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Erhu (Chinese two-stringed fiddle )

The Erhu (or Chinese violin) is a kind of two-stringed


bowed musical instrument. Its history can be dated back
to Tang Dynasty over 1,000 years ago. Erhu can be used
as a solo performance as well as in small musical
groups and large orchestras. It is one of the most
popular bowed string instruments used by many ethnic
groups in China.

Guzheng (Chinese Zither)

The Guzheng is a Chinese plucked zither. It is made


of 18-23 or more strings and movable bridges. People
believe that it has been invented during the Warring States
Period (475-221 BC). The performer pluck the strings at
the right portion with right hand, and left hand presses the
string on the left side of the bridge to produce pitch
ornamentation and vibrato. The skilled player can create
sounds that can evoke the sense of waterfall, thunder, and
even the scenic countryside.

Suona

The Suona, also called Laba, is double-reed


woodwind instrument. It can produce particularly loud
and high-pitched sound and is widely used in
Chinese traditional music ensembles especially in
northern China. It is can be played solo or many times
together with Sheng, drums, and other instruments in
wedding and funeral ceremonies.

Drums

The always amazing Kodo drummers

There are many large Japanese drums, or taiko. Most have two membranes
which are nailed or laced and are struck with sticks. The most dramatic is the
Odaiko (big drum). The physical energy and sheer excitement of an Odaiko
performance is an integral part of many Japanese matsuri (festivals). Perhaps
because they see this all the time, most Japanese people don't get particularly
excited by taiko performance groups like Kodo, while foreign audiences are
enthralled by them. Each year, Kodo host Earth Celebration, a festival of taiko
drumming, international music and performance art in their home base on Sado
Island. Many people come to Japan from around the world to enjoy the festival and
it is certainly a highlight of the Japanese cultural calendar. Kodo also tour
extensively abroad every year.
The hourglass-shaped tsuzumi was introduced from the Asian continent
around the 7th century and the name is derived from Sanskrit. Two varieties, the

smaller kotsuzumi and the larger otsuzumi are used in both noh and kabuki
performances. The kotsuzumi is held on the right shoulder and the player alters the
tone by squeezing the laces. The otsuzumi is held on the left thigh. Like all other
traditional arts in Japan, there are several schools of tsuzumi.

Stringed Instruments
The koto is a 13-string zither, about 2 meters long
and made of Paulownia wood. It is plucked using picks on
the thumb and first two fingers of the right hand, while
the left hand can be used to modify pitch and tone. Koto
are used in an ensemble in gagaku or as a solo instrument.
One of the most famous koto players and composers was
the blind musician Miyagi Michio (1894-1956), who was
heavily influenced by western music.

The Yoshida Brothers have brought a rock sensibility to the shamisen

The shamisen is a 3-string lute. It is believed to be a variant of the Okinawan


sanshin. The length of the shamisen varies from 1.1 to 1.4 meters. It first became
popular in the pleasure districts during the Edo Period (1600-1868) and also began
to be used for the musical accompaniment in kabuki and bunraku performances.
The kabuki variety developed into its own form of dance music, the nagauta or
long song. Shamisen are made from one of a variety of woods such as red
sandalwood and the head covered with cat or dog skin. The pegs are traditionally
made of ivory while the strings are twisted silk.
Traditional shamisen playing requires the player to be quite stiff and
expressionless. But young players like the Yoshida Brothers or Agatsuma
Hiromitsu bring a whole new, some would say rock and roll, approach that gets
young fans in a frenzy of excitement while putting their elders in a fit of anger.
The biwa is a short-necked lute, used from the 7th century in gagaku to accompany
early puppet plays and also by blind monk entertainers, the Japanese equivalent of
travelling minstrels. The main character in one of Japan's most famous legends,
The Story of Earless Hoichi was one of these biwa hoshi (lute priests). There are
many styles, the most popular being Satsuma biwa which was developed in the
16th century. The number of frets varies from 4 to 6 and strings vary in number
from 3 to 5 but there are usually 4. The biwa is held almost vertical and played
with a large bachi (plectrum).

Flutes
The most famous flute is the shakuhachi bamboo flute. It has 4 or 5 finger holes on the
front face and a thumb hole on the rear face. As with other instruments above, it was imported
from China for gagaku. In medieval times, the shakuhachi became associated with wandering
Buddhist priests known as komuso or 'priests of nothingness'. They played the shakuhachi as a
spritual discipline and during the Edo Period they had the exclusive license to play the
instrument. They are easily recognized by their straw inverted basket-like headgear. During the
more progressive Meiji Period (1868-1912) various other shakuhachi schools started, some
influenced by western music.

A group of shakuhachi players dressed as komuso

A flute player at a local festival

Other flutes include the nokan used in noh performances and the side-blown takebue and
shinobue often heard during festivals. Kodo often incorporate flute pieces into their repertoire.

Yang-geum

Unlike other traditional Korean instruments which have silk strings, the Yang-geumis
instrument has metal strings.
On a paulownia base with a narrow top and broader base there are 72 copper
strings mounted The strings are divided in 18 groups. The Yang-geum produces 21
different notes.

The Yang-geum stick is used to produce sound.


The Yang-geum produces clear tones, it is used to make typical 'string' music.
dimensions in cm. LxBxH: 000x000x000, price temporarily upon request
info/order

Hae-geum

The Hae-geum is a very nice instrument. On top of a small trunk there is a bamboo
stick. On this stick there are two strings which are supported and stuck to the trunk.
The bow is made from horse hair and bamboo. It is rubbed against the string.
The two strings make different simple 'eastern' sounds.
dimensions in cm. LxBxH: 000x000x000, price temporarily upon request
info/order

Jang-gu

The Jang-gu is a drum. The left side is covered with cow skin and the right side with
horse skin. The trunk is made of paulownia.
The left side produces low tones, the right side high tones.
It it is a percussion instrument used in almost every Korean musical performance.