Chinese Arts & Music Association

Instruments

Pipa

The most symoblic Chinese instruments

The "pear-shaped" Pipa is a leading Chinese orchestral and accompaniment instrument as well as a distinctive solo instrument. The instrument has a history of over 2000 years. Its most significant development spanned from the Chinese Han to the Chinese Tang Dynasty. The most common Pipa has a "pear-shaped" body with a short neck and a wooden belly. There are between 19 to 26 bamboo frets on the belly and 6 special frets called Xiang on the neck. The Xiang are made of either wood, jade, horns, or elephant tusks. A Pipa traditionally had 4 silk strings mostly with common tunes of A, D, E, and A. The strings are made of either steel-wire or silk.With a Pipa held vertically in the lap, the player plays it using imitation fingers. The use of imitation allows more freedom for the player to perform various techniques on the four strings of the lute. The range of techniques that can be used on a Pipa is the widest among all the Chinese plucked-strings, making it the most expressive instrument in the plucked-string section.Some of these techiques include: fretted pitch-bends, tremolos, various double and triple, and a continuous strumming of the strings with four fingers.