Thursday, August 6, 2009


Plucked String Instrument

The Ruan is also known as the moon guitar, and comes in a variety of different sizes and pitches. It is fitted with four strings and frets. Its soundboard is wooden. Its appearance is much later in Chinese history.

Ruan (moon-shaped short-necked lute) is a Chinese fretted instrument dating back to 140-87 B.C. The name is a shortened form of Ruan Xian, a musician and one of the "seven Sages of Bamboo Grove" of the 3rd century (the Six Dynasties). Pictorial evidence, excavated from a tomb of his time in Nanjing, depicting Ruan Xian's performance of this instrument, confirms that its construction was roughly the same as that of today. Later Ruan was once termed as qin pipa (dating to the Qin dynasty between 221-207 BC) or yueqin (moon-shaped short-necked lute). It is a short necked Chinese foiled lute, 4 strings, played by plectrum. It is used by orchestras as well as for accompanying operatic performances. The ruan consists of three parts: resonator, neck and head. On the neck are 24 frets in half steps. Four strings, tuned to fifths (like a mandolin), provide a wide range of notes. It comes in several sizes according to their different ranges. Neat delicate tone. The ruan is now constructed as a family of soprano, alto, tenor and bass, a development intended to increases its range and effectiveness in the modern Chinese orchestra. The alto and the tenor are commonly used. A plectrum is needed in performance. Mellow in tone quality, it is often seen in ensembles or in accompaniments, and as a solo instrument in recent years.

Mouth organs, such as the Khen, were first described in China about 3,000 years ago. They are free-reed instruments with a vibrating reed fitted in each pipe. The player blows into the wind chamber and sounds individual pipes by covering the finger holes. The Khen has six, fourteen, or sixteen bamboo pipes in a wood or ivory wind chamber. The largest of these instruments have pipes that are ten feet long.

The Calung, also known as the Jublag, is a Southeast Asian musical instrument. It's a metallophone which means that it is a metal xylophone which can play melodic percussion. They are cousins of the vibraphone. These are Balinese musical instruments specifically. The function of one pair of calung or jublag is to play the main melody. The difference from penyacah is that the size is bigger, the sound is lower, and from the way it's played. Penyacah is played more often, usually two penyacah to one calung. It is also played with wooden mallets that have rubber heads for a soft sound. The wooden frames are carved and painted.

The sitar is a North Indian instrument related to the vina, an Indian zither. Played strings run over arched metal frets to the peg-box. Sympathetic strings run under the frets in the troughed neck to lateral pegs.

The thin-bowled wooden resonator (coconut shells are sometimes used) of this instrument is covered with water buffalo hide. On the back of the resonator is carved a human face. The bone finger-board and peg box are ornamented with seven varying bands of a predominately triangluar motif. At the top of the finger-board is another face very different from the one on the resonator. The strings are tuned a fifth apart and are played with a loose bow.

The frame of this gangsa is carved with an elaborate depiction of animals from Balinese legends, and topped with six metal bars over bamboo resonators. The gangsa is part of Indonesian gamelon orchestras.

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