Strange Instrument #5: The Guqin

You probably remember that a few weeks ago, I’ve posted a long overview of musical instruments dedicated to the two handed tapping technique. This technique was made popular by Eddie Van Halen and the pioneers of touchstyle are probably to search among the Country music guitarists… Or maybe not!!

As you might figured out, I am fascinated with strange musical instruments… These are the instruments you won’t think about if someone asked you to name one musical instrument. I am gradually going up the weirdness scale because I don’t want you or me to be too puzzled (some of the instruments out there are pure craziness…) but today we are goin’ to activate the time machine.

Just like you, I also thought that tapping was a technique invented by modern guitar heroes… Well, it’s not!!The strange instrument of the week is the Guqin, a Chinese zither, equipped with 7 strings and that is played with a technique similar to the tapping technique. Guqin literally means old (gu) musical instrument (qin)… And this instrument is old as it has 3000 years of history.

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Wang sisters, Fei and Annie, from the North American Guqin Association are presenting this very beautiful sounding instrument in the following video.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbJ4Z2xIHfU[/youtube]

Well, actually the playing technique is more of a hybrid technique as players also fingerpick the strings of the Guqin. As you can see it on the video, sliding the fingers on the strings provides a sound very close to the guitarists bottleneck sound or fretless guitars.

As China can be rather poetical, each string of the Guqin has a symbolism that is explained by Annie Wang in a second video. The 5 first strings are associated to the 5 elements: Wood, Metal, Water, Fire and Earth… The 6th string is the Sorrow string and the 7th is the Power string.

I love the meditative and introspective feel and tone of the Guqin music… Speaking of tone, the Guqin tone somehow reminds me of slide guitar and lapsteel tones. I even wonder  if Ry Cooder or Bob Brozman ever explored this music because that’s typically what they are prone to do. If I find something about this, I’ll post it.

Liu Zhengchun is described as a Guqin master!! All I know is that his music is wonderfully nice.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKNeParT2eQ[/youtube]

As an aside, the Voyager spaceship launched during the 70s to hopefully encounter extraterrestrial civilizations has samples of Earth cultures onboard. Among the earth representative music onboard, there is a Guqin piece of music. If you want to know more about the Guqin, you can visit the North American Guqin Association website.

As for me, I’m gonna set some traps around my visa card to avoid a GAS alert for a Guqin as entry models are surprisingly affordable… Help me!!

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