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Microphone Month

Erhu

Also known as the Chinese 2-stringed fiddle, this silk- or nylon-stringed instrument can be traced back to the Tang dynasty (618-907 A.D.). It may be played solo or as part of an ensemble. The manufacturing of the erhu, the playing techniques, the repertoire, and the musical education of this instrument have undergone an unprecedented development over the last half century. The erhu is amazingly expressive and capable of sounding remarkably similar to a human voice. The body of the instrument is a drumlike case in a hexagonal shape, usually made of snake skins and ebony or sandalwood, with a length of approximately 5-1/4″. The front opening is covered with the skin of a python, and the back is left open. The function of this case is to amplify the vibrations of the strings. The neck of the erhu is about 32-1/2″ long and is manufactured with the same materials as the drum. The top of the stem is bent for decoration. The two strings of the erhu are usually tuned to D and A. The two tuning handles (pegs) are found close to the end of the stem. There are no frets or fingerboard. The player creates different pitches by touching the strings at various positions along the neck of the instrument. The erhu has most recently found new favor among Western composers because of its extraordinary sound.

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