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There are only a few instruments that in my opinion can be playd with such great beauty and sadness. The chinese violin or erhu have that distinct weeping sound, with those typically sliding notes that points it as one of the most reknown sounds of Asian music not only en ensembles and orchestras but also as a solo instrument with an everchanging haunting  and sometimes very similar to human voice sound able to convey a great variety of moods (from melancholic to merry)  being even more expressive and soulful than the occidental violin, from lavish low tones to clear high notes.

Erhu chinese violin

The Erhu is an ancient Asian instrument, brought to China during the Han dynasty (~140 B.C.) and member of the huqin family. Bowed instruments became popular in China during the Sung dynasty (A.D. 960-1279). The Erhu is one of the most widely used bowed instruments in China.

The Erhu is a bowed stringed instrument with two strings and the body consists of a long vertical stick-like hardwood neck, at the top of which are two large tuning pegs, and at the bottom is a small resonator body or sound box  covered with python snake skin like a drum with 6-8 sides that provides its distinct tone to the instrument. The strings are  The bow is traditionally made of horsehair tied to a bamboo stick and the horsehair run between the strings so you cannot take the bow out of the instrument unless one of the strings is broken.This  instrument is played with the bow between the strings in a push-pull manner.

erhu instrument parts

Above: parts of the instrument

Honestly I've not found much about instructional material out there, but there is a course for 99$ at Learnerhu that grants you to learn the very basics of the instrument in just three months, as I haven't tried it cannot tell how accurate it is but it worths to have a look to the description at their site.

Below another video of an erhu solo piece "River of Sorrows" performed by Song Fei  that shows some close ups so you can perceive the fingering technique as the traditional way of performing the instrument is indeed rich in ornamentation. Normally is played while seated holding the instrument vertically on the lap with the left hand while bowing with the right. There is no fingerboard; the player stops the strings by pressing their fingertips onto the strings without the strings touching the neck.

 

In Ebay you can find a wealth of erhus and accessories like strings ranging, going as cheap as 100 dollars. I do not recommend to go for the cheapest option, but still if you opt for an economic erhu be sure you pick one with professional size.

You can purchase a virtual instrument (VST) of erhu from Kong audio

 erhu vst 

Kong Audio  is a company specialized in sampling traditional chinese instruments. Recorded the sessions with a distinguished Erhu musician, Mr. YuSheng Liu(who has won in several national/provincial Erhu competitions), to capture the nuance and brilliance of various delicate Erhu playing techniques.
ChineeErhu contains extensive expressions of legato, vibrato, F-p-F, staccatos, pizzicato, tremolos, glide and trills, cleverly woven and programmed to be used with MIDI aftertouch/modwheel, along with the keyswitch feature provided by the plugin, to bring the users the most lively articulations as easily accessible as possible.

 

Other interesting links:

Schatten Design's is a company based in Canada  largest  manufacturer of pickups, transducers and  other technical material for string and folk instruments. The company is continuing quest to build the finest pickups, preamps, and related accessories in the world and  has produced a line of products that  Listening to their  customers, as they always have, has helped to provided us with a greater insight into the types of pickups and products that are needed. Schatten is not only devoted to guitars and violins like the most of the companies (though of course they do as well) but also provide solution to     like hammered dulcimer, Bouzukis, Mandolins, Mandolas, Celtic harp, appalachian dulcimer and even autoharp!!.  They are not generic pickups, but fine and quality work specific items meant and designed to achieve the best sound out of specific and unique instruments.

They also have some generic pickups that you can try and experiment with. Basically, if you have an acoustic instrument with a soundboard, then the Dualie will work well on it. I  ended up using a dualie to trigger midi sounds as a drum pad played with my hands just for fun. What started like fun is going to make me get a few more of these soon! :)  It's worked great  also on some plucked psalteries too.  But It's one of those things you need to try out (and of course works well on guitars as well).

dualie generic pickup

Above: Generic Dualie pickup. Experiment with it!

With a clear sound and non intrusive to the instruments, the pickups are easy to install and achieve a great sound on stage, with no feedback and great comfort. I use a pickup in my Baritone dulcimer.  No drills, no holes, easily attached  (literally a couple of minutes)  with the puty that comes along with the package (that by the way does remove cleanly as well from the wood when you want to take it out as it's a bit  conspicuous over it (thought definitely quick to install and elegant)   The D-3 Std is specific  for this instrument and it works well in standard and also in larger baritone dulcimers rendering a great sound and tone.

 

 D-3 Std pickup for mountain dulcimer

Above   The D-3 Std for Mountain Dulcimer 

I'm a happy user myself, and I couldn't consider to use a microphone on stage on my hammer dulcimer ever more after testing the comfort and the sound of the specific

Priscilla Hernandez hammered dulcimer

me playing a hammered culcimer with a HD2 pickup

  Due to the size and construction of hammered dulcimers,  the  best balance and accuracy of sound reproduction could only be achieved by using a "dual element system" with  two separate transducer sensing units. The HD2 pickup system mounts quickly and easily to the underside of the hammered dulcimer with supplied double sided tape. To plug it to a PA on stage is recommended a DI/Preamp and Schatten is also provider of one of the finest dual channel  Ultrasound DI/Preamp units  that have been tested successfully with Schatten pickups and thus combine so perfectly with them. No more feedback on stage!! As a singer putting a microphone for the voice and another for the instrument (and in only one of the bridges) was always not only distracting when playing but also a nightmare risking feedback or hitting them with the hammers....  and sound as good as with a live mic. Using the HD2 suddently made it so EASY!!  that I cannot help to recommend this if you play this instrument. I struggled a lot to find a versatile, comfortable, easy and "discrete" looking solution, and I cannot be more satisfied.

  di preamp ultrasound di max dual channel 

Above: Ultrasound DI/preamp extensively tested with  Schatten pickups to plug your instrument to the PA system.
No more mis-matching impedance issues going into a 'strange' sound system. No more weak output and signal line-loss issues due to the length of the mixer cables. Adn I tell you It works great also as a preamp for your home studio! 

 

So what can I say? I'm intending to grab a few more dualies and test them elsewhere, and I have a wish list for my cello player and my kantele...  Great quality works great as easy as that!

See video

Charlie Hind (crafter and instrument maker of Hindocarina.com) shows you how to play his wondrous Double Ocarina, a truly polyphonic double chamber ocarina in which you can play two melodies at the same time.

Croatia sea organ

We had previously covered the Aeolian harp as an instrument played by nature in that case the wind. In this case we are going to talk about the  deep and natural sound of  enormous and misterious ocean sings through the unique Sea Organ  (Morske ogulje) an experimental musical instrument which plays music by way of sea waves and tubes located underneath a set of large marble steps. Designed by award-winning architect Nikola Basic and built in 2005 the Sea Organ is located  in Zadar, Croatia,and indeed has highlighted this location on the map becoming  a great touristic attraction made out of a previous ugly concrete area into a elegant architectural element and soothing instrument. The Sea organ is in fact a giant  70 meters long instrument has 35 pipes and resonating underwater cavity so the waves create random harmonics.

 At any given moment listeners can hear at least five pipes played in harmony by the waves and wind movements. Though random and unpredictable, the final result heard   is  surprisingly harmonious due tot he arrangement of the notes the pipes play meant to sound good together which plays music by way of the waves and tubes located underneath a set of long steps. Such nature-affected instruments are often called "aerophones". This page has a sample of "sea Organ" sounds. Below you can watch a video also to see and listen how the Sea Organ works and haunt the visitors with its unique sound. Sure it makes a great place to soothe your senses and gaze into the blue.

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The air holes "breathe in" the wind along the shore, and the pipes hidden deep underwater make lower sounds.

Some interesting links

Viper electric violinsabre electric violin

Above: Viper and Sabre  electric violin from Wood Violins

I've always been in love with bowed strings, that´s the reason why there is so much cello and violin in my own music. I've always felt a deep respect and praise for classical music and film scores, and I really thank when modern genres become daring enough to incorporate "classical" instruments to sound in a different edgier way. 

And thus I landed into Wood violins  looking for fretted  bowed instruments, after covering previously the amazing guitar viols and with an article about fretted  classical ancient viols that is  on the making and coming soon,  my search and happy customer reviews lead me to Wood Violins which seems to be pretty popular. Hand built and crafted in the USA this company  states that they are meant to "completely revolutionize the string world"  and being aware that is a company made by string players for string players and that way  really know their task coming from accoustic instruments we can conclude that we refer to about  electric violins, violas and cellos (and hopefully soon bass too)  that despite being electric, still allow the player to convey emotion and  incredible expressiveness 

Also the option (your choice) of being able to have frets make you able to explore a wider vaeirety of chordal patterns and makes it easier for intonation. Thus you can move up and down the fingerboard like a electric guitar player thing that is extremely difficult in a classical non fretted instrument. In fact for those coming from guitar playing and not from violin they offer a six string model tuned and fretted in a similar way so they can explore this new realm of bowing.

Here you can see a video demo with what you will see and expect from Wood violins explained by owner and operator of the company Mark Wood
.

Wood violins patented design is unique..  and really gorgeous looking, closer though to "electric guitars" look than to classical it will be delight of metal and rock bands, but beware classical players... they really sound good so do not underestimate them because your previous exprience with electric have been dissapointed! As they say "these are very cool instruments aimed at players who are anxious to explore new territory" They  are very passionate and committed about providing highly specialized customer support to our clients both before and after your purchase and will help you with amp options, pedal choices, music and exercise books and lots of other stuff. They also have a message board and community a great resource  where users share their thoughs and ideas.

cobra electric cello

Being in a band where cello is so important,  you face quite often the fact that it's a rather voluminous instrument to travel with but most of the electric cellos lack the emotion or the feeling toCobra cello and how really amazing it sounds. And with frets too, so my talented band member could use it but even i'd feel encouraged to learn! (can I hold a sigh!) And also you can play it like an electric for edgier, darker music.... :)  

You can opt for a 4 to 6 strings with or without frets... (I'd be happy with a fretted viola or cello (craving sigh!!))

 

You can network with them in facebook too.

See video

Playing Michael Jackson songs with PVC pipes

fullsicle harp fully levered

Above: Fully levered Fullsicle from Harpsicle Harps

 

Perhaps you have always wanted to play the harp? That's the first line you read in Harpsicle harps website. They´re a division ReesHarps.com (specialized in concert harps)

Well  I've always wanted!! It was a childhood dream to me... It always looked a bit out of reach and too expensive for me. Then of course you could find a cheap Pakistani harp or middle eastern import.. and they may look so pretty, even engraved.. but don't fool yourself, after asking the advice of my friends harp players that actually know what it's playable or not, they told me to run away from this harps that are only "ornaments" and that will most likely will bring only dissatisfaction after a little while with low quality levers and materials, something that instead of a bargain will end up in your attic or wall getting dust. Harpsicle though  are made in  Indiana in the United States with fine materials and craftsmanship. They can be purchased from a lot of specialized stores and harp centers worldwide.

So you still want to play the harp, but you cannot afford a fortune in one (not that there aren't many lovely brands out there) but one that sounds and looks good enough to be your first harp (maybe even your forever harp)? That is how you may finally stumble upon (by so many user reviews and recommendations) in Harpsicle harps. And thus I'm waiting for mine... ! I'll update this article soon with pictures of it... so excited to be able to create music with it, and I've proved that the sound quality is great for studio work too!

 Harpsicle harps
Above: Harpsicle harp.

 

Harpsicles  are well designed, sturdily built and have the correct string spacing which make them an excellent selection for a first time harper. Light and portable, they are also a wonderful choice for harp therapy practitioners and are recommended by many harp therapy programs. These simple harps have nice volume and tone. Harpsicle Harps are well made and maintain tuning as well as any professional harp.

Available in ten colors (for the fancier customers, but also in elegant black or natural wood). Children might prefer  to have magical colorful first harp for princesses or little BardsThey come also with straps buttons included so you can easily hold it when performing or even marching.  With 26 strings and a range of 3 1/2 octaves  and as small and light (four pounds) as to put it in a soft bag and make it follow all your steps carrying it everywhere (for performers like me it's a good thing to know that Harpsicles Harps fit in the overhead storage bin or garment closet of most airliners)

 

You have models with no levers at a really very affordable price to fully levered models. It is important that you decided this first, as the harpsicle harps are not  built ready to install them afterwards.If you are intending to change the tuning on stage you better opt for the levers. Most traditional music does only require a few accidentals and thus several options are offered. You  also have the option of having  an internal electric pickup installed so that your Fullsicle™ Harp can be played directly through an amplifier.

Harpsicle: Basically the range goes from the basic Harpsicle with no levers (like renaissance harps) for music in C and A minor key.

Sharpsicle: With sharping levers on the C and F strings. This allows the harp to play in 6 different keys (C,G,D major and A,E,B minor) without retuning.

Flatsicle: sharping levers on the C, F and B strings. This allows the harp to play in 8 different keys (C,G,D,F major and A,E,B,D minor) without retuning.

And Fullsicles (fully levered)

 fully levered celtic harp harpsicle 

Above: fully levered fullsicle

They also feature some accessories like pickups, stands, instructional dvds for the newcomer to the instrument and more... Everything you may need to get started!

 learn to play the harp harpsicle 

But overall you're dealing with a small company of crafters that seek the greatest quality and will respond friendly to any question or doubt you may have to chose your harp.

 

But if you need a harp with more range and still light weighted (only 10  pounds)  you still have the option to get the 33 strings Grand Harpsicle.

 grand harpsicle 

33 strings grand harpsicle
 

 

UPDATE: I got my FULLSICLE!! It is so pretty and it has such a clear lovely tone :). Pickup already installed in it tested and working great and totally addicted to it. It's so small and light! Love it! Below there's a pic of me as the lucky owner of one (thanks to Harpsicle/Rees Harps) for  the semi-endorse :)

 

Priscilla Hernandez fullsicle harp

Above: me with my fullsicle

 

See video

Overtone flute playing course by Max Brumberg, learn how to play the overtone in 5 minutes. descriptions of playing techniques and samples.

See video

Playing a 38 strings Kantele. Traditional Finnish instrument.

Hulusi Chinese flute
Hulusi chinese flute

The name of the instrument southestern China traditional instrument Hulusi comes The instrument's name comes from the Chinese words hulu, meaning "gourd," and si, meaning "silk" (because of the smooth  pure and very like clarinet or oboe  sound it makes). Though obviusly related to chinese music it's become a very popular instrument in many countries.

It's an end blown free reed wind instrument. It is held vertically and has three bamboo pipes which pass through a gourd (wind chest; the center pipe has finger holes and the outer two are drone-.  Sometimes one of the pipes is ornamental and has only one drone. . The drone pipe has a finger hole, which allows it to be stopped. HuluSi is especially known for its unrelenting, yet soft, moody tone.

The hulusi was originally used primarily in the Yunnan  (means "south of the clouds") province by the Dai and other non-Han ethnic groups but is now played throughout China, and hulusi are manufactured in such northern cities as Tianjin.

The Hulusi or Gourd flute is one of the intruments with a more distinct "chinese" sound. Link to Melody of China with a streamable mp3 here

Hulusi fingering chart (english)

Above: Hulusi fingering chart  as shown in Melody of China website. Click on image to see bigger.

Below a performance with an hulusi highlighted as  solo instrument so you can see how this simple flute can convey the feelings of a trained player.

   

Don't know if you might be able to play it?
Here you can see a video of some fast tips to start to learn to play the hulusi    

 

 

Where to buy one:

 

There are a lot of inexpensive hulusis from all sort of chinese importers... Wether if they're of high quality or playable I really don't know till I grab one, and I will come and edit information as soon as I can guess that. My experience when buying instruments you don't know is that look for an actual sample or avoid to go for the cheaper option.

 hulusi_ebay
Above: example of hulusi found in ebay

You can surf yourself hulusi in ebay and find a lot of hulusis chinese flutes available there. Some are really professional looking, and I'd recommend to sort out by price and not go for the cheaper one as you risk to get a not tuned or playable but a beautiful souvenir. I found some stores like interactchina and others that seemed to have rather good ones. Hope to be able to update when I have more information.

 hulusi melody of china
Above: Hulusi from Melody of China

 

Melody of china is a rather complete store for all sorts of chinese instruments, it features a long section of wind instruments including some nice looking Hulusis with samples of how they sound. 

Have a look to Shopping china now, they have a selection of chinese musical instruments.

Nadishana folk instruments store also list one on sale. As he´s a player, I'd say this is a rather reliable source and shipping from Europe and good thing that you can see the actual instrument plyaed.

  

Some other interesting links  

Hulusi in VST (virtual instrument)

For those making music with the computer and still interesting in the sound of the hulusi you can purchase for 60$ ChineHulusi from the company Kong Audio

 hulusi vst 

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