Considering investing in a sheng of your own? Shengs do not require tuning each and every time you want to play it, unlike some other instruments. However, in order to ensure accurate pitching and good tone of a sheng, it is important to maintain the instrument in an optimal condition.
Things that you should look out for include:
1. Humidity: Water vapour may condense on the huangpians (metal reed) of a sheng after a period of intensive use or in climates with high humidity, such as Singapore. This will alter the pitch of a reed, causing it to become increasingly flat. Furthermore, a damp, dark and warm windchest is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to multiply – and nobody wants to get sick playing a sheng! In order to keep your sheng clean and dry, take a tissue and lightly dab at each huangpian after playing and air the windchest every once in a while. Store it in a relatively dry location.
2. Temperature: Prolonged exposure to sunlight or heat will alter the overall pitch of the instrument. Playing into a sheng left in extremely cold conditions immediately without warming it up gradually may also cause problems in the huangpian, which is a delicate part of the instrument. Try to store your sheng indoors, as far as possible.
3. Oral hygiene: Avoid eating food or drinking sugary drinks before playing. While this may not directly cause a sheng to go out of tune, a lack of oral hygiene contributes to the accumulation of bacteria within the windchest, and may potentially attract unwanted visitors to set up camp in your instrument. Try to brush or rinse your mouth before playing, and in the case of keyed shengs – always remember to rinse your mouthpiece after playing.
4. Location: Failing to store your sheng in a case when not in use may result in unwanted mishaps that could create dents or cracks in the instrument. This could permanently alter the tone of a sheng and require replacement of parts to rectify.
It is only by treating your instrument well will you derive the most out of your instrument. Hence, try your best to keep your sheng in good condition!
Check out our EMTV 19 on the maintenance of Sheng below:
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