Although you might not recognize the name “erhu”(二胡; pinyin: èrhú, [êɻxǔ]), you would immediately know it’s distinctive sound. One of a family of stringed, bowed instruments from China, the erhu is sometimes called a Chinese fiddle, a 2 stringed violin, a southern or spike fiddle and it’s origins date back at least a thousand years ago to when it was brought to China by the Xi people of Central Asia.
From these humble beginning, the versatile and evocative sound of the erhu has won it a major place in Chinese orchestras, as well as a starring role in modern musical ensembles including, jazz, pop and even rock groups.
How Is The Erhu Made?
The erhu is an unusual instrument in many ways. It consists of a small sounding box made of a hard wood, such as sandlewood, that was traditionally covered with snake or python skin. Some musicians and orchestras; such as the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, have recently sought out more ecologically-friendly versions and developed a series of erhu and related instruments that are made from a polyester membrane instead of snakeskin.
The bow used for an erhu was originally made of a bamboo stick strung with horsehair.
Is It A Violin?
Although the sound of the erhu is similar to the Western violin in many ways, there are several striking differences. First, the erhu has two strings and the violin has four. Next, the erhu is played on the lap of the musician while the violin rests between the shoulder and chin of its player. Also, on the erhu the strings are pressed but do not touch the fingerboard and the bow does not leave the strings. On the violin, fingers touch the fretboard to create different notes and the bow will move on and off the strings while it is being played.
If you take a look at the video below from Danwei TV, you’ll be able to see many of the unique qualities of this beautiful traditional instrument from China.
If you’d like to print out a version of the erhu coloring page seen above, you can visit the links below.
Playing The Erhu
One musician comments on playing the instrument and performs a popular folk song called “Running River” on the erhu.
B+W coloring page of the erhu from DARIA’s world music for children site:
Free Coloring Pages of World Music Instruments from DARIA:
Color poster of erhu plus b+w coloring page from TeachersPayTeachers:http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/The-Erhu-Chinese-Violin-Instruments-From-Around-The-World-1037355