Friday, February 8, 2013


On Tuesday I went to the Hakka Cultural Museum in Pingtung.  There was a guy there playing the Erhu.  I've seen the erhu before--on the NYC subways, for instance--but I never really took a close look before.  I talked to the guy playing for a bit and he showed me the instrument.
He pointed out that since the instrument only has two strings, the non-bowing hand has to jump around a lot more than on the violin.  (My violin playing friends may beg to differ, but he claimed that because of the limitations imposed by only having two strings, the erhu is a harder instrument to play than the violin.)

The bow on an erhu is pretty much the same as a violin bow.  It even has horse tail hair.  However, the hairs are really loose.  I asked him why this was, and he showed me that since the hairs are loose, you can use your bow hand to push and pull the hairs back and forth.  The bow hairs actually go right between (!) the two strings, so by pushing and pulling the bow hairs, the player can apply more or less pressure to each string.  In the picture below he is pushing the hairs down and thereby applying pressure to the string on his right side.
Pretty cool!

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