The Chinese Orchestra: A Video Introduction to Chinese Musical Instruments

The following video is a performance of the song In that Faraway Place by the SKH Lam Woo Memorial Secondary School Chinese Orchestra. The work features a lot of solos, so it can serve as a good introdction to the musical instruments traditionally used in a Chinese Orchestra. If you view the video using YouTube’s caption function (click the CC icon on the bottom), subtitles will appear describing the featured instruments and some of the playing techniques used.

The following instruments are included in the orchestra:

  • Chinese bowed string instruments: erhu, zhonghu, gaohu
  • Western bowed strong instruments: cello, double bass (there are Chinese equivalents in the ruan family, but as our school also has a Western orchestra and symphonic band, it is more economical (in terms of manpower and money) to have an overlap.
  • Chinese plucked strong instruments: liuqin, pipa, ruan, daruan
  • Wind instruments: dixi, suona, sheng, zhongyin sheng
  • Zither: guzheng
  • Hammered duclimer: yangqin
  • Percussion: incl. tambourine, sleigh bells, woodblocks, timpani, snare drum, hand drum, xylophone, claves

For more information about the individual instruments, you can refer to the following websites:

Interesting fact: the material covering the resonator box at the bottom of the instrument is python skin, a government-regulated material. Newly-produced erhu must be made using farmed pythons.

Information about the Recording

Conductor: Yim Kin-man 嚴健民
Composer: Wang Luo-bin (王洛宾)
Orchestral Arrangment: by Gu Guan-ren (顧冠仁)

The video was taken during a rehearsal before the Hong Kong Schools Music Festival Competition (the orchestra put on an even better performance that day, winning the competition). Two students (Teresa Ng and Maggie Lai) helped me take the footage and we recorded three takes.

~by longzijun


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