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CLASSIFICATION: Aerophone, Free Aerophone, Wind instrument

HISTORY: The sheng has a history of thousands of years and is manufacture and use was reported in ancient Chinese history. Already popular among the Chinese people in the Yin Dynasty (1401-1121 BCE), the sheng is still in common use today. The sheng is the instrument that inspired the invention of the concertina, accordion and harmonica, and uses the same technology of metal reeds that vibrate as air passes through them. The sheng is also known as a Chinese mouth organ or Chinese panpipe.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: The original version of sheng is made up of a group of bamboo tubes of different lengths that are tied together with a string. Later improvements added reeds to each tube. The early sheng had thirteen to seventeen bamboo tubes. In 1006 CE, the Bei Song Dynasty, 19-tubes sheng was used. In the Ming and Ching Dynasty, popular sheng were 17-tubes, 14-tubes, 13 tubes and 10-tubes. In modern China, further improvements were made, and the 21-tubes, 24-tubes, 26-tubes, 27-tubes, 32-tubes, 36 tubes, and 51-tubes sheng were produced. Such arrangements allow sheng to play complicated chords and music.

SOUND PROPERTIES: By virtue of its construction, this is the only Chinese musical instrument capable of playing multiple pitches simultaneously. 

RANGE: The range of the sheng is E4 to G sharp5.


Sheng Range

Photos courtesy of Lark In The Morning


Last Updated: 2013-02-14 19:30:58