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古箏五問 (英文版) Five Things to Know about Guzheng

今日的文章是以英文為主,主要簡單介紹古箏給不懂中文的朋友看的。希望大家能體諒。

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This time I decided to write an article only in English to briefly introduce what Guzheng is to those who are interested in knowing more. Enjoy!

If you’re wondering what this instrument is, we have an answer for you! The Guzheng, also known as the Chinese zither, is a wood plucking instrument that can have 18, 21, 23…etc. strings. The most popular ones usually have 21 strings.

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1. How do Guzheng players play Guzheng?

Guzheng players wear picks (i.e. fake nails). They are not the ones you can get from the nail salon. In the past, there were usually made of turtle shell. However, this is endangering the lives of turtles. These days, Guzheng picks can be made of ox horn, plastic and other man-made materials. Guzheng players use a cloth tape (sometimes paper tape) that was made to tape the picks on top of their fingers (except the little fingers). Some of the songs would play nicely with picks on both hands. Some songs would play better with picks only on the right hand. The picks are not only to protect your fingers from blistering, but also make sure that the sound comes out bright and crisp when the string is plucked.

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2. Are the bridges on a Guzheng move-able?

Yes. Moving the bridges helps a Guzheng stays in tune. Placing the bridge to the right will make the pitch higher whereas placing it to the left will make the pitch lower.

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3. Why does the sheet music look so bizarre? Why is there no staff?

Guzheng players usually use numbered notation but not staff. The numbered notation still has bars and rests, but it replaces the notes with numbers. To represent a higher note there will be dot(s) on the top and for a lower note there will be dot(s) on the bottom. Each dot on top or bottom represents the octave that should be played. If there are two lines, the bottom line is for the left hand and the top line is for the right hand. This is the same as reading a Grand Staff.

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4. Even though they’re numbers, don’t refer to them as 1 2 3’s.

Guzheng players use their notes as solfège. Instead of reading the music as 1 2 3 or C D E, they would refer to their music as do re mi.

5. There is no “4” or “7” string.

Guzheng is tuned in a major pentatonic scale.  For “4,” they would bend down the “3” string until we hear the “4” sound For “7,” they would bend down the “6” string until we hear the “7” sound. It takes practice to always reach the right pitch, but it will eventually become muscle memory.

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