The unique sound and history of three Chinese musical instruments

Chinese Culture

The unique sound and history of three Chinese musical instruments
Chinese instruments (l to r) pipa, xiao, erhu.

Learn more about the unique instruments help create the distinctive sound of Chinese music. 

The Chinese National Orchestra recently performed in Washington, D.C. and New York City. CCTV America talked with three of the musicians about the history and what makes their instrument special.

The xiao is a Chinese vertical end-blown flute. It is generally made of bamboo. The xiāo is an ancient Chinese instrument usually thought to have developed from a simple end-blown flute used by the Qiang people of Southwest China in ancient period.

Wang Ciheng tells us about the Xiao

The pipa is a four-stringed Chinese musical instrument, belonging to the plucked category of instruments. Sometimes called the Chinese lute, the instrument has a pear-shaped wooden body with a varying number of frets ranging from 12 to 26. The pipa is one of the most popular Chinese instruments and has been played for almost 2,000 years in China.

Wu Yuxia tells us about the Pipa

The erhu is a two-stringed bowed musical instrument, more specifically a spike fiddle, which may also be called a “southern fiddle”, and sometimes known in the Western world as the “Chinese violin” or a “Chinese two-stringed fiddle”. It is used as a solo instrument as well as in small ensembles and large orchestras. It is the most popular of the huqin family of traditional bowed string instruments used by various ethnic groups of China. A very versatile instrument, the erhu is used in both traditional and contemporary music arrangements, such as in pop, rock, jazz, etc.

Jin Yue tells us about the Erhu

Chinese instrument information from Wikipedia.