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Chinese Musical Instruments

 Construction

The sanxian (three-string lute) is an important Chinese plucked string instrument. It consists of a neck and soundbox, both ends of which are covered with snakeskin. The inner and outer strings of the sanxian are tuned an octave apart, with the central string tuned to a fourth or a fifth. The instrument has a range of three octaves. The traditional sanxian comes in large and small versions. The strings of the small sanxian may be tuned to A, d, and a, or to d, a, and d1. The large version is tuned to G, d, and g. The sanxian is played by pressing the strings with the left hand, while the right hand plucks the strings with the fingers or a pick. Sanxian music is lively and upbeat. The instrument is often used to accompany shuochang (spoken song) music or regional opera, or as part of the Chinese orchestra.

Traditional solo works for the sanxian include Hehuan Ling (Coming Together in Happiness) and Hai Qing Na E (Hai Qing Grasps the Goose).

 History

The sanxian is generally considered to have its origins in the Qin Dynasty. Recent archeological excavations have yielded tomb paintings of sanxian players dating from the Liao-Song-Yuan period .

 (3.6) Yangqin (hammered dulcimer)

 Construction

 The traditional Chinese yangqin (hammered dulcimer) consists of a trapezoidal or butterfly-shaped soundbox, with steel strings strung across two bridges on the top surface. There are three types of yangqin - eight-tone with a range from f1 to c2, ten-tone with a range from d1 to d3, and twelve-tone with a range from c to e3. Contemporary professional orchestras generally use the twelve-tone type, which is capable of producing a complete chromatic scale. The yangqin is played on a table, with bamboo hammers held in each hand used to strike the strings on either side of the two bridges. The yangqin, with its clear and melodious tone and extensive range, is used in all types of traditional music.

Traditional works for the yangqin include Longchuan (Dragon Boat), Su Wu (Su Wu Herding Sheep), and Jiangjun Ling (The General Leads the Troops).
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