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A sort of off-the-wall question from a newb...

 
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Michael
Plywood


Joined: 17 Apr 2013
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Thu Apr 18, 2013 7:46 am    Post subject: A sort of off-the-wall question from a newb... Reply with quote

Hi everyone. I just received a 16-string gu-zheng as a gift two days ago, after telling a friend/co-worker about this cool "new" instrument I'd discovered on YouTube. (I wonder how many other people got interested in the gu-zheng family of instruments watching that girl playing Voodoo Chile on the gayageum... Very Happy )

It turned out that my friend had a gu-zheng sitting unused in his basement, so he brought it in and made a gift of it to me because of my interest in it... (which was a very cool thing for him to do, and I'm very grateful.)

I tuned it up as soon as I got it home, and started messing around, picking out some tunes - of course, starting with Voodoo Chile, which, like a lot of Hendrix stuff, is pretty pentatonic to begin with, so it was pretty easy to do - and was completely taken by the instrument.

I play a number of different Western and Middle-Eastern instruments, piano, a number of plucked and bowed strings, but the transition to gu-zheng has been a little harder than I expected it to be. (After one whole day! Smile ). The issue is that the pitch of the strings progresses in exactly the opposite direction from what I'm used to on guitar and keyboards, i.e. pitch goes from high to low instead of the other way around. So, the muscle memory in my right hand is 100% wrong. I feel like a left-handed person trying to play a right-handed guitar...

I play a lot of finger-style guitar, so the habits of thumb=lowest pitch, root of chord, walking bass pattern, etc are really hard to break. (Again, after one whole day...)

So here's the wacky question: Does anyone ever reverse the order of the strings on the gu-zheng, so they go from low-pitched to high pitched as you move away from your body, like a Western harp or zither? (Before they started making guitars for lefties, a lot of left-handed people would change the order of the strings e.g. Jimi Hendrix, who seems to be coming up a lot in this post).

Is there anything structural about the gu-zheng that would make this a bad thing to do? Should I just suck it up, give myself some time to get used to it, practice, practice, practice .... ? Smile I'm torn - part of me wants to learn to play it traditionally, while another part tells me that this will always be one instrument in the arsenal that contains a number of others, and I should do anything I can to speed/ease the learning curve.
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Webbedfingers
Junior Guzheng


Joined: 09 Sep 2010
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Fri Apr 19, 2013 3:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi there,

cool find Smile
Hope you enjoy playing it.

The guzheng has a lot of tone colour - it's very expressive but that comes with the right technique only. I tried doing what you describe, and I'm afraid, being objective, it just sounds like a foreigner trying to play a guzheng badly. It might appeal to non-guzheng listeners, but it's quite harsh on the ears on anyone who knows what a guzheng is supposed to do Smile

Quote:
So here's the wacky question: Does anyone ever reverse the order of the strings on the gu-zheng, so they go from low-pitched to high pitched as you move away from your body, like a Western harp or zither? (Before they started making guitars for lefties, a lot of left-handed people would change the order of the strings e.g. Jimi Hendrix, who seems to be coming up a lot in this post).


Isn't it easier, just the turn the guzheng 180 degrees, and play it that way, with the bass strings closest to you, if you want to try it this way? If you restring it, the bridge distances will all be messed up, and you cannot play the bass note with the bridge at 15-20cm from the box side and make an impressive bass. I guess it was designed to be played with treble strings closest to the player. After a few weeks, it really makes sense - best to adapt to it, instead of trying to mould it to limitations based on western musical conventions maybe....

Enjoy playing it! I love mine Smile[/quote]
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Michael
Plywood


Joined: 17 Apr 2013
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Fri Apr 19, 2013 6:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks! I've been going back to it in between conference calls, etc, and it is starting to feel a little more natural. It occurred to me to just flip it around, and I'd tried that yesterday, before posting. It certainly felt more natural to me, but I totally lost the use of the left hand for bending, vibrato, etc. That's when it occurred to me to actually swap the strings.

As far as the bridges are concerned, I've noticed a number of people seem to be a little timid about moving things around and retuning. It's actually pretty easy. When I got the instrument the other night, it was totally out of tune, but it only took about 5 minutes to get it in tune by tightening strings and moving the bridges as needed. To reverse the strings, I would also reverse the order of the bridges as well as their position - so the bass string would still have the greatest distance to the right of the bridge...

But I'm going to follow your advice and try to learn on it the way it is.

Thanks again! Smile
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Webbedfingers
Junior Guzheng


Joined: 09 Sep 2010
Posts: 55

PostPosted: Sat Apr 20, 2013 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cool!

Yes...the sound ports wouldn't sound right if the strings were reversed. There also isn't enough distance/force to lift the bass string using the little finger for a drum effect.

The bridges are definitely moveable...I move mine all the time...which is why I end up breaking so many strings Very Happy
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