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Sheng video


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I found this fascinating video about the Sheng including it's history, construction and much more. Of particular interest is the information about the free reeds and how they are made, prepared, tuned, and how they interact with the bamboo pipes.

 

 

Edited by Syncopepper
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It's a fascinating instrument, I've got one lurking somewhere. The most interesting distinction for me is the fact you have one reed which vibrates with both directions of air flow, rather than accordion/concertina reeds that are always in pairs. For this to work, the reed needs to be dead level in the slot. What I find over time is that the reeds of the sheng bend up or down and need to be reset. As they bend it causes them to be "voiced" like a normal concertina reed and therefore sound even when the hole in the pipe is open.

 

The main struggle with playing them is the completely idiosyncratic layout of notes, here's a chart I made for mine. I read somewhere that if I bought another one it would likely have a completely different layout.

sheng21layout.pdf

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4 hours ago, Pistachio Dreamer said:

For this to work, the reed needs to be dead level in the slot

Interesting.  In the video, he talks about the reeds being made by hand by cutting from metal from very old Chinese gongs.

 

I wonder if it would be possible to make a usable flat reed like this using spring steel and a laser cutter.  

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6 hours ago, Don Taylor said:

Interesting.  In the video, he talks about the reeds being made by hand by cutting from metal from very old Chinese gongs.

 

I wonder if it would be possible to make a usable flat reed like this using spring steel and a laser cutter.  

A laser would still have too much kerf for the slot clearance I think, in fact most ways you can machine metal would result in a kerf too big for good reed response, though someone might correct me here. With the sheng, the material is so thin I think they were simply cut with a sharp knife. They are tuned by a blob of wax on the tip. I don't think the reed profiling matters as much for the resultant sound, which is more like what you get with the vibrating column of air in an organ pipe than a concertina or accordion type instrument.

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3 hours ago, Pistachio Dreamer said:

A laser would still have too much kerf for the slot clearance I think, in fact most ways you can machine metal would result in a kerf too big for good reed response

I wonder if that is why they first coat the reed with a thin layer of wax, let it set and then blow (hard) on the reed to get the tongue to break through the wax.  Perhaps this reduces the clearance.

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Fascinating, indeed!

By good fortune, my first contact with the sheng was live, at a concert of Chinese music in a hall near here. The concert was organised by the more classically-oriented side of our culture club, so, thankfully, there was no PA system to falsify the timbre of the sheng (or of the erhu, the two-stringed fiddle, which I heard live for the first time on that occasion).

As I remember, I was very much struck by the sheng's similarity of timbre to the Crane/Triumph concertina that had so impressed me in my childhood.

Cheers,

John

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On 3/19/2021 at 8:00 PM, Pistachio Dreamer said:

A laser would still have too much kerf for the slot clearance I think, in fact most ways you can machine metal would result in a kerf too big for good reed response, though someone might correct me here. With the sheng, the material is so thin I think they were simply cut with a sharp knife. They are tuned by a blob of wax on the tip. I don't think the reed profiling matters as much for the resultant sound, which is more like what you get with the vibrating column of air in an organ pipe than a concertina or accordion type instrument.

Very much depends on the laser and the delivery system. It can be problem for internal corners (eg on the frame_, but for straight lines and external corners it doesn't really how big it is because, as long as you know what it is, the CNC can compensate for it.

 

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Not quite a sheng but related enough to give an airing here: the Khaen. There is a guy from Cork who plays Irish music on one, to great effect. He used to come to town and play out in the street, attarcting great interest from the old traditional musicianers.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Peter Laban
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On 3/25/2021 at 10:14 AM, Peter Laban said:

Not quite a sheng but related enough to give an airing here: the Khaen. There is a guy from Cork who plays Irish music on one, to great effect. He used to come to town and play out in the street, attarcting great interest from the old traditional musicianers.

 

 

 

 

 

I remember seeing this years ago, thanks for the reminder! I wonder if he's still playing?

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On 3/24/2021 at 12:28 PM, Clive Thorne said:

Very much depends on the laser and the delivery system. It can be problem for internal corners (eg on the frame_, but for straight lines and external corners it doesn't really how big it is because, as long as you know what it is, the CNC can compensate for it.

 

Usually yes, however in this case we were talking about the reed being cut as a tongue in a sheet of material that then remains and acts as the reed frame. A bit like the principle of a wooden tongue/slit drum.

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On 3/26/2021 at 10:34 AM, Pistachio Dreamer said:

Usually yes, however in this case we were talking about the reed being cut as a tongue in a sheet of material that then remains and acts as the reed frame. A bit like the principle of a wooden tongue/slit drum.

Note to self: Must reed thread properly before commenting!

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