The Guzheng is known to be a highly expressive instrument capable of performing glissando, chords as well as the melody lines, and such techniques are possible due to how the instrument is designed. Today we will be sharing with you about the different parts of the Guzheng that give it its elegant appearance as well as versatility.
The guzheng’s main body is made up of a rectangular hollow wooden box, with the top surface protruding to a certain degree. On top of the body lie the strings, that are tied across the 2 bridges at the ends of the the body.
The left end is traditionally labeled the 鳳尾 (feng wei), which translates to the phoenix tail, where the bridge forms an S shape. On the other hand, the bridge on the right side where the player plucks the strings is of a straight vertical line. Under the bridge lies tuning pins, where each string can be tightened or loosened using the tuning wrench to tune to the corresponding pitch. Also, an alternative way to adjust the pitch of the strings would be to adjust the movable bridges which support the strings that run across the main body.
While the most commonly seen Guzheng today is made up of 21 strings, there are also those that have 16, 18, or even 26 strings. And to no surprise, there are also different kinds of strings, made of different materials such as steel, nylon-steel, or silk. Such varieties arise from the different developments of the instrument originating different regions.
Like any other musical instruments, the pitch of each string varies with the thickness, with the thicker being of lower pitch and vice versa. For the Guzheng, strings of the higher pitch range are those nearer to the player, and they are labeled 1 to 21 (or the total number of strings that Guzheng have, respectively) from the thinnest to the thickest string. Similar to the harp, this is what enables a player to perform a glissando on the Guzheng.
Finally, pressing on the slight left of the movable bridges increase the tension of the strings, producing notes of a slightly higher pitch than that of the string’s designated note. On top of letting performers play notes that are not tuned in the pentatonic scales, this also helps the performer to showcase a unique oriental style which is not possible with many other instruments.