Percussion Musical Instruments
The most remarkable ancient bell set has been found in Hubei. This set of
bells is well designed, and has five octaves. In addition, there are
inscriptions with regard to swings, among which there are many music terms
showing the advanced development of the ancient musical instrument. So far, it
has the largest number and scale of bells that are also the best preserved. It
is truly a wonder in human history. The music performed by the bells sounds
clear and bright, like the lyric of songs, so it is also called gezhong, meaning
bell of songs.
In 1982, the ethnic music instrument designing factory and the Machinery
Manufacturing Factory of Wuhan created a new type of chime bells in duplication
of the ancient ones. These bells have improved platform performances and modern
music. Arranged in three lines, there are 24 pieces of bells, each of which can
produce two tones.
The gong is a traditional Chinese percussion instrument, which
has played a very important role in ethnic bands. It is widely used not only in
ethnic bands, folk concerts, dramas, operas, and singing and dancing, but also
in celebrations, boat races, lion dances, labor races, and harvest festivities.
Gongs can be made from metal, bamboo, or other materials. The gong belongs to
the metal percussion instrument, and comes from the melted copper. The structure
is quite simple; it is shaped like a circular arc. The performers use wooden
sticks to strike the middle of the gong, which makes the instrument vibrate,
hence producing sound.
The ethnic groups in Southwest China were the first to play the instrument.
At around the 2nd century BC, the gong gradually became popular in the Chinese
mainland because of strengthened cultural exchanges. The military leaders at
that time often used this instrument to command their armies.
Over a long period, about 30 kinds of gongs developed, due to the
instrument's popularity in different areas and occasions. The big and small
gongs are the most commonly used.
The big gong is the biggest among all those similar instruments. It measures
30 to 100 centimeters in diameter. It features a deep and powerful
pronunciation, soft tone, and long after sound. In the grand musical bands, the
big gong is often used to strengthen the rhythm. In dramas, it is used to add
romance and give prominence to the characters' personality.
The small gong is divided into alt, mediant, and bourdon, which may measure
21 to 22.5 centimeters in diameter. It is widely used as well, especially in Peking
opera, pingju (a local opera in North and
Northeast China), and many other local operas, as well as folk art forms,
dramas, pipe and percussion instruments, and the folk dancing.