We are back with another “How-To” video!
Have you ever heard of this really high pitched pluck instrument called the Liuqin, or the banjo-looking Zhongruan? At least, you’ve heard of a pipa, we’re sure of it! Has it ever occurred to you how these four-stringed instruments stay in tune? Are they easy to tune like the erhu? What do we even tune them to? well, fear not! We’re here to answer all of these questions!
Firstly, yes! Tuning these instruments are relatively quick , easy and ‘direct’ (definitely easier than tuning the Guzheng!). Just like tuning the Guzheng, all you need is a chromatic tuner, picks/faux nails, and basic understanding of standard tuning for each of the 3 instruments.
Let’s talk about the strings. Visualize you holding the instrument, the string on the far right of the instrument (which happens to be the thickest string) is simply named “4th String”, followed by “3rd string”, “2nd string” , and finally “1st string” as you travel leftward along the instrument.
So why start on a descending order? That’s because the standard tuning is usually written in this sequence on musical scores (eg. G key for Zhongruan is 1515).
The standard tuning for Zhongruan is G2, D3, G3, D4. The Liuqin shares the same standard tuning as the Zhongruan, only one octave higher, so it’s G3, D4, G4, D5.
The standard tuning for pipa is the most different amongst the three instruments, it’s A2, D3, E3 and A3 . The numerical value behind the alphabets lets you know at what range (how low or how high) the notes are. Middle C is C4, so you can use that as a reference to know if you’re tuning too much or too little.
Now, let’s get to know the placement of the tuning pegs and its corresponding strings.
The Zhongruan has a set of mechanical tuning pegs (just think guitar), so the pegs placement is different from Liuqin & Pipa. We’ve gone and attach the screen captures for the instruments’ pegs placement.
Next, lets talk about the actual tuning. Let’s go back to visualizing that you’re holding your instrument. From your perspective, turning the pegs anti-clockwise tightens your strings, which will make the note higher. We did a more detailed explanation of scales and whether you should tighten or loosen in the Guzheng tuning video, click here to watch it.
Tuning the Zhongruan is rather direct, so let’s move on to Liuqin.
One special feature the Liuqin has that the other two don’t, is that the Liuqin has 4 fine adjusters at the bottom end of the instrument. Liuqin strings break easier so turning the pegs requires a smaller turning motion as compared to the Zhongruan and Pipa. Turning the fine adjusters down causes the pitch to go up. Due to the fact they’re not mechanical tuning pegs, tuning the Liuqin (and Pipa) requires us to push the pegs in while tuning, you may want to refer to the video to see how it is done.
Lastly, one quick helpful tip for tuning these plucking instruments is that if you ever find your strings tuned slightly too high, you can always pull the strings. Yes, you read it right, pull ’em strings. Again, you may view the instruction video to get a sense of how it is done.
That’s about it, enjoy the video! Do talk to us if you have any more enquiries on tuning instruments (chinese). See you in our next video! Happy tuning:)