Playing a Pipa
History of Chinese Music - Page 2

Melody and tone color are prominent expressive features of Chinese music, and great emphasis is given to the proper articulation and inflection of each musical tone. Most Chinese music is based on the five-tone, or pentatonic, scale, but the seven-tone, or heptatonic, scale, is also used, often as an expansion of a basically pentatonic core. The pentatonic scale was much used in older music. The heptatonic scale is often encountered in northern Chinese folk music

Chinese musical instruments traditionally have been classified according to the materials used in their construction, namely, metal, stone, silk, bamboo, gourd, clay, skin, and wood. Of these, the stone and wood instruments are obsolete. The older instruments include long zithers; flutes; panpipes; the sheng, or mouth organ; and percussion instruments, such as clappers, drums, and gongs. Of later origin are various lutes and fiddles, introduced to China from Central Asia.

Chinese music is as old as Chinese civilization. Instruments excavated from sites of the Shang dynasty (c. 1766-c. 1027 BC) include stone chimes, bronze bells, panpipes, and the sheng.

Lady Playing the Pipa