Basic Guzheng Playing Techniques

Chinese Guzheng pic
Guzheng pic

Dr. John Chiu is an alumnus of Southern Methodist University. He is currently the President of the California Spine Institute Medical Center in Santa Barbara, California. As a martial arts enthusiast, he is a grand master of kung fu, ninjitsu, and jujitsu. An all-around achiever, Dr. John Chiu also enjoys playing the guzheng, a Chinese classical musical instrument.

The guzheng is a plucked stringed instrument considered to be a part of the zither family. Usually made of phoenix wood, it is composed of a rectangle sound box and a surface in a curve. On the surface, there are 25 strings with movable bridges. The instrument has ancient roots tracing back to the Tang and Song dynasties. Since then, the instrument has undergone numerous developments such as an increase in the number of strings.

The guzheng is known for its versatility because there are many ways a musician can make music with it. The most basic playing techniques include plucking the strings on the right portion of the instrument, pressing on the strings on the left portion of the instrument, and tremolo. Despite being considered basic, these techniques can evoke a wide variety of sounds such as thunder, a waterfall, or even horses’ hooves. More advanced players use picks and are capable of performing more advanced ornamentations such as wide vibratos, a staple in Chinese music.


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