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Erhu -- Queen of Chinese Folk Orchestra

Updated: 2014-12-01 09:47:39

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Producing one of the most beautiful and haunting sounds in Chinese music, theerhuis one of the most popular Chinese bowed-string instruments.

The two-stringed, vertical fiddle -- China's answer to the western violin -- has a history of more than 1,000 years. It became popular in southern China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) when it was callednanhu. Capable of producing music with a flexibility approaching that of the human voice, theerhuis extremely popular in China today as a medium for both traditional and contemporary music and plays an important role in both solo and orchestral performances.

Hailed as a Chinese violin, theerhuis quite different from a western fiddle. There is a vertical post with a fingerboard crosses the sides of a resonator at its base. This resonator is covered with a piece of stretched python skin that produces a unique "whining" tone. Theerhubow is placed between its two strings called the inner and outer strings. Traditionally the two strings are made of silk, but metallic strings are also used. Anerhuplayer usually sits with the instrument on his or her left upper thigh in front of the left hip. Theerhuis played by moving the bow horizontally over the two vertical strings.

Theerhu's range spans over three octaves and the tune produced shares some qualities with the violin, although it produces a more nasal tone which is gentle but firm. Theerhuresembles a human voice and can imitate many natural sounds, such as birds and horses. It is a very expressive instrument, most known for playing melancholy tunes, but also for its joyful melodies.

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