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Making a guzheng
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swellbow
Plywood


Joined: 07 Dec 2008
Posts: 10
Location: Fort Collins, CO

PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2008 8:32 pm    Post subject: Making a guzheng Reply with quote

Hi everyone,

Glad to find you all on this forum! Very Happy There is so much good information in this forum and on the Chinese Zither Sound of China site, I have to thank you all for making this community and this store! Its wonderful to have so much information in English about guzheng...there really is not a lot out there I have found on guzheng in English.

I am a lover of music who is interested in building an instrument like a guzheng (an idea I have had for years now ever since I first heard a guzheng recording and was captivated by the sound). I have been doing a lot of research for a couple of months now, and I'm starting to come up with plans and overall dimensions. It's going to be fun and I am excited about it.

Being in the USA I will make my guzheng out of woods I can easily buy here, so it won't be a true guzheng. But I will try to put the feeling of a guzheng into it. Wink And I am going to use a guzheng string set, so it will sound something like one.

Anyway, nice to meet everyone, and if you have any tips I'd love to hear them. I'd like to ask a favor, too. If anyone is interested in helping me with measurements, please let me know. And if you know anything about the inside structure of guzhengs, I would love to talk with you. Very Happy

Have fun playing,

Kurt
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yukina
Site Admin


Joined: 05 Feb 2015
Posts: 26

PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Kurt:

Welcome to this forum.
You are building a guzheng? That's wonderful! I would want to see and play it.
What measures do you need? I can try to help measuring, but it probably won't be professionally accurate.

Yukina
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swellbow
Plywood


Joined: 07 Dec 2008
Posts: 10
Location: Fort Collins, CO

PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Yukina,

Thanks for the warm welcome! Yes, I hope to build a guzheng...or something quite like it! I'm pretty sure I can make it work, but I also want to make it very good quality, so I am trying to be careful.

My plans right now are quite similar to a guzheng except I am not going to curve the body of the instrument lengthwise -- it will still be curved widthwise though. If that all works OK I will look at doing a compound curve. I plan to make bridges as well.

I've got estimated size of guzheng as 158 cm long x 33 cm wide x 13 cm tall. Does this seem right? Also, I have the curved soundboard arching 3.4 cm higher than the sides, which are about 9.6 cm high on the long edges (for a total of 13 cm as I measured above) -- on the tuning end, anyway. Does that sound correct? I can post a photo of what I am talking about if that would help.

I have made all my estimates by measuring photos and scaling them. I hope to scan my plans and post them on a blog for other people to look at eventually. Very Happy

The most difficult part of the project is estimating the bridge positions, the string tensions, and the bracing needed to make sure the instrument does not break apart when tuned up. Wink To some degree I can measure this but I also just have to make a design and try it out to see what happens. I just hope I don't overbrace the soundboard since it needs to vibrate well to sound good.

Thanks!

Kurt
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jarrelle
Nanmu Mica


Joined: 06 Feb 2008
Posts: 396
Location: earth

PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2008 10:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

WELCOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!hehe I made a koto zheng! heh it was very loud and it looked scary.I used cedar for the sound boards....
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swellbow
Plywood


Joined: 07 Dec 2008
Posts: 10
Location: Fort Collins, CO

PostPosted: Wed Dec 10, 2008 10:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks! Loud and scary huh? Sounds crazy. Got pictures? I was thinking of using Douglas fir for the soundboards, but that's only a guess. Not sure yet.
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jarrelle
Nanmu Mica


Joined: 06 Feb 2008
Posts: 396
Location: earth

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sorry i dont have any pics.You can use any soft wood for the soundboards.and use hard wood for the sides.My koto zheng only had about 9 strings on it......soooo if u can imagine 9 out of tune strings haha~ andit looked scary cuz It was over 6 something feet tall.It was made out of fence boards.
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swellbow
Plywood


Joined: 07 Dec 2008
Posts: 10
Location: Fort Collins, CO

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 8:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds scary for sure! I am planning to use hardwood for the sides and softwood for the soundboard and bottom. But not fence posts. Shocked Very Happy

My plan is to build the first one a little longer than the strings themselves. I want to understand how the shape affects the sound, too. There's that travel guzheng linked to from one of the many conversations here (Yukina, I think those were your pictures) that basically looks like a full size guzheng but the tail end is cut off to match the S curve. I wonder how missing that little bit of the resonator affects the sound? So my first one will be smaller than full size, just a little.

I'm optimistic, you can tell because I said "my first one." Wink

Kurt
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yukina
Site Admin


Joined: 05 Feb 2015
Posts: 26

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Kurt:

I think the bass on the travel size is quite flat. I don't know if it's due to the shorter length. There is a Tianyi's travel size that has flat tail instead of "S" tail. The guzheng part is only a little bit longer than the string part. Too bad I don't have pictures now. That one actually has very good bass.

I think any soft wood with loose grains like paulownia is fine. I've seen spruce soundboard ones that sound too cold to be a guzheng. I don't know if it's because spruce has tight grains. It's just a guess. I love spruce bottom board ones, but I don't like the sound of the spruce soundboard ones.
What are you going to use for frame?

Yukina
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swellbow
Plywood


Joined: 07 Dec 2008
Posts: 10
Location: Fort Collins, CO

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 9:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Yukina,

I wondered how the shape affected the overall sound. Interesting also that the travel size with a flat tail sounded pretty good. The S curve bridge will be one of the more interesting items to shape...I could be lazy and make a straight bridge like the tuning end...but I think I would like to try the S curve. Wink I don't honestly have a good understanding of just how much the S curve affects the sound (particularly in comparison with a koto which of course uses totally different strings but has no S curve), but from what I read it helps bring out the bass (thanks to Master Xu, correct?). Given the degree of the curve in the middle, I wonder if it cuts out some midrange as well further enhancing bass and treble. I guess I would have to see two almost-identical ones, one with a straight bridge and one with an S bridge before I could really tell.

I kind of wonder if guzhengs would benefit from having bass braces like a violin which help to draw out the lower tones by transmitting them to a larger surface area. Maybe some of them do -- like I said, I have never seen inside one!

I have seen that there are some places to buy paulownia lumber online, but I'd like to build it out of domestic (North American) woods. Douglas fir seems like it might be a good choice because you can get more variety in grain than the spruce (as you described). I had not decided on the back yet, so maybe I will use spruce on your recommendation. I hope to have time next week to hit my local wood supplier and see what options they may have. I'd like to look at cedar as well, depending on the grain, because I love the sound of cedar for guitar (I feel it is warmer, rounder, and bassier with less treble "bite").

For the frame, from my research it looks like zitan is (was) the preferred wood but that due to rarity and expense rosewood has become the next choice. I cannot find an exact number of zitan's hardness on the Janka scale or of its specific gravity, but supposedly it is extremely hard and close grained. Rosewood is pretty hard and of course is well known for instrument building. Sugar maple, black locust, and black cherry are widely available and relatively hard domestic woods, with maple and cherry sometimes being used for instruments. Maple may end up being the wood I will go with, but I want to do a little more research too. Do you think these might seem ok?

I'm a nature geek who loves plants, particularly trees, so selecting the woods is pretty important to me for ethical and environmental reasons, not to mention musical and spiritual reasons. Smile

Thanks so much for your help in thinking this through!

Kurt
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swellbow
Plywood


Joined: 07 Dec 2008
Posts: 10
Location: Fort Collins, CO

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 10:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

swellbow wrote:
the curved soundboard arching 3.4 cm higher than the sides, which are about 9.6 cm high on the long edges (for a total of 13 cm as I measured above)


I just rechecked my calculations and this is wrong. Looks like the side should be 8.5 cm and the height of the arc at the top is 4.5 cm. That still adds up to 13 cm high total, if my translation of measurements from photographs is correct. Smile
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yukina
Site Admin


Joined: 05 Feb 2015
Posts: 26

PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2008 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think the curve is different for each brand. The Scarlet Bird has a really flat soundboard. The Dunhuang has medium-flat soundboard, and the Tianyi'
s is more curvier. Some Yangzhou brands have really curvy soundboard.

The inner structure is different too.
The Scarlet Bird has no braces or sound posts. There is nothing inside the interior.

Standard ones have three braces near each sound hole. Each brace has a sound post. Some factories use only one sound post.(probably in the middle brace) Some use more than 3 sound posts.

Tianyi's quartersawn one has very thick soundboard, and it only have one brace and one sound post in the middle. The two sides have no braces, but there are two horizontal bars that connect the two sides but not touching the soundboard.

The Dunhuang high-end ones have a tone bar under the center of the soundboard near the middle sound hole.

You can be very creative. I think it has to do with the thickness of the soundboard. The standard soundboard is 0.8cm for the treble, 0.9cm for the middle range and 1cm for the bass part. However, those ones usually don't sound good!!

A much thicker board will sound better. The problem with thicker board is it's hard to make the treble good. Then if you make the treble part really thin and middle-bass part thick, the sound doesn't sound as a whole. Maybe a smooth transition with something to support the middle part is better.
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yukina
Site Admin


Joined: 05 Feb 2015
Posts: 26

PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2008 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think rosewood is just fine. I would love to hear a maple one too!
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truecolors
Plywood


Joined: 13 Dec 2008
Posts: 1
Location: pennsylvania, USA

PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 10:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

e-mail me at: grokki@comcast.net and I will send you photos of a guzheng that I made that I can actually sit on the seat beside me when driving so that I can practice my fingerwork...

Additionally, maybe we can discuss your construction options
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swellbow
Plywood


Joined: 07 Dec 2008
Posts: 10
Location: Fort Collins, CO

PostPosted: Sun Dec 14, 2008 8:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yukina, I can't thank you enough. What you have posted is a treasure trove of information about guzheng soundboards. It's good to hear that there is a lot of variance...that means I should have a lot of flexibility in my design.

Quote:
You can be very creative.


That is good to hear! I appreciate your encouragement. I'm beginning to think I may use hide glue so I can try some experiments and reverse them if they don't work out.

I wonder if I can use a bass tone bar on the bass side and a couple of posts that transmit midrange near the mid bridges and treble near the high bridges.

Thank you so much for your descriptions of the soundboards -- you have no idea how tremendously useful that single post is! I'd love to hear any other thoughts you have about guzheng shape, construction, woods, etc. Wink

Kurt
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Vi_An
Zitan Elite


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

PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 5:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am still working with my luthier friend in designing a revolutionary long zither like instrument. We'll post important discoveries along the way. Its great that there is such an interest out there of people desiring to improve upon the gu zheng instrument by doing it their own way, using existing materials found locally is environmentally sound and very brilliant to say the least.

You have my best regards and encouragements always, I'm so excited.

Sincerely,

Vi An
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