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What's your story? I have questions as well!

 
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jayben
Plywood


Joined: 23 Oct 2011
Posts: 6
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2011 6:19 pm    Post subject: What's your story? I have questions as well! Reply with quote

Greetings all, my name is Joshua and I've recently come across the Guzheng and the beautiful music it produces. I'm here because I'm interested in how all of you came across the Guzheng, how you learned to play it, and how it's affected your life. I'm also curious as to where I can obtain a Guzheng for relatively cheap without being ripped off. I'm short on money and I don't want to invest massive amounts of money into something I may not have the talent to play. Lastly, I want to know if it's necessary to have a teacher when learning this instrument and what are some popular english dvds that would be suffice. Again, I'm short on money and lessons ought to be expensive. I live in the Minnesapolis Minnesota area. Thank you for all the info, answers, and help in advance. Happy playing!
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yukina
Site Admin


Joined: 05 Feb 2015
Posts: 26

PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2011 10:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jarrelle is in your area. He said he can teach you after he moved. He is planning to move next week.
You can also find him on facebook under "King J Nevie B".
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Vi_An
Zitan Elite


Joined: 27 Jul 2005
Posts: 518
Location: Calgary, AB CANADA

PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:01 pm    Post subject: Welcome Joshua ! Reply with quote

Great topic and thanks for the introduction, hope you find some great information here and a good start to your zheng experience in general.

I grew up in Saigon, Vietnam and at age 5 immigrated to Canada with my entire family, my Mother and Sisters always listened to great music, a lot of the popular music of the 50's - 70's in Vietnam fused together Latin grooves, big band brass, Vietnamese story telling / folk song style with a little bit of traditional instrumentation to give a bitter-sweetness. They also listened to a lot of popular Canto and Mandarin songstresses like Paula Tsui, and Teresa Teng. In all of this music growing up I was always attracted to the sound of this mysterious instrument they called zheng which would appear now and again in popular music. I always dreamed of playing a zheng instrument but was not allowed to learn because we were very, very poor then - my Mother and Sister each had a few part time jobs to make ends meet. I was doing really well in school and also sometimes would follow them to work to help them between age 8 - 12. The dream of playing a zheng never stopped, I remember at age 8 and a half I made a phone call to the local import and postal store in Chinatown, requesting them to order a zheng instrument. They were certain that no one would purchase such an "archaic instrument" in their firm tone and hung up on me.

Oh ya I almost forgot a very important part of my Childhood!

My Mother forced me into Chinese school too, so on top of regular English public school Mon thru Fri, Chinese school was weekends and the whole entire SUMMER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh oh and on top of that they put me into French immersion part time too so every other Tues!! In Chinese summer school one year I noticed a bunch of boys and girls learning the zheng instrument, there must have been 25 of them at one time, I remembered one recess I didn't wanna play skipping rope with the other girls, instead I snuck into one of the music rooms and started to strum, and pick at the zheng like I saw the other students doing. Suddenly I felt a pressure around my left ear, aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh, it was the teacher pinching and twisting my earlobe so hard like an ancient Chinese sea tortoise had her beak around it dragging me from the beach into the GREAT SEA OF SHARKS eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!!!

"You are a poor - adopted peasant child of immigrant family from Vietnam you have not earned your privilege to be in this music room, your poor widow Mother can not afford to buy you lessons and she wanted to make sure I keep you away form the music room, how did you even get in here you little dark mouse!?!!" I was so confused how she knew I was adopted and I didn't even know this!?!?!?! (This is another story... ...)

Long story short..

I graduated high school and started my 4th part time job, then I came across my first zheng instrument! I remember that day very clearly as if it just happened yesterday. My high school sweet-cakes broke up with me the week before on my birthday, it was over sushi, the aftertaste of that night was the worst. I love sushi don't you? But that was very bitter and wow it was hard to get over. So walking around by the river by myself under a dark heart break cloud, I wandered into a Chinese cultural center and there was a gift shop. I walked slowly in with my head hanging very low I managed to lift it to my amusement at awe of a moon guitar hanging on the wall behind the cash register and the owner looking at me with a frown at how peculiar I must have looked!

Sighing "Ahhh that is a beautiful instrument... I wonder if you carry the zheng instrument here, I guess not, who would want to buy such an instrument right, I mean it is so old fashioned everyone tells me!"

"Are you Chinese, because you are very dark - I thought you were East Indian or Native, maybe Philippina, but you speak even better Chinese than my Grandmother's Mother!" Giggling shop owners, a lover couple very personable and cheerful, but confused still about me in general. I felt a bit self conscious and was about to ooze away like a sad slug!

As I started to walk away they stopped me and laughed, "didn't you not see the zheng when you were slugging in the front entrance way, it's right there in front plain view, all you saw was your own shadow, it knew where the zheng was because it was pointing towards it but you didn't follow her!" They pointed in the direction I came in from.

"CAN I TOUCH IT!!!!!???????!!!!!!"

"NO! you don't look like you know anything about this instrument if you break it you buy, if we break it...." I know I know, you CRY! You big babies. How much do you want for it there is no price tag? "It is too much you wont be able to afford it, bring your parents next time and see if they will buy it for you!" But I'm not allowed to learn music at home, I have to sneak off after school every day when I was a kid to join band camp and wilderness survival camp at the same time, until the government of my province CUT THE FUNDING to everything FUN at school *CRYING****

Then I felt my wallet and I had a debit card, but then my Mother's face flashed into my mind's eye, "don't you dare take out any money, we worked hard to put money in there for your savings account so you can afford college!" But Mom I paid for college with scholarships remember and I work 4 part time jobs common.. "NO fried Vietnamese crepe (banh xeu) for you long time!" Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo............

Can you put a hold on this instrument I'm going to come back in 5 minutes with all the money for this zheng. "O -- o -- okay.." I ran out the door to the nearest bank machine which was only 8 long blocks away. It happened to be a very rough part of the city too, so when I took out a whole 1000 in cash I stuffed it into my fashion boots which came up to my knees, I had this whole thing imagined in my head if someone were to mug me, I would scream for ice cream and it would be so loud, they would cover their ears and fall to the ground and I would kick them like a ninja with my fashion black boots which came up to my knees! Etc... ...

To be continued I have to go teach a few lessons now and then to theatre rehearsals ^_^

Continued.......

Now the boss lady of the store wanted to drive me home with the instrument cos then I was so tiny. I was super excited.............. (FREAK OUT in the car), if my Mother sees this coming into her house she would not like it, quickly, the boss lady suggested a small white-lie "we'll just ask her permission to keep it there as storage because my daughter is traveling and you two are good friends, my daughter would trust you to take care of the zheng..." No my Mother will NOT buy that you will see!

I moved out a few months later after I graduated. In those few months before moving out on my own I learned the difficulties and joys of the instrument's many dynamic expressions, and challenges on my own. Through CDs and VHS's of blurry performances from the public library, it saved my life many times the library I LOVE books!!!

Long story short of how my career in music performing / recording started...

A friend runs an artist-run/not for profit art gallery put up an event to have performance art before paintings get hung up, "SPACE FOR SPACE" it was called, and some friends suggested I participate. I was very afraid because at this point it was still just a hobby for me, the zheng would be there every day and night, my best friend through thick and thin you know?!


Last edited by Vi_An on Sat Nov 19, 2011 10:35 am; edited 1 time in total
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Sketchy
Plywood


Joined: 17 Sep 2011
Posts: 15

PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi.

I went to China to teach English for a few months before going to uni. I got chance to play one for five minutes at one point while I was there, and decided I liked it (therefore meaning, I must find one).

I found that there was one on sale where I live (two years after I'd pretty much decided there was very little chance I'd find one in such a small town during my holidays). Thus, I bought it.

It's currently propped up against the wall behind me, as I don't have enough room to set it up in my university room. One of my friends has offered me lessons, but I'm pretty busy this year (final year project, two separate recording projects with friends, drinking stupid amounts of tea whilst staring at stuff about nebulae... That usual stuff) so I doubt I'll get time, which is a shame. Oh well, there's always the holidays (and hope the puppy doesn't chew it).
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jayben
Plywood


Joined: 23 Oct 2011
Posts: 6
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2011 12:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm enjoying what I'm reading! I can't wait to hear more from everyone.
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jayben
Plywood


Joined: 23 Oct 2011
Posts: 6
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

PostPosted: Thu Nov 10, 2011 11:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Come on people! Please, join the conversation!
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jbpho
Plywood


Joined: 16 Aug 2017
Posts: 19
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2017 11:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you don't mind the thread revive, this is my story:
My family is from Europe, I'm 2nd/3rd generation American depending on how you count. I was a bit on and off musical instruments; refused to practice the piano (I was a stubborn child), dropped my drum lessons when they tried to expand my percussion horizons with a xylophone, and then went a decade or so with nothing. In college I picked up some basic piano improv techniques but my heart was always with the cello. 'Thing was, I was sensitive about spending money, and boy would a cello take up a lot of space when I had to move. Besides, I felt that at 21 I had missed my chance to learn a musical instrument.

Fast forward a few years and I'm thinking how great it would be to have something resonant to strum, like a harp. Lo and behold, an acquaintance announces he is selling a celtic harp. I go for it! A 10-hour road trip and several states later, I play that thing weekly.

Time marches on and my shoulders and wrists tighten from too much computer use, bad posture, and lack of exercise (take care of your health people!). I play the harp less and less frequently. Then one day. One day it happens.

I'm at an art museum with a date, just walking through the galleries when I hear this strange sound. It's like a harp, but... not. We follow the music and find a musician playing a collection of Japanese instruments, among them a koto. My date pauses for a moment then makes a move to leave. I barely notice. I am transfixed by the sound this artist is making. The strings, the motions, retuning by moving the bridges... I had never seen anything like this!

We get home and I start learning everything I can about the koto. From there I learned about the guzheng. I preferred the sound of the guzheng over other zithers from east Asia. My life had some connection to China so I felt more comfortable learning the guzheng than I did learning something from a culture I knew nothing about, like Korea, Japan, or Vietnam. My mind was made up. But the story's not over yet!

A move seemed to be in my future so I put off buying a guzheng for fear of transporting it. Months go by and the move was canceled. Alright. So then I start looking to purchase, for real. I go through a variety of sites and settle on the wonderful ChineseZither.net. It's there I found a link to the woman who would become my teacher. I connect with her. Somewhat skeptical, she wisely invited me over to try the instrument out. I am beside myself with nervousness and excitement, which she takes as a good sign. Lessons begin!
I quickly decide to buy one, rather than rent. I figure, if I rent one from my teacher, I'll pay $X per year, but it won't be mine. If I by one for $X, and commit to playing it for a full year, then I get the same amount of use but keep the instrument! And that's how I started.

Since then? Learning to play has become central to my life. I've found it deeply meaningful, even if I only have 10 minutes to play that day. It's gotten oos and ahs when I play it for others, and has become something my family regards fondly, even though we have no cultural connection to it. I recommend trying it out!
I'll post answers in a second comment.
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jbpho
Plywood


Joined: 16 Aug 2017
Posts: 19
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

On to answers!

1. @jayben, and for others who might have the same fear of spending money: See if you can find a teacher who would rent one to you. It would be far cheaper than buying one and would give you some timeline over which to decide how far you want to go.
2. Learning is not a matter of 'talent'. It's about being humble enough to admit you are starting from nothing, and having the grit to work through the frustrating "I can't" until finally, you can.
3. As for, do teachers matter? As @Vi_an can tell you, it's plenty possible to learn without them - but teachers are helpful. They can see what you are doing and offer specific improvements. That saves you time in the long run. They can also be accountabili-buddies, giving you the extra push to get through those "I can't" moments.
4. And then cost: Price wise, a new entry-level instrument can be found from @yukina's chinesezither.net for ~$400 USD, domestic shipping included. You might be able to find a new instrument for less than that on eBay or Amazon, but typically shipping isn't included, and quickly erases whatever savings you thought you'd get.
5. To get something below that $400 you'd have to borrow one from a friend or cultural institution, get it as a gift, rent one (which saves you money in the short term, but costs you money in the long term) or buy second hand.
Buying a guzheng second hand is tricky, especially as a new player. A new player probably wouldn't know how to tell the difference between

- a slightly out of tune instrument
- a tuned instrument with moveable bridges in the wrong place or of the wrong size
- a low-quality instrument.
- an instrument past its age.

The first two are fixable. The second two, not so much.
On top of that is understanding what types of cracks are okay in the instrument and what types aren't. Others have posted guidelines elsewhere in the forum: Any crack on the soundboard, no good. A crack in the wood of the back board, possibly bad. Cracks on the head, tail, and sides, probably okay. But cracks change over time depending on the environment. Then there's the matter of treatment of the instrument itself. Has it been improperly stored, or joints weakened in some way? Are the tuning pegs corroded, do they still turn well? There's more to consider but already there's a lot to take on, even once you have the experience. So short answer: It's a gamble, I wouldn't recommend it.
6. ... But. And this is a big butt: I have seen three used guzhengs sold for less than $300 in the last month in North America, shipping included. One was on the east coast, one on the west, and one in Canada. Major Caveat: All were steel-string instruments, two with 16 strings and one with 18. Two of the instruments had significant visible cracks in their heads and tails. As for modern 21-string instruments? I can't recall seeing any below $500.
7. Double but: buying a used instrument that is cheaper than a new, entry-level instrument practically guarantees you'll get something of inferior quality or that is too old. Most guzhengs you will encounter will lose significant sound quality over time. By the age of 30 most any guzheng is ready to retire. It still looks like its younger self, but it sure don't sound like it used to. Sure, you can still learn basic techniques on an instrument like that, but your sound would always be off. Personally, that would frustrate me, and would make me less and less likely to keep playing.

So in closing: If $400 is too steep, look to see if you could rent or borrow one from an institution, or at least come by and play it regularly. You can always ask, maybe somebody knows somebody with a spare. But in terms of purchasing? Spending less than $400 will be risky.


Last edited by jbpho on Thu Sep 14, 2017 10:02 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Randal
Plywood


Joined: 06 Jan 2016
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 12:51 pm    Post subject: Hello! Reply with quote

Nice to see a new voice. I like someone to speak with on guzheng, and wish to learn more about TCM. I live near international student housing at an American university and meet people from China all the time, however, in addition to typical communication/language obstacles most people I meet are math professors (rather than music Very Happy ).

I grew up with (western) classical guitar, and my first exposure to guzheng was probably "caverna magica." I fall in love with most instruments, forms, and sounds - guzheng was no exception; the superlative beauty of harps/zithers is something residing deep within me. I only acquired my first guzheng two years ago (an old "travel" model) as they're uncommon here in the western U.S. Harps, and "celtic" music, is much more common and I've been playing/studying various harps - actually medieval Gaelic wire-strung harp and old Irish, Scottish, Welsh repertoire. This style of instrumental music - Gaelic pibroch, slow air, etc - is in some ways similar to the ethereal beauty of TCM/guzheng.

I'm still very much desiring a new full-size guzheng. But with all my other interests and musical activities I don't know when I'll finally acquire one. I'm hoping to find another player who will inspire me. I only just improvise on guzheng, which is wonderful, but I want to study the music more formally.
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jbpho
Plywood


Joined: 16 Aug 2017
Posts: 19
Location: Seattle

PostPosted: Thu Sep 14, 2017 9:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great to meet you Randal! If you're looking for inspirational players I can recommend two. First is Wu Fei. She's based in Tennessee and is an absolute wizard on the guzheng. She plays across many styles and collaborates with many different musicians so definitely check her out. Her Facebook is the most active of her promotional sites. https://www.facebook.com/realwufeimusic/

The second is a multi-instrumentalist and only has one guzheng song out so far, but according to him he's intending to do more with it. The artist is Yukes, his guzheng song is Thinkinbout https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxWDtSOsiuM
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Randal
Plywood


Joined: 06 Jan 2016
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Fri Sep 15, 2017 8:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many thanks. Yes I'm actually hoping to find someone local with whom I can study. There are so many wonderful players, most recently i especially enjoy yukina's rendering "spring river flower moon night."

I've found some sources of TCM now and I'll enjoy learning.
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