How to Play Bawu

Constructure of Bawu

Bawu reed and mouthpiece
Musical Instrument

Bawu is composed of three parts.

Main Pipe is the melody pipe. It has seven sound holes, 6 in the front, 1 in the back. The main pipe enables nine full tones and eight semi-tones /combined-tones.

Reed is located inside the top end of the main pipe. Most of them are made of brass.

Mouthpiece could be made of various materials such as metal, ox horn, wood, bamboo or plastic.

Basic Rules to Play Bawu

Bawu is played in a horizontal manner except the new models which are played vertically. The player must cover the reed entirely with the mouth and apply substantial air pressure to maintain the vibration of the reed. Bawu is only capable of a single octave and unlike free reed mouth-organs it is only played by exhaling.

Take a traditional model for example. It has a thumb hole, six finger holes, plus a tuning hole and a range of just over an octave. It is made from two detachable bamboo pipes and its overall tuning can be varied by adjusting the joint between the two pieces. A key of G instrument plays the scale D E F# G A B D E:

Additional pitches can be played by cross-fingering and half-holing and a G instrument would typically also be played in the keys of D, C and sometimes Bb. Musical Instrument

Fingering

Bawu has 7 holes, 6 on the front and 1 on the back. So the fingering is somewhat similar to the transverse flute or saxophone.

From left to right, number the holes 0 to 6, with 0 corresponding to the left thumb hole. Typical booklets say the following:

Cover all holes and blow lightly for the lowest tone (which is Mi in the key of the instrument). Cover all holes and blow hard for the low So. Opening hole 6 while blowing hard gets you La; opening 5 and 6, Si; opening all right hand holes, Do. From then on we get Re if we also open 3, Mi if 2 and 3, and high So if only 0 is covered. And the higher the tone, the softer one needs to blow.

Throat resonance

Following the directions strictly, maybe one wound run into a problem with tonguing and staccatos. When the air-flow is cut off, the freely vibrating reed with feel the pressure lessen and revert to the fundamental resonance, which is either a low Mi or low Fa. This causes problems because one would then hear a sorry-sounding downward glissando after every attempt to play a staccato, instead of a hard cut-off.

The solution to that is throat resonance. Think of it as an extension to setting an embouchure. In addition to changing the lip profile itself, when playing single reed instruments like the saxophone and the clarinet, it is important to “open up the throat”. One wants to expand the muscle that is right below the point where the jaw connects to the neck.

Experiments show that by opening up the throat, you can blow on the Bawusoftly while still producing the higher harmonics, and by relaxing the muscle there, you can immediately drop down to the fundamental resonance.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

P.S. We need people with similar passion to join or partner with us in promoting ethnic handicrafts! Please contact us at interact@interactchina.com to make any suggestions that you may have in co-operating with us, or join as Affiliate.

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12 thoughts on “How to Play Bawu

  1. Beautiful music – thank you! I play the Irish pennywhistle and hammered dulcimer. Today, a life-long friend brought me a Bawu back from China. It is a fascinating and hauntingly gorgeous instrument. I look forward to learning to play it. Please, let us enjoy more of your music. Ron – Overland Park, KS

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    1. Hi Ron, very glad to have your comment! I know Irish people are very friendly and love music a lot. I also love Irish music. They are really lovely and fascinating. I believe it will be an enchanted melody to play Irish music with Bawu. We will post more articles on Bawu in the near future and hope you will enjoy reading them. I think there might be some similarities in penny whistle and Bawu. Wish you good luck in learning Bawu and also enjoy playing it!

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      1. Hi Ben, the reed of bawu is very sensitive. So we don’t recommend you to fix it by yourself unless you are professional and you are sure you are able to fix it. We could help to fix the reed, but the reed needs to be fixed by our crafter. So some handling fee and return shipping need to be paid.

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  2. I just bought a bawu flute and I’m trying to play it. Is there a song that’s easy to play and/or sounds really nice? can you help me find a couple? thanks..
    the piece is beautiful

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  3. I loved as much as you’ll receive carried out right here. The sketch is tasteful, your authored material stylish. nonetheless, you command get got an nervousness over that you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably come more formerly again since exactly the same nearly very often inside case you shield this increase.

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  4. Sera tem como disponibilizar uma tablatura com a demonstraçao de notas ,ficaria muito agradecido eu adquiri uma bawu em G ,mais nao acho tablaturas ,nunca toquei uma bawu estou mei sem jeito .

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    1. is to provide a demonstration of tablature with notes, would be grateful I got a bawu in G, do not think tablatures, never touched one bawu mei’m embarrassed.

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