If you have been listening to tunes played on the Erhu, you would most probably have heard the song Erquan Yingyue by Abing. If you have not, this is what it sounds like:
Many people are mesmerized by this tune and have emailed me on how to get their Erhu to sound like that. Well, for that you need a special Erhu called the Erquan Erhu.
Compared to the standard Erhu, it has a slightly bigger resonator and is also slightly longer in length. It is also strung with special strings called Erquan strings like this. Erquan strings are slightly thicker and is specially made to be tuned lower to G D.
But suppose you don’t want to buy one Erhu specially for this song, can’t you just tune your current Erhu down to G D? Well of course you cannot. Like all string instruments, if the strings are built for e.g. D and A, if you lower it too much the low tension in the string will cause a lot of problems.
First the tone and volume of the instrument will be adversely affected. Also, when you push and pull the bow you might get different pitches.
So can you buy a set of Erquan Erhu strings and put them on your current Erhu and tune to G D?
I would say it depends on your Erhu. Some Erhus are more responsive than others and those Erhu would work better. When I say responsive, I mean it takes less effort on your bowing hand to get a clean sound out of it.
Erquan strings are thicker than normal Erhu strings and thicker strings require more effort to bow. So if your Erhu is not very responsive to begin with, putting Erquan strings on the Erhu will make it even more difficult to bow.
We did an experiment with our Shanghai Rosewood Erhu to see if putting Erquan strings on it works.
The verdict is yes it does work with that particular piece of Shanghai Rosewood Erhu, though it still does not sound as good as a true blue Erquan Erhu. We can maybe improve things with a slightly bigger bridge and a bow with more bow hair.
Watch the video below to hear the tone after changing the strings on a standard Erhu to Erquan strings.
Whether it works for your Erhu is another matter though. If you are itching to play Erquan Yingyue, click here to buy a set of Erquan strings to try.
If you wish to purchase a real Erquan Erhu, we have currently 2 pieces in stock. One is made from Rosewood and the other Aged Rosewood. Do email us at [email protected] for more details.
This is a great article, thank you Sung Wah!
I have an idea for a video that I think only you could make.. What if you compare the sound of these setups:
1) A normal erhu with erquan strings tuned to A-E and G-D
2) An erquan erhu with erquan strings tuned to A-E and G-D
3) A zhonghu with zhonghu strings tuned to A-E and G-D
For A-E tuning you could play Er Quan Ying Yue, for G-D – some famous zhonghu tune.
I’m really interested to hear the differences. I’m sure other people would like it too.