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Stringed Instruments

There are more than 36 different kinds of Chinese stringed instruments, collectively referred to as Huqin. Huqin used in a Chinese traditional orchestra include erhu, gaohu, zhonghu, gehu and bass gehu. Some orchestras add to these other Huqin such as banhu, jinghu, yehu, and leiqin, according to the needs of the music.

Pizzicato Instruments

There are three ways in which pizzicato instruments are generally played. Strings can be plucked by the fingers, by plectra (picks), or hit with bamboo sticks. These instruments have a long history in China, and come in a variety of forms and styles. There are more than forty kinds of pizzicato instruments, with the most commonly seen being yangqin, liuqin, pipa, zhongruan, daruan, sanxian, and guzheng. Other pizzicato instruments often used in Chinese orchestras include guqin, yueqin, qinqin, and occasionally the Western harp.

Woodwind Instruments

Wind instruments also have a long history in Chinese music, and similarly exist in a variety of forms. Each type requires a different technique to play, and has a unique tonal colour. Flutes, in addition to the standard Chinese flute (dizi), include the xiao, xun, and paixiao. Suona and guan are double-reed instruments, while sheng, bawu, and hulusi are common examples of single-reed instruments. Finally, there are horn-like instruments such as the brass horn, ox horn and conch. 

Percussion Instruments

Percussion instruments not only emphasize rhythm in an orchestra, but also help to create variations in orchestral colour. They can also perform independently and in small groups. A percussion ensemble can on its own create a wide variety of rich musical expression.