History and construction of the instrument

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Asia's Central and Eastern regions are where the Yueqin, or moon guitar, originated. A member of the family of flat and round-bodied instruments, the yueqin is a type of Chinese lute. It is roughly 18 inches long, with a short neck, and a spherical, 12-inch-diameter resonator that it derived from the ruan. It is made up of two silk string pairs tuned to the relative pitch c-g. The wooden belly's fastener is where the strings for the tuning pegs on the peg box's sides are attached (Britannica 2017). The strings are plucked using either the fingers or a tiny plectrum. The characteristic sound of the instrument is produced when the small metal plate hanging inside the body vibrates against it during the playing of the instrument. The latest yueqin is slightly bigger than the traditional one with an extension of 26 inches and its four unpaired strings made of nylon wrapped steel. The invention of Yueqin was during the Jin dynasty back in the AD 265 AND 420 according to the tradition.

Does the instrument have predecessors? If so, in what ways does it differ from them?

The ruan is a Chinese instrument that is an ancestor to yueqin. Despite both of them having a moon-shaped soundboard, the latest ruan uses a bridge while the yueqin attaches the strings to the frame. Apart from that, the yueqin has a single small sound hole found where the strings are attached while the ruan has double sound holes. These features give yueqin an outstanding sound quality. Although the ruan is used for its lower range instruments like daruan and zhongruan, yueqin is a treble tuned despite the size of its soundboard being larger than the zhongruan.

Traditional yueqin

The yueqin consists of four strings tuned from D to A, from low to high. The strings are made of silk and plucking was done using a long- sharp plectrum that is attached to the instrument using a piece of cord. No sound holes are present rather inside the sound box there are one or more strands of wire that are attached at one end. Consequently, they cause vibrations that give the instrument a certain timbre and resonance. There is no bridge or saddle since the strings are fixed to the anchor at the bottom of the instrument.

Modern yueqin

The modern yueqin consists of three to four strings that are made of steel and tuned to different pitch. The attachment of the strings is at the anchor through looping them through their end-loops. Three-string yueqin are tuned from A-D while the four strings are tuned A D a d. However, currently the instrument is tuned G D g d so that the latest liuqin and ruan instrumentalists double on yueqin. The modern instrument may have up to five holes anchor for it to be tuned and strung as three or four instrument. The latest yueqin is played with a guitar pick.

Is the instrument used in more than one genre or musical tradition?

Yueqin is used in more than one music tradition. Yueqin has a clear and vigorous tone used to accompany musical traditions like local operas, narratives, solos and ensembles. It is a subject to various paintings and poems held at the societal level used as both a solo instrument or accompanying instrument. Chinese music is considered as “loud” although this depends on the nature of the genre as well as the type of musical instrument used. Yueqin plays important roles in the musical tradition. It is a form of entertainment to the people and promotes the spread of the culture through the performance of traditional folk songs.

Describe timbre of the instrument

The timbre of yueqin instrument is crisp and bright. Although non-western music is primarily vocal in nature, other cultures have developed unique instruments with unique strings and colorful percussion sounds.

What is the function of the piece?

The piece majorly serves to entertain the people, spreading of the Chinese culture and to promote unity and togetherness of the people as they gather to carry out the musical traditions.

Which other instruments do you hear, and how does your chosen instrument interact with them? (Is it the main instrument and does it have an accompanying role)

The other musical instruments include Guzheng, Yangqin, Pipa, Flute and Erhu. The Chinese mostly use these instruments. They are ancient national musical instruments in the field of Chinese music (Visit our China 2017). The instruments were important during orchestra. In relation to yueqin, both of them accompany musical traditions like local operas, narratives, solos and ensembles.

What is the form of the piece?

Non-western music is freely structured compared to the others. Most of the songs depend on improvisation and the music is presented orally and in most times it is not performed more than once (wmich.edu 2017).

Musical parameters


Meter is defined as the rhythmic patterns produced through the combination of strong and weak beats. A meter can either occur in duple- two beats in a measure, triple- three beats in a measure or even quadruple- four beats in a measure.


Texture explains the number and type of layers used in a composition and the relationship between these layers. A texture is monophonic, polyphonic or homophonic. Monophonic refers to a single melodic line, polyphonic refer to two or more melodic lines while homophonic means the main melody is accompanied by chords.


Dynamics is the volume of a performance. In written compositions, a sign that highlights the intensity at which a play or a note should be carried out shows dynamics. They are used inform of punctuations in a sentence to show emphasis. Dynamics are derived from Italian e.g. the word pianissimo indicates a soft passage while fortissimo indicates very loud section (ThoughtCo. 2017).


Tempo is the speed at which a particular piece of music is played. In written compositions, an Italian word is used at the beginning of a score to indicate a work’s tempo. Largo indicates a moderate pace, moderato indicates a moderate pace while presto indicates a very fast pace. Besides, tempo can also indicate emphasis; ritenuto orders the musician to slow down immediately.


Rhythm refers to the placement or patterns of sound in time and beats in music. It is the particular arrangement of note lengths of note lengths in a piece of music shaped by meter and contains other elements like tempo and beat.


Melody refers to the overarching tune formed by playing continuous notes and it is affected by rhythm and pitch. A composition may have only one melody that runs through it once or multiple melodies that are in the arrangement of verse-chorus form as in rock n roll. In other circumstances like classical music, the melody occurs as a recurring musical theme that changes as the composition progresses.


Timbre is the quality of sound that differentiates one instrument or voice from the other. It ranges from dark to bright and from dull to lush basing on the technique. It is sometimes referred to as tone color.


Yueqin or moon guitar is a traditional Chinese string instrument. It is an important instrument used in opera orchestra by playing the role of melodic instrument at lieu of the bowed string section. The word Yueqin previously applied to all moon shaped soundboard instruments like the Ruan. Although, Yueqin has its own separate category and it is no longer in the Ruan family. All the frets of Chinese lutes are distinctively high since the fingers do not touch the body unlike the western fretted instruments. This promotes a great control of the intonation and timbre as compared to the western counterparts; consequently, it makes chordal playing difficult.

Works Cited

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopeadia. 2017. Yueqin Musical Instrument. Accessed November 25, 2017. https://www.britannica.com/art/yueqin.

ThoughtCo. 2017. An introduction to the elements of music. Accessed November 25, 2017. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-elements-of-music-2455913.

Visit our China. 2017. Traditional Chinese Musical Instruments. Accessed November 25, 2017. http://www.visitourchina.com/guide/culture/traditional-chinese-musical-instruments.html.

wmich.edu. 2017. General Background to World Music. Accessed November 25, 2017. http://wmich.edu/mus-gened/mus150/WorldMusic.htm.

April 13, 2023

Science Culture World



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