Tanbo - Chinese Plucked String Instrument

It can be said that the variety of Chinese plucked string instruments may be more extensive than any part of the world. Due to its long history and broad development, ancient traditional musical scores that have been passed down have mostly been written for this section.

From the instrumental structure of a Chinese orchestra, we can see that it resembles a Western orchestra. It contains a bowed string section, a wind section and a percussion section. The Chinese orchestra, however, contains an extra section – the plucked string instruments section. It is interesting to note that, the Chinese orchestra does not have a brass section. The closest thing to a brass instrument in a Chinese orchestra is the sheng, which have metal pipes for amplification.

The term “plucked string instruments” refers to the “plucking-string” and “struck-string” categories. You play the instruments in this section by striking the strings using your fingers or a plectrum. There are hundreds of types of Chinese plucked string instruments. The more common ones are the standard issues in the Chinese orchestra like yangqin, liuqin, pipa, ruan, guzheng, sanxian and konghou. Other less common plucked string instruments are the guqin and yueqin.

The plucked stringed instrument section was incorporated into the Chinese orchestra mainly because of the pipa and guzheng. These two instruments have a huge influence on Chinese traditional music, and many pioneers of the modern Chinese orchestra play the plucked string instruments themselves.

The plucked string instruments sounds lively and charismatic, with overtones that have been said to sound like female voices.

To learn more about the different types of Chinese plucked string instruments, click on the links below:

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