Erhus

Erhus

Are you looking to add to your collection of folk world string instruments ? The erhu is a two-stringed bowed musical instrument that is often referred to as a Chinese violin or southern fiddle, and is similar to Middle Eastern rebabs. It is the most popular instrument in the huqin family of string instruments played by various ethnic groups across China and can easily be featured in both traditional and contemporary music arrangements.

Structure

Erhus are built with a long stick-like neck that is attached to a small sound box at the base, much like banjos. The sound box is traditionally covered with python skin on its front with two strings stretched from the base to the tuning pegs at the top. A small loop of string, known as a qian jin, is placed around the neck and strings to hold a small wooden bridge in place.

Sound

The erhu has a characteristic sound that is produced as the python skin vibrates during bowing. Unlike a western-style violin, there is no fingerboard, so the player stops the strings without touching the neck of the instrument. Rather than the bow passing over the strings, it is drawn between them with the strings strung very close to each other. The inside string is usually tuned to D with the outside string a fifth higher at A.

Python Skin

The use of python skin to manufacture erhus is carefully regulated by the Chinese government as part of its Law on the Protection of Endangered Species. Erhus are now manufactured from farm-raised pythons, rather than wild species, and should be issued with a certificate stating their sustainable manufacture from legal skin sources.

Wood

Erhus are usually made from dense and heavy hardwoods with red sandalwood and other woods from the genus Pterocarpus favoured. Black wood and aged red wood is also used, while some erhus are constructed from old pieces of furniture. The price of erhus depends on the quality of the wood used and the craftsmanship that goes into making each instrument.