Type: Spike Lutes > Chordophone.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.313
Pa Yin: Silk 絲.
Region: Far East Asia.
Description: The dahu (低胡, pinyin: dīhú) is a large bowed string instrument from China. It has a large sound-body covered on one end with snakeskin. Like most other members of the huqin family of instruments, it has two strings and is held vertically. The instrument’s name derives from “dī,” meaning “low,” and “hú” (short for huqin). The dahu is sometimes also called cizhonghu. It is also referred to as xiaodihu, being the same instrument as the smallest of the three sizes of dihu (large huqin instruments), the others being the zhongdihu and dadihu.
History: The dahu was developed in the 1930s as the tenor member of the erhu family (the erhu being the soprano member and the zhonghu being the alto member) to increase the pitch range of the instruments used in a Chinese orchestra and allow music with harmony to be played. However, by the late 20th century it had largely fallen into disuse.
Part of the reason for this is that it is unwieldy to play. Also, that (like other instruments in the huqin family) the bow passes between the instrument’s two strings means that playing pizzicato is difficult; thus, the larger gehu and diyingehu, laruan (or cello or double bass) are generally used in Chinese orchestras for the lower bowed string voices instead.
The xiaodihu (小低胡, also called dahu or cizhonghu), pitched one octave below the erhu (tuned D-A, with its lowest D one whole step above the viola’s lowest C). It is the tenor member of the erhu family (the erhu being the soprano member and the zhonghu being the alto member).
The zhongdihu (中低胡, pitched one octave below the zhonghu, (tuned G-D, as the middle strings of the cello). It is the bass member of the erhu family.
The dadihu (大低胡, pitched one octave below the xiaodihu and two octaves below the erhu (tuned D-A, with its lowest D one whole step above the cello’s lowest C). It is the contrabass member of the erhu family.
Citations: Tsui Yingfai, [16 September 1998]. The Modern Chinese Folk Orchestra: A Brief History. In Tsao Penyeh. Tradition and Change in the Performance of Chinese Music, Part 2. Routledge. pp. 22–24. ISBN 978-9057550416.