Erhu is an ancient musical instrument first described in the Song Dynasty (A.D. 420-479), it is extremely popular in China today as a medium for both traditional and contemporary music. Consisting of a drum-like mahogany sound box covered with a snake skin head, two steel strings stretched from the sound box along a narrow bridge, sound is generated by a horse hair bamboo bow. The range of erhu spans about four octaves, and while the sound is very similar to a Western violin, it differs by being much more nasal in quality. Because there is no fingerboard against which the player can press, finger pressure is a critical part of erhu technique. Assuming this aspect of erhu playing is mastered, the lack of a finger board actually allows for a tremendous flexibility for the erhu player in controlling the sound and expressiveness of this instrument - a flexibility approaching that of the human voice.
Shaoqin erhu is invented by erhu master George Gao. Compare with the regular erhus, shaoqin erhus have a sound box with an opening hole facing upward, forms a reflection wall redirecting the sound, forcing it to travel through ceilings of concert halls, thus increase the perceived volume of the instrument, also enables the erhu player to monitor the sound more directly. On top of this ingenius design, All shaoqin erhus equipt with QQQianjin to increase it's range, now the lowest note is G3, a perfect fouth below regular erhus. To be able to play regular erhu pieces, the QQQianjins also can act as a capo, you can set the open strings tuning quickly and freely.
Liu Tian Hua: Before 1920s, Erhu was mainly used for self entertainment as well as accompanying Chinese operas, it started to become an instrument of choice for morden concert halls thanks to Liu Tian Hua, a music educator, violinst who later fall in love with the erhu. He embraced classical European music traditions, bravely fusioned western compositional technique such as forms, harmony, as well as the concept of technique training exercises into erhu, greatly expended realm of erhu music. Liu Tian Hua wrote ten erhu solo pieces range from ABA form to theme and variations, enriched erhu styles from walz to march, and pineered erhu technique training with serialized studies. Liu Tian Hua's ten erhu solo compositions became the mile stone for erhu music at the time, his vision inplied in the works has influenced generations of erhu composers and performers.
Another notable erhu player/composer Hua Yan Jun, also known as Arbin, who lived during the first half of the 20th century. Arbin made his living by buskering on the streets in Wuxi city using his erhu. His erhu music was mostly improvised. The most famous erhu piece
During the same era of Liu Tian Hua and Arbin, Sun Wen Ming is the most creative erhu master of the time. He's compositions were also improvised. Besides his most famous erhu piece
After the founding of New China, there are many professional composers who write music for erhu, among them, Liu Wen Jing is the most notable one. Graduated from the Central Conservary of Music in China majoring music composition, Liu Wen Jing has written many erhu classics such as Yu Bei Narrations, San Men Gorge Fantasy, The Great Wall Carprise, Autumn Rhyme, etc. Recently he also composed a set of erhu pieces based on reflections of Budda Ru Lai, a very popular erhu piece called Snow Sculpture of the Heroic Spirit. Mr. Liu Wen Jing was among the first composers who wrote for erhu and piano, erhu and Chinese orchestra, erhu and symphony orchesta. Mr. Liu Wen Jing died of lung cancer in 2013.
To learn to play erhu is like learning to play any other musical instruments, a good teacher is preferred. With a good teacher, you will be able to avoid to form bad posture and bad playing habits, a good teacher is also able to enhance your learning experience and motivate your creativity. For those who can not find an erhu teacher, George Gao has made some erhu instruction videos to help you get started, all "learn to play erhu" videos can be instantly downloaded, here are some feedback from users:
I really enjoyed your erhu instruction videos. I feel they are helping me a lot with my playing.
Please make more lessons of the same type as the Lady Meng Jiang lesson! The phrase-by-phrase explanation and mp3 accompaniment are very motivating!"
erhu techniques is devided into two chatagories, one is the left hand fingering technique, the other is the right hand bowing technique. The left hand technique includes the placing of the fingers, shifting, vibratos, ornaments and pizzicato, etc. The right hand technique includes long bow, short bow, different kinds of stacatos, tremolo, bouncing bows, cuts, different kinds of spiccatos, pizzicato, etc.
Chinese erhu, pronounced as
ur-hoo, huqin, nanhu, Chinese erhu, Chinese violin, Chinese two-stringed violin, Chinese fiddle, in Japan, it is called "nigo"
Er means two, this suggests that there are two strings on the instrument.
Hu was an ancient name for Northern nations, it did imply the meaning of
Northern Barbarians, a word of evidence of years of border conflicts between the Chinese and nations from the North.
Hu does suggest that the instrument could be imported from the North
Since there is no archeological discovery of a physical erhu to support it's history, a popular view of the earliest appearance of the musical instrument called the huqin was based on a poem written by Shen Kuo during Song Dynasty (A.D. 420-479). In the poem, he mentioned about a Huqin (another name of erhu) played with a horse hair bow. However the argument came upon the explanation of the word
Han in the poem. This Character
Han here can be interpreted as
Han, the name of the Chinese people or as
Han, the Dynasty which had existed between 206 B.C-220 A. D., if the later one was true, this could put the story back by at least 700 years. Some scholars argued that in Song Dynasty, Chinese people did not call themselves
Han people until much later in the history. However everybody seems to agree that erhu has evolved from some plucked string instruments.
Traditionally, the top cover of the drum like sound box of the erhu is made from Python skin. Nowadays, python is enlisted as an endangered specie in many countries, this makes it illegal to export/import erhus in these countries unless you get a special permit. With the increasing demand from all over the world, a new kind of synthetic skin was invented. Erhu master George Gao now only uses erhus with synthetic skin.
Up to today, even with the increase of the price value of the erhus made by famous makers such as Wang Geng Xing, Hu Han Rou, Wang Guo Xing, Lu Jian Hua, etc., the erhu is still considered a very cheap instrument. You can buy a
Strad erhu for under $2000 US dollars. Just for your information, a decent violin bow will cost more than $5000 US dollars.
There was no standard tuning for the erhu up until early last century, at one time it was decided that the erhu should be tuned at D-A above middle C. Although the majority of the erhu repertoire was written based on D-A tuning after this standardization, there are many pieces require the erhu to be tuned differently, for instance, many of the erhu works by Mr. Hua Yan Jun (Arbin) require the erhu to be tuned at G-D or A-E, a fourth or fifth below the standard tuning, because of this huge difference, the tension of the strings is changed dramatically, many erhu players need to get a second erhu and use a set of special strings to accommodate the music. Another wonderful erhu concerto called
The Great Wall Caprice, composed by Mr. Liu Wen Jin, requires the erhu to be tuned at C-G. There are also occasions requires the erhu to be tuned in fourth.
It is costly and inconvenient to bring many erhus to perform, also it is cumbersome to tune erhus on stage. erhu master George Gao has developed a movable qianjin, or a capo for the erhu, called QQQianjin, this device eliminats the need of many different versions of erhus, it also makes it easy for children to adjust the qianjin hight according to their individual hand sizes
Although most of the modern erhu players have mastered the standard Western notation, many of the erhu repertoire are still printed in a kind of Chinese notation called
Simplified Notation, or
Jianpu, all the notes are represented by numbers, this system is built on so called the
movable DO system, which means the DO, or the tonic note of a Major scale can be assigned to any pitch. The key signature is written as, for instance, 1=D, which means the DO is D on a piano keyboard, thus, 1=D indicates a D major or it's relative modes, such as B minor, or 1=G as a G major or it's relative modes such as E minor, and so on. Here is a chart for you to identify the notes on some of the most common erhu keys:
The rhythm is indicated under or after the notes by dashes and underlines:a note followed by three dashes is a whole note:
The time signature is indicated like this: 2/4, 4/4, 3/4, 6/8, 5/4, 7/8 etc.
The bow of the erhu is made from bamboo and horsehair, the horsehair stretchs in between the both ends of the bamboo, and it runs in between the two strings of the erhu, therefore, you have to apply rosin on both sides of the horsehair. The bow is always attached to the body of the erhu.
Facing the skin side of erhu, put on the loop of the A string onto the right bottom hook, thread the other end of the A string through the bow, qianjin and push it through the hole on the lower peg, wrap it clockwise. Do the same for the D string but do not weave it through the bow, and make sure the string is wrapped counterclockwise on the top peg of the erhu.
Capriccio for Erhu No. 5 - Nakhiposted online
The Nakhi is an ethnic group inhabiting the foothills of the Himalayas in the northwestern part of Yunnan Province, as well as the southwestern part of Sichuan Province in China. The name of Nakhi in Chinese coincides with the meaning of
include the west, though it is totally a coincidence, George Gao is inspired. To experiment with the idea
include the west hidden by the name, the composition is based on variations of a Nakhi style melody which combines with reggae and stride from the Americas, through the process, George Gao showcases many stunning virtuosic, and newly invented techniques for the erhu. The melodies in the middle part is accompanied by dance like rhythmic patterns, it is beautiful and exotic.
Butterfly Loverscelebrates Chinese New Year in San Francisco
Erhu master George Gao is going to perform The Butterfly Lovers on Shaoqin Erhu with San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Shaoqin Erhu is invented by George Gao which has greater range and volume in comparing with a regular erhu. The Butterfly Lovers is the most famous Chinese violin concerto, a Chinese version of Romeo and Juliet saga. The concert is on Feb. 2nd, 2013.
Erhu Master George Gao's virtuosic erhu piece
Mongolian Fantasy is now published online and available for download. Click here for direct download, this download also includes erhu and piano score.
Mongolian Fantasy was commissioned by the
2008 Shanghai Spring International Music Festival International Erhu Competition committee for the final round competition.
Mongolian Fantasy for Erhu and Symphony Orchestra
A new page dedicated to erhu QQQianjin users is online now, this page answers the most asked questions regarding the usage of erhu QQQianjin and provide many creative ideas of using erhu QQQianjin. Click here to access Erhu QQQiaqnjin User Tips.
Erhu Lesson One VCD is one of our most popular erhu playing instruction videos. Through the advancement of our web site development, this video now can be downloaded instantly through our Digital Download Store!
The new erhu lesson include the lesson about erhu left hand shifting, the lesson about erhu vibratos which include the three main kinds of erhu vibratos - sliding vibrato, pressing vibrato and rolling vibrato. All future erhu lessons will be available through our download store, this service will provide instant access for erhu fans and students.
Finally, the long awaited second generation movable erhu qianjin - the QQQianjin has arrived! This qianjin is easy to use, solid, tough and stable enough even for the most demanding erhu players.
The Villais online for download!
The twenty tracks of the hot selling album
George Gao VS. Wang Wei-the Villa is online for download now. Embark on a spiritual journey following these beautiful melodies performed by George Gao on the erhu, Chen Lei Ji on a Qing dynasty qin called
Yang He, Ron Korb on the flutes and Jenny Zhang on the vocal. Many tracks have been selected to be used for many US TV stations and commercials.
Tracks licensed from the CD
Villa, George Gao's music has been used in:
Meng-Cheng Valley and White Rock Rapids used in Greatest History Mysteries Monsters on The History Channel.
Lu Park used on Cube Fabulous - Episodes For Website by Killer Bunny Ent.
Magnolia Park and Ashtree Path used in Ivy Dreams on AZN TV.
Pepper Tree Garden and Lakeside Pavillion used in In The Facility DVD/Web Broadband Steamcasting by Fitphonics
Pepper Tree Garden used in Uncovered: The Hidden Lives of Miss USA on Channel E
Lacquer Tree Garden used in Soapography on Soap Network
Lakeside pavilion in Way of the Warrior on Animal Planet
Pepper Tree Garden in Needledrops,
Best Week Ever on VH1
Rivers of Dogwood in Big Texas on History Channel
The Stream of Powdered Gold in Dunkin Donuts Commercial
Hua-Zi Hill and Lu Park used in
Chinese New Year, The History Of The Holidays on A&E
Meng-Cheng Valley used in
Vampire Secrets on History Channel and in
One Too Many on The Learning Channel
Lacquer Tree Garden used in
Unfabulous on Nickelodeon
Magnolia Park, The Stream Of Powdered Gold used in
One Too Many on The Learning Channel
Magnolia Park used in
Best Week Ever #902 on VH1
Hua-Zi Hill used in
One Too Many on The Learning Channel
As an effort to protect the endangered specie, python, GGAO inc. now sells only man made skinned erhus, thanks to the new technology. George Gao is personally performing using man made skinned erhus as an effort to encourage people to switch over. George Gao has proved through numerous performances that the sound quality and volume of the man made snake skinned erhus are exceptionally good, plus it is not affected by changing weather. George Gao thinks that this is the future of the huqin family. (erhu, gaohu, jinghu, zhonghu, etc.)
Gao's dynamic playing of four pieces, accompanied by Seiler's string orchestra, was electrifying. John Terauds, Classical Music Critic, Toronto Star
......that electric erhu (a two-string Chinese folk instrument that never before sounded like this) Mark J. Estren, Washington Post
it was soloist George Gao who stole the show. Gao delivered whistling sounds, pained cries and even barks as well as dramatic, emotional phrasing as pleasing as any violin virtuoso could create. Geoff Chapman, music critic, Toronto Star
He plays it (erhu) so superlatively well he captures attention, holds it from the first note to last and compels unrestrained admiration for both his skill and his musicianship. Stephen Pedersen, arts reporter, The Mail-Star, The Chronicle-Herald
... George Gao, who dazzled both the audience and the orchestra with his superb performance of Pablo de Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs), and Chen Yao Qing's Galloping horses ... This mesmerizing performance brought the audience spontaneously to its feet. Jerry Ozipko, arts reporter, See Magazine. Edmonton
Maria Millar: A wonderful violinist
Workshops on the erhu and other world instruments in Toronto: [Worlds of Music Toronto]
[erhu-sound tracks composed by Michymar]
烈焰琴弓, erhu master George Gao is a member of: [Bowfire]
Other places related to George Gao:
[ALL things China & Chinese Gardens]
[erhu-George Gao recorded for Ron Korb]
George Gao's erhu student [Patty Chan]