Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pimping your Erhu!

A few days I got an enquiry from a customer who wanted an erhu with synthetic skin made from better wood than Rosewood.  We do sell synthetic skin erhus but we only have them in starter grade versions and in Rosewood.  

Well, the problem is the erhu makers don't like to 'waste' a good piece of wood on synthetic skin erhus hence most of them are made from Rosewoods.

So he asked if anything can be done to optimise the sound of his erhu.  Well, gave him my list of recommendations and he took it all up.  

Then I proceeded to help him set up his erhu with the new accessories that he bought, taking a video sample of each changes made along the way.  

Here's the erhu in its stock form.  I just adjusted the position of the bridge, damper and rosined the bow.   

The tone sounds a little bit thin and raspy, but overall it still sounds pretty decent.

1)  The first thing I did on the erhu, compliments from me, is to retie the qianjin.  The qianjin that was on the erhu feels rather soft, and the way it was tied was not my usual way of tying.  Hence I changed it to the type of qianjin that we sell from our shop and tied it my usual way.

It sounds less raspy immediately, and you can hear that the tone is more focused and tight.

2)  I changed the strings next.  I recommended him the Pirastro Red Dragon strings or the Fang Fang (blue) strings.  He opted for the Fang Fang strings.

Strings usually need a few days for it to run in.  This video was taken right after I put them on.  The sound should improve much more after playing them for a while.  However, you can still hear the difference in the tone.  It sounds louder and richer.  It also feels more responsive and the touch is more comfortable.

3) The third thing I changed is the bow.  I changed it to a Beijing bow by Lee Huai Gang(LHG).  Lee Huai Gang's bows are very popular among erhu instructors and performers in China.  Not only that, I used his newly purchased Pirastro Oliv rosin on his bow.  Pirastro Oliv rosin gives a good grab on the strings without sounding harsh.

The tone sounds cleaner and less harsh.

4)  The fourth thing to change is of course the bridge.  He opted for the best bridge that we have - 4300 year old erhu bridge.  It is rather pricey compared to the other bridges but no other bridge come close.

You can hear the marked increased volume of the instrument.  The resonance of the instrument has improved tremendously, though it sounds a bit more mellow now.

5)  I realized that the damper only fits loosely below the bridge, which is probably the reason for the openness and the little harshness in the tone.  So I took a bigger piece of damper and insert it below the bridge.

A bit of the edge in the tone has gone, but it sounds more polished and refined.  I kind of like the edge in the tone of the previous video actually.

Overall, I'm quite happy with the final tone of the erhu after all the changes.  You can click on the first video and hear the difference.  With continued playing, the tone, especially the high registers will definitely become even better.

Have fun with pimping your erhu too!

(Pimping means making something cool or better.  It is know also known as znging from where I come from.)