Recently I got an email from a customer saying that his old erhu is sounding grainy even after he rosins the bow. I asked him for some pictures of his old erhu.
After taking a look at it, I concluded the problem is with the quality of the erhu itself. Changing the accessories might help a little but it is severely limited by the erhu itself.
Sometimes from pictures itself you might be able to find out if the second hand erhu you wanted to buy on eBay is worth buying or not.
Below are the pictures my customer sent me with my comments:
This is the whole shot of the erhu. The yellow coloured pegs are a dead giveaway that this is a low end erhu. Usually the pegs are the same material as the rest of the erhu. But for low end erhus, they like to use 黄杨木 (Boxwood).
Nothing much to see here, except that the owner used tape to hold down the snakeskin protector that is coming loose. You can just use superglue to stick it down.
The headstock of the erhu has came loose. Luckily it came off at the point where the decorative piece joins the wood. It can be easily attached back.
The head of the erhu where the decorative part came out.
The bottom of the erhu. Looks fine but seems like a really old erhu.
The erhu bow does not cut it. It has little hair and the hair is black which gives a scratchy tone.
Can’t really make out the material of the qianjin, but it seems fine. Will do better if it is retied though.
It comes with bronze tuners. Usually good erhus do not come with bronze tuners (There are exceptions though). But bronze tuners, paired with boxwood pegs with over lacquered body – probably a low end erhu.
The snakeskin with flaky scales looks to be poor quality. Definitely will not sound too fantastic. The erhu bridge looks like those lowest quality erhu bridges that we junk whenever we see them.
The decorative piece on the back looks fine, though the top right side seems more inwards.
The snakeskin looks pretty sagged. There’s nothing much you can do about it. The sound will be weak and muffled. The damper below the bridge seems too thick, unless it is a sponge. Sponges are not the best quality for dampers in my opinion.
Conclusion: From the pictures we are pretty sure this is a low end erhu. Even though you can improve the tone of the erhu by changing the strings, bridge, qianjin, damper and bow, there is a limit to how much it can be improved mainly due to the tension and quality of the snakeskin.
(P.s. Special thanks to Heloise George for the pictures)