closely for the next 2 weeks.

So what is the moral of the story?
- If you want more comfort for your left hand, choose a thinner gauge.
- Thicker gauge Erhu strings might be more suited for thicker skin Erhus
- Thicker gauge strings might give a richer tone to the instrument, but reduce the responsiveness of the instruments.

Noticed I use the word 'might'. Results might vary Erhu to Erhu even if all things remain constant. Each Erhu is an individual.

For our range of Erhu strings, please visit our online store here.

P.S. Dunhuang Erhu Strings (not listed) and Dunhuang Mingren Erhu strings
(not listed) are of thicker gauge than normal Mudan Dunhuang strings.

1 comment:

  1. We have yet to delve into the study of different types of erhu strings. *hehe* Small boy not so discerning yet, but his feel & hearing is good enough to tell me that a particular string is "lousy". I recently discovered that the branded strings that his CO teacher changed for him were not great-sounding at all compared to the unbranded ones he gets from his music school. He got those fr school bc his string broke during CO practice, and then complained when he was home. When changing the strings for him, I realised on closer study that the unbranded strings are softer and have an extra layer, a little like the good violin strings, I think, and yea, there's a little give to the string. The difference in the sound quality after changing was so significant.

    My elder boy had long developed a preference for a particular brand of violin strings, particular bow, etc. But it's easier with western instrumental products b/c the standards are more fixed, I suppose. It's still a little tricky with Chinese instrumental products I find.