An Introduction to the Guzheng

Guzheng pic

 

Guzheng pic
Guzheng
Image: philmultic.com

An accomplished spinal surgeon, Dr. John Chiu treats patients at the California Spine Institute Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, California, where he also serves as president. Outside of his busy professional life, Dr. John Chiu practices several martial arts disciplines and plays the guzheng.

With a history dating back more than 2,500 years, the guzheng is a highly expressive stringed instrument that is often called a Chinese zither. Although a 21-string configuration is most common, there are also guzhengs that feature 16, 18, or 26 strings. Originally, the instrument was equipped with strings made of silk, but most modern guzhengs are now strung with all-steel or steel-coated nylon strings.

Traditionally tuned to the pentatonic scale, the guzheng is played by plucking the strings with one’s right hand while the left hand presses the string near the movable bridge. By pressing the string, the player increases tension and is able to alter the pitch and produce slide, glissando, and vibrato effects. Although it’s most often used to play traditional Chinese folk music, the guzheng is a versatile instrument that some musicians have recently used to play jazz and various kinds of experimental music.

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