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The Yangqin

Updated: Apr 7, 2018

As the yangqin is a type of hammered dulcimer, it shares many elements of construction with other instruments in the hammered dulcimer family. Some unique features include its tuning scheme, the construction of its bridges, a fairly open back, cylindrical metal nuts that can be moved for fine tuning, and a hinged cover which is opened to access the tuning pins. It seems that most yangqin are manufactured and in quantity as the instrument is quite popular. Models vary in size, range and quality. They usually include an ornate folding stand.

Tuning The yangqin is a chromatic instrument with a range of slightly over four octaves. Middle C is located on the tenor bridge, third course from the bottom.The pitches are arranged so that in general, moving one section away from the player’s body corresponds to a transposition of a whole tone upwards. Similarly, moving one section towards the left of the performer generally corresponds to a transposition of a perfect fifth upwards. These are only rules of thumb since the arrangement has to be modified towards the extremes of the pitch range to fill out notes in the chromatic scale. Such an arrangement facilitates transposition.

There are usually four to five bridges on a yangqin. From right to left, they are: bass bridge, “right bridge”, tenor bridge, “left bridge”, and the chromatic bridge. During playing, one is supposed to strike the strings on the left side of the bridges. However, the strings on the “chromatic bridge” are struck on the right, and strings on the “left bridge” can be struck on both sides of the bridge.

The Yangqin like North American dulcimers is capable of producing not only single notes, but also chords and quick arpeggios. It is widely used as both a solo and accompanying instrument, and remains one of the principal instruments in a Chinese orchestra.

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