The snakeskin on the erhu is what many consider the most important part of an Erhu.
It is like the soul of the erhu. The scales on the snakeskin is like the thumbprint of an erhu – no two pieces of snakeskin are exactly alike.
The snakeskin can affect the tone of the erhu in various ways.
Let’s look at some of them:
Ok let’s get this out of the way first.
A synthetic skin erhu really sounds like an erhu with real snakeskin, but it will never sound as good as the real thing.
You might not know what you are missing if you only have a synthetic skin erhu.
But if you have played an erhu with real snakeskin, you will know that the tone of a real snakeskin erhu has more sweetness, more life and more soul.
The pros of owning a synthetic skin erhu are
1) Its environmentally friendly
2) It gets you across borders without hassle (We have CITES certificate to resolve this problem if you want a real snakeskin erhu)
3) It is more resistant to climate changes.
Having a better tone is never one of them.
If you really want to get one, we have 3 very good sounding options for you:
a) Starter Synthetic Skin Rosewood Eco Erhu by Raoyang Beifang
b) Popular Synthetic Skin Black Sandalwood Eco Erhu by Raoyang Beifang
c) Professional Aged Rosewood Octagonal Erhu by Rao Yang Bei Fang with Synthetic Skin and Bronze Tuner
Usually people will say that the skin from the snakes from the wild gives better tone.
That is because the snake from the wild has much more exercise as opposed to snakes in cages.
With more exercise means their skin has better elasticity which translates to better tone.
Also, the snake in the wild grows up naturally while farmed snakes are said to be given supplements to make them grow faster.
Not that you have a choice though, as majority of erhus are made from farmed snakes.
The wild snakeskins usually end up on very high end erhus. The makers would not want to waste it on average quality wood.
Not overly small and not overly big.
My experience with both extreme end is not too good.
For those in between, not necessarily snakeskin with big scales will sound better than snakeskin with small scales.
You really have to play it to know which is better.
But if you do not have the luxury of testing it (or do not have me to test it), choose the ones with the bigger scales.
At the very least, bigger scales look better aesthetically.
An Erhu with thin and loose snakeskin will sound muffled and lacking in articulation.
The starter Erhus usually have such snakeskin.
The snakeskin of better Erhus however, fall into these 3 categories:
a) Average thickness and not too tight
b) Average thickness and tight
c) Thick and Tight
These erhus sound pretty decent from the start and requires not too much break in time.
Their tone will improve no doubt the longer you play them but you roughly know how these erhus will sound right from the start.
Someone referred to these kind of erhus as ‘instant meals’ as they can be cooked fairly fast.
If you are beginner looking for a better Erhu it would be advisable to get one of these so you would not need to break it in.
Here are some of our favourites:
Professional Aged Rosewood Erhu by Yu Kai Ming
Professional Black Sandalwood Erhu by Hu Han Rou
Concert Aged Rosewood Erhu by Shanghai Dunhuang
Concert Premium Aged Rosewood Erhu by Hu Han Rou
The problem with tight skin is that it sounds thin and sharp in the beginning.
You have to play it for a relatively longer period for before the skin softens and the tone starts to round.
The lifespan of an erhu with tight skin is longer than “Average thickness and not too tight”, i.e. the tone stays good for a longer period before it starts to deteriorate.
These Erhus are suitable for players with some experience and strength in bowing.
If you bow like a mouse it would take a million years to break in the snakeskin.
Some examples from our store:
Concert Aged Rosewood Erhu by Wan Qi Xing
Concert Premium Aged Rosewood Erhu by Yu Kai Ming
Concert Violet Sandalwood Erhu by Hu Han Rou
After investing quite a bit of your money on a good erhu, the maker wants to make sure your erhu sounds good and sounds good for the longest time.
Hence they will slap on a thick and awesome piece of skin, and do it tight, making the assumption that if you are buying a high end erhu, you should possess some bowing ability to open up the sound eventually.
Some of them sound great already from the start, and you can be sure there is a lot more room for improvement.
Some examples from our webstore:
Exquisite Ming Qing Aged Rosewood Erhu by Yu Kai Ming
Exquisite Indian Small Leaf Violet Sandalwood Erhu by Xu Chun Feng
So there you have it. Some information for you to consider when you are buying an erhu.
Do free feel to email us at [email protected] if you need more advice in choosing an erhu.
Thx for the advice. I will appreciate the demo video on how to select an Erhu that sounds good? Thx!