Gaohu

Name: Gaohu.
Type: Chordophones > Fiddles > Huqins > Bowed.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.313.7
Bayin: 絲 Silk.
Tuning: G / D.
Inventor: Lu Wencheng [1898–1981].
Country: China.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The gaohu [in Chinese: 高胡 in pinyin: gāohú ; pronounced kɑ́ʊ̯xǔ in IPA; Cantonese: gou1 wu4; also called yuehu 粤 胡] is a Chinese bowed stringed musical instrument, that developed from the erhu in the 1920s by the musician and composer Lü Wencheng [1898–1981]. Primarily played in Cantonese music and Cantonese Opera.

The gaohu belongs to the huqin family of instruments, together with the jinghu, erhu, banhu, zhonghu and sihu; its name means “high-pitched huqin”. It is the leading instrument of Cantonese music and opera ensembles. As such with other huqin instruments the gaohu is played by resting the bottom of the instrument above a leg when one sits on a chair or ground. Well known pieces for the gaohu include Bu Bu Gao [步步高, Higher Step By Step] and Ping Hu Qiu Yue [平湖秋月, Autumn Moon on Calm Lake].

Construction: The gaohu is similar in construction to the erhu. Although where they differ is the shape of their sound boxes. The long hardwood neck of the gaohu runs through its constructed tubular wooden resonating chamber the front of which is covered by a snakeskin soundboard. The backside of the resonator is open but adorned with a carved wooden screen.

Near the top end of the neck are two friction tuning pegs, which are inserted through the backside of the neck. One end of each synthetic string is attached to and wrapped around a tuning peg while the other end terminates in a loop that is looped over the stub of the neck that protrudes from the bottom of the resonator.

The top end of the vibrating segment of the strings is articulated with an adjustable sliding nut [called qianjin] this nut is tied of nylon cord; the lower end of the vibrating segment is where the strings pass over a small wooden bridge on the soundboard. The bow is made of bamboo, its black hair held taut by the instrumentalist.

The bow hair passes between the two playing strings. The gaohu tuned a fourth higher than the erhu G4 / D5. The gaohu is placed in between the knees. The sound box is formed when a membrane [snake skin] is placed over the front. The overall tone of the gaohu is quiet.

Citations: Bibliography: Huang, Jinpei 2002 Ensembles: Guangdong Yinyue – In The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music v. 7. East Asia. ed. Robert C. Provine, Yosihiko Tokumaru and, J. Lawrence Witzleben. New York: Routledge, pp. 217-221 ; Thrasher, Alan R. 2000. Chinese Musical Instruments. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Websites: Grinnell College Musical Instrument Collection / Gaohu ;

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