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yueni

Learning a Chinese Musical Instrument

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yueni

I am thinking of learning to play either the 古筝 or 琵琶 this next year (BLCU offers classes in these two instruments as well as the 二胡 and the 笛子). However, I'm torn as to which one to learn over the next year. I know I won't be able to master either instrument in just one year (I've had 10+ years of piano experience), but I thought it would be nice to learn a different instrument.

Here's my question. I'm trying to make a decision between the two instruments, and have talked with a few friends about this, especially two who have experience with Chinese instruments. Amongst the things I've taken into consideration is:

- shipping (the 琵琶 would be easier to transport than the 古筝 as it is a little smaller)

- availability of continuing classes other than China (for where I'll be in the US when I return, I couldn't find much)

- prior musical training (I was told that due to my piano background, the 古筝 would be slightly easier as it has some of the same ideas as the piano)

- playing as a music group (琵琶 more than the 古筝 tends to be included in other musical arrangements)

Is there anything else I'm missing out? I've already listened to recordings of people playing both instruments to see which one I prefer better, but I honestly like both. =P I might end up having to flip a coin to see which one I end up choosing...

Also, are there any artists/composers for either instrument that you would recommend me to listen to?

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leeyah

I'm a fan of Chinese Classical Music and I just love the sound of 古筝 & 二胡, especially the way they are used today to spice up a pop tune (as in Wang Lee Hom's 花田错,Kenny Kwan's月光光, etc). So, from me just some links you may like to browse:

古曲 Chinese Classical Music

http://info.guqu.net/guzhengmingjia/

http://info.guqu.net/erhumingjia/

http://www.erhuchina.com/

http://www.erhuart.cn/

古筝名家 video

二胡名家 video

琵琶名家 video

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Meng Lelan

Pipa is my favorite. Go to youtube or something like that and type in Zhang Qiang to hear his recordings for the pipa. Liu Fang also.

Do you have to buy or rent the instrument?

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芳芳

I also love chinese traditionnal music and just started 古筝 classes. I also have a 10 years piano education, and I am finding the guzheng rather easy to begin, the teacher told me that because of the piano background, progress in the beginning are very fast since the fingers are already used to work. The job is very different from piano, but the fingers are already used to control the sound and you already have developped the skills to use your fingers, the position, the habit of reading scores (the scores in chinese music are very different from classical western music, but much easier in a way).

So, starting guzheng in these condition sounds easy, then achieving to reach a satisfying level must be another story...

On the other end, I admit it is not the easiest item to travel with or to ship between 2 countries compared to pipa or 古琴. I had considered trying the 古琴 but i am lazy for seeking teachers and somehow easily enthousiastic in starting new things, and since there is a music school teaching guzheng just 5mn from my house, i said to myself: ' oh that's a sign! Let's study guzheng then!". Guzheng might be less intellectual than guqin (have been told it used to be a lettered stuff, guzheng being more like a good girl's stuff), the latest being easier to carry/ship also. But well, here I choosed one, and learning it is really a lot of fun. I really love the sound.

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yueni

I should have added that in my post. If I learn the pipa, then I have to buy the instrument right off the bat. If I learn the guzheng, then I can rent the instrument for the semester.

The first instrument I decided against was the 二胡. For whatever reason, it didn't appeal to me. As for the dizi, I'm just pretty terrible at playing wind instruments to begin with, so that was an easy no as well.

My friend who plays the guzheng also has a 10+ year piano education, and she says that this has resulted in rapid improvement over the one year she was able to take guzheng classes. It's been just over 10 months now, and she can play some fairly complicated beginner/intermediate pieces. And you're right, it does sound pretty!

On the other hand, I was told that the pipa requires a long period of mastery, but the music you can play, especially in ensembles was quite remarkable! I was pretty astonished. Unfortunately, there are less of those opportunities for the guzheng.

Thanks so much for the links to the videos. I shall slowly go through them and see if they help me make a decision!

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Meng Lelan

Where would you buy the pipa?

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isela

I just want to say that I have no idea how to play any of these traditional instruments (I do really enjoy listening to them, and have listened a whole lot, though). And I will be TOTALLY TOTALLY impressed by any of you who can master them. Best of Luck!

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Meng Lelan

yueni, leeyah:

Go to this link if you can, skip the interview at the beginning, about two minutes into this video listen to Zhang Qiang play pipa in his hotel room - this blew me away, almost ran out to buy a pipa for myself ---

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2C5xVeSUjh4

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Hofmann

I would take the 箏. I Iike the timbre and range more.

...and I like glissandi.

...and I like

.

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zixingche

I would go for the pipa, for purely practical reasons. A guzheng is huge and is very awkward to carry around.

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Meng Lelan

Where did yueni go?

A pipa is easy to carry, but I was wondering do they make a hard shell case for the pipa? That way the pipa doesn't get so bumped up during travel.

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Caidanbi

Pipa and Guzheng are my favorites! I'd love to learn them both, but there are no teachers here :( However, I do have a pipa ^-^ I can't play anything yet, but I have fun messing with it anyways. I chose it over the guzheng because I thought it would be more portable. Now I'm kind of sorry I didn't get a guzheng though, just because I've found a store in Chicago that sells them...

For both instruments, I'd recommend listening to Liu Fang, she is so good!!

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Meng Lelan

You have a pipa!? Where did you get yours? I agree Liu Fang is good. Zhang Qiang also.

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Caidanbi

Yes, I got it for my birthday last year. I ordered it online, from China. Here is the website:

http://www.shoppingchinanow.com/shop/chinese-pipa.html

I got the one with the painting of a girl playing the pipa on the back. It's a beautiful instrument, in terms of both looks and sound. Also, I had many questions before I ordered, and they were really nice and helpful, and always answered my emails really quickly. I was very happy with their service, and the quality of the instrument ^-^

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Meng Lelan

But what do you do if the pipa breaks, goes out of tune, strings break, how do you repair it?

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taylor04

I would STRONGLY recommend the guzheng. I used to take piano lessons at a music store, went there every day and they were like a second family to me. Anyways my point is, they said guzheng is extremely easy to learn, while pipa and erhu are very hard. Also considering the fact that if you return to the states it will be hard to find a teacher... I can't give you advice from my personal experience, only advice from experience of a bunch of music teachers in a piano store

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Caidanbi

Meng Lelan, I found a couple of stores in the US that sell pipa strings online, I already ordered some. One of the stores, Clarion Music, is in CA, and they sell pipas too, so I'd imagine they could fix it (or recommend someone who could) if I ever had the need.

As for tuning, you have to tune it yourself. It's not the easiest thing in the world, but I've done it a couple of times. If you have one of those digital tuners like they use for guitars it helps a lot.

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Meng Lelan

Caidanbi, wow - your information helps a lot. I may PM you for more information because I could be going to China this summer and getting a pipa there to bring back for someone in my family. I guess a guitar tuner is something to use for tuning a pipa. But how do you teach yourself to play the pipa?

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Caidanbi

Feel free to PM me for any info you may want, I'm happy to help :D

I haven't been able to practice much as of yet, because of work and stuff. But I have a book called Fast Track Learning Pipa (琵琶速成演奏法)that I got from Yes Asia. I also have 2 sets of VCDs that cover a lot of different aspects, they actually came with my pipa, and are English subtitled! They gave me a beginner set and an advanced one, along with a really big book of sheet music. Plus I know of a few other places where I can get more VCDs (not subtitled) when/if I need to. There's actually quite a few options out there if you know where to look ^-^

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