Suona - Chinese Woodwind Instrument
Known for its extremely loud sound and distinctively Northern flavour, the Chinese suona is a military instrument that has the ability to instinctively take the lead of all other instruments when played.
Commonly known in Asia not as a military instrument but more for its use at weddings and funeral processions, some have naturally associated the instrument’s blasting of sound with good luck, the ability to chase evil spirits away and to generally usher in festivities. Aside from its military role, this Chinese trumpet was also typically used day-to-day. Some musicians claim that the Chinese suona traces its roots back to India, where numerous Indian trumpets bear resemblance to it.
Today, the suona can refer to different trumpets that span across multiple registers. The largest suonas can be up to five chi (one chi being the equivalent of one third of a metre), while the smallest suonas can only measure up to a few inches long. Thus, suonas can be categorized into two broad categories based on size.
The modern Chinese orchestra uses both the traditional suona as well as reformed suonas, which help fill in inadequacies in range that are unattainable using the traditional ones. Just like the dizi and the traditional sheng, the suona is not produced in a standard key. As a highly traditional instrument, a single soprano suona is not able to execute pieces with a myriad of key changes. Thus, like dizi performers, most suona musicians bring more than one instrument along for performances with an orchestra.
Just like the sheng, the traditional suona has been reformed to produce variants such as the alto suona, tenor suona and bass suona. These instruments are capable of producing notes in lower registers. Nevertheless, unlike the sheng, the traditional suona is used alongside the reformed suona in the Chinese orchestra.