Liuqin - Chinese Traditional Musical Instruments

18. Liuqin - Plucked String Instrument

Liuqin is a high pitch-plucking instrument. The name "Liuqin" comes from the fact that the instrument is made of willow wood and shaped like a willow leaf ("Liu" in Chinese means willow). It for the same reason, Liuqin is also known as liuyeqin.

For all the difference in size, the structure of the liuqin is similar to that of the Pipa, except that it is smaller and uses plastic pick rather than finger nails to play.

The early version of Liuqin had only two strings and can play only one and a half octaves. During the Tang dynasty, the Liuqin only had 3 strings. It used to be an accompanying instrument in the Liuqin-xi, a local opera. In Modern China, improvements were made on the instrument, and a two string Liuqin became a three string Liuqin tuned to D, G, D or D, A, D. In the 1970s, the four string Liuqin was developed, with the instrument body enlarged. It is tuned to G, D, G, D which is the standard instrument used in orchestra. In 1975, five string medium pitch Liuqin was developed with its strings tuned to A, D, A, D, A.

Crisp and bright, the liuqin is the highest-pitched member of the plucked strings but its volume is small. Its tone is bright and clear and is extremely beautiful in performing solos. Liuqin can cut right through the heaviest sound the orchestra can make. It is also frequently features in cadenzas. Liuqin is capable of producing an exciting and agitating tune when played loudly, and a sweet and touching tune when played softly. Famous Solos Pieces are "Xin Fu Qu", and "Chun Dao Yin He".

On to Instrument 19     Back to Chinese Musical Instruments Page 2