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Guzheng made from Japan - Visting Mitsuya Koto Maker

 
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yukina
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Joined: 05 Feb 2015
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 5:42 pm    Post subject: Guzheng made from Japan - Visting Mitsuya Koto Maker Reply with quote

I realized my post regarding Mitsuya Koto from May was lost, so I post here again.

I had a chance to visit Mitsuya Koto Maker in May. It was the most exciting experience in my life. I got to see some of the best sounding guzheng in the world.

Mitsuya Koto is known for their specialty in making bigger size koto. The family has a long tradition of making big number string zithers. They made the famous 80-string koto for Michio Miyagi in 1929.


The making of guzheng started about 3 years ago, when Dunhuang commissioned Mitsuya to make 10 guzheng. These 10 guzheng were introduced as Dunhuang's most high-end line, and were presented in Music China 2012. It was demonstrated by Prof. Wang Zhongshan in the show. At first, I think it somehow sounds like a mix of a Scarlet Bird and Master Ji's instrument. When I tried it with my hand, I realized it was very hard to play. It takes a lot of energy to pluck the strings sound, and the high was very dry. Apparently, the maker just made koto body and put on guzheng strings and bridges. The design wasn't suited for guzheng, and it was hard to make it sound nice. Many professional players gave the same feedback to the head maker Mr. Mitsuyasu Keita.

The next year, Mitsuya came back to Music China with a much improved version. It's a lot easier to pluck and the high are nice. Not to mention the sound is as clean and smooth as a koto. I was so surprised that they can make such a big improvement in one year!! I was even more surprised when Mr. Mitsuyasu told me that these guzheng in the show is only their low-end ones OEM for Dunhuang. They will be making high-end ones in the Spring, 2014 using the best Aizu paulownia they have in stock.


So, there was my visit when the finest guzheng came out using 50-70 year old Aizu paulownia. These have a dreaming voice with bass better than the Scarlet Bird and high range better than a Dunhuang. Each note is so clean and solid, and the transition is very smooth. I have never seen anything better!








For the high-end ones, there are hand carved V-shape sound grooves at the back of the soundboard. The low-end ones have straight sound grooves.
The V-shape sound grooves make the sound come out smoothly and evenly. It doesn't sound super loud when listening close by, and it doesn't sound too soft when listening from far away.

























Compare to the low-end ones using 10-20 yr old paulownia. The grains are not as nice. The sound is nice though. A little muddy compare to the high-end ones.






Compare to the 25-string koto soundboard.


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yukina
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Joined: 05 Feb 2015
Posts: 26

PostPosted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 5:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here are some pictures from the factory.

All koto and guzheng are carved out from a chunk of paulownia this size:






The pauwlonia chunks were air-dried for 5 years.


Mr. Mitsuyasu is very proud of having so many big chunks of Aizu paulownia, since they are the leading maker in making 17, 21 and 25-string koto.



A 50-year old paulownia tree just cut down







Soundboards for 17 string koto and 21-string guzheng




Soundboards for 13-string koto, 17-string koto, and 25-string koto

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yukina
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2014 9:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is a video on the making of guzheng and koto by Mitsuya Koto.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8d80sVgLmY
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