Ancient Music

The Erh-Hu

Oddities

    The Erh-Hu is often called the Chinese Fiddle for obvious reasons. It has only two strings, tuned a fifth apart, traveling from a string nut down to a tiny bridge sitting in the center of a small snake-skin drumhead. The tension on the horsehair bow is gotten by the players fingers but the most unusual feature is that the bow hair passes between the two strings permanently attaching the bow to the instrument. The player shifts the bow from one string to the other by raising or lowering his bow. The strings are stopped by a light finger-touch.

    In light of the above, the instrument has a practical range of only about two octaves and a nasal tone that is a learned taste, but a skilled performer can elicit not only elaborate tunes but slides, squawks and rasps. I once heard a man recognisably imitate the cries of several barnyard animals during a performance.

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