How to Play Hulusi

Hulusi is played vertically and has three pipes which connect with the gourd wind chest. It has a very pure, clarinet-like sound.

 

Material

 

The traditional materials for making Hulusi are bamboo and gourd. Bamboo is used for the pipes and gourd is used for the wind chest. Nowadays many new materials are used to replace bamboo and gourd. The new materials often used are sandalwood, ebony and cloisonné to make Hulusi look prettier, more luxurious and more professional look. The reeds are made of brass. A plastic sheath is inserted in which protects the two pipes and keeps them sturdy.

 

Main Pipe

 

Single pipe Hulusi are rare. Two or three pipes are the most common. Most Hulusi have a main pipe, which has seven holes, 6 in the front and 1 thumbhole in the back. In 1958, a fourteen-note version was invented, and in the 1970’s a version with two melody pipes, tuned a fourth apart, was invented. Take the following Hulusi for example, the player can either play the key of G or D, depending on which mouthpiece and main pipe is controlling. Musical Instruments

 

Drone Pipes

 

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Hulusi has a main pipe and two drone pipes, which can play chord. One drone pipe produces high pitch and once produces low pitch. But it is not uncommon for a Hulusi to have only one drone pipe sound while the other drone pipe is merely ornamental and has no sound.

For the above Hulusi , the one on the left have two pipes both playing chord while the one on the right only has one drone pipe sound.

 

How the drone pipes play chords?

 

Traditionally, there are two foam lids at the end of drone pipes, which can be plugged or unplugged to open or close the drones when playing. When the lids are open, the high pitch drone produces a “mi” tone along with the “so” tone of the main pipe when having all finger holes closed, and the low pitch drone produces a “la” tone as resonance. However, the foam lids are not convenient to control as you need to move your hand away from the main pipe when playing, which might disturb the playing.

Drone pipes with foam lids
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In recent years, there is new technique to replace the foam lids on the drones as to make the drones easy and convenient to control when playing. The drone switches are for great delivery of sound and are quick on and off.

drone pipes with switches
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The new technique allows you to switch on and off the drones easily at any time without affecting the playing.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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How to Play Bawu

 

Constructure of Bawu

 

 

Bawu reed and mouthpiece
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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

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Bawu – A Talking Instrument

Bawu is a free reed musical instrument of China folk music. It is played by the Dai, Hani, Miao, Yi in southwest China.

bamboo Bawu with detachable pipe
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A Beautiful Legend

 

There is a beautiful legend about the origin of theBawu. Two young people from Hani tribe fell in love with each other. One day a demon grabbed the girl and separated these two lovers. Then the demon cut off the girl’s tongue and threw her into the mountains. The girl luckily survived. Following a bird’s advice that bamboo can talk, she made an instrument with bamboo and pouring out her misfortune through it. On hearing the sad melody from the bamboo the villagers came to kill the demon and saved the girl. She finally married her lover. Since then Bawu became known as a talking instrument.
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Being Popular

 

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Although Bawu is originated from ethnic tribes of Southwest China, it has become a popular instrument throughout China. The rich and mellow tone of Bawu has become a favorite with composers of film soundtracks. It is heavily featured in the film Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon , an Oscar Winner for Best Music. Many Chinese music ensembles now feature a Bawu.

sandalwood Bawu with dual pipes
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ebony Bawu with vertical played pipe
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In recent years, Bawu crafters take this very traditional instrument into a new stage. The newly designed Bawu are better with high quality copper reeds and mechanical keys. The new models can be vertically played and have dual pipes to extend the range of octaves. The materials are from traditional bamboo and upgrade to sandalwood and ebony. These improvements in materials and craft technique greatly enhance its popularity to music lovers.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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Hulusi, Oriental Saxophone

If you like playing and collecting Chinese musical instruments, Hulusi will not disappoint you.

 

Origination

 

 

natural gourd and bamboo pipe Hulusi
Musical Instruments
natural gourd and sandalwood pipe Hulusi
Musical Instruments

Hulusi is the free wind instrument of Chinese folk music. It is originated from ethnic Dai tribe in Yunnan in the Southwest China, which can be traced back to Qin and Han Dynasties (221 BC to 220 AD). It is also popular among other ethnic groups like De’ang, Hani and Yi in the nearby regions. Dai people call it “Bi Lang Dao”. “Bi” means wind instrument, “Lang” means vertically held, and “Dao” means gourd. Whereas, in Chinese Mandarin the instrument is called Hulusi , named after its shape and sound. “Hulu” means gourd, and “si” means silk, implying the sound is as soft as silk. For its soft and harmonious sound, it is described as Oriental Saxophone.

 

Construction and Various Types

 

Hulusi or Gourd Flute is made of a gourd with bamboo pipes fixed at the bottom. The gourd is the wind chest. The middle pipe is the main pipe with 7 finger holes, 6 on the front and 1 on the back. The pipes next to the main pipe on both sides are drone pipes or harmonic pipes. The reeds are at the top end of the pipes. Most of reeds are made of brass, and could be in triangle or rectangle shape. Hulusi is a solo instrument and rarely played in ensembles. It was predominantly played by the Dai and other non-Han ethnic groups in Yunnan province but now can be seen everywhere in China.

cloisonne gourd and ebony pipe Hulusi
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sandalwood gourd and sandalwood pipe Hulusi
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There are various types of gourd planted all over China, while those planted in Yunnan, with its slim shape, thick texture and solid structure is considered the most ideal for making Hulusi . In addition to natural gourd, quality timber such as ebony and sandalwood are popular choice for more professional players.

 

Legend about Hulusi

 

The sound of Hulusi is hauntingly beautiful, mellow and tender, and has a very pure, clarinet-like sound. It is ideal for expressing soft and tender feelings. Traditionally, Dai men play Hulusi to express their love to women and they also play Hulusi in the fields when taking a break from planting or harvesting. Musical Instruments Musical Instruments

There is a legend about Hulusi among Dai people. In the remote past, a Dai young man saved his girl friend from a flood by holding a big gourd and rushing through the turbulent waves. His loyalty to love touched Buddha, who inserted bamboo pipes into a gold gourd and gave it to the brave man. Holding up the gold gourd, the man played beautiful music. All of a sudden, the torrential flood retreated, flowers blossomed and peacocks opened their tails. All things on earth seemed to be sending their good wishes to the lovers. Ever since then, Hulusi has been passed down from generation to generation among Dai people. Musical Instruments

Hulusi is widely appreciated for its beautiful and soft sound. Although it is still predominantly performed in China, Hulusi has been popular in other countries. It has in recent years been adopted by European composers and performers. Rohan Leach from England, Rapheal De Cock from Belgium and Herman Witkam from the Netherlands have all taken the instrument in new directions.

by Xiao Xiao @ InteractChina.com

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