Tips in selecting guzhengs:
1. Sound board. The sound board of a guzheng should be made of paulownia that has been air dried for at
least a year. Air-dried or oven-dried sound boards retain the natural color of wood, usually in light golden
color or dark brown color. There are flame-dried guzheng that has dark grayish sound board that looks like
a piece of charcoal. The dark sound boards are flame dried using a fire gun directly flame on surface.
Although flame drying speed up the drying process from 1 year to 1 day, but it also fatally destroys the
wood piece. We've seen charcoal boards crack or warp in a short period of time. Furthermore, the "wood
sound" of a wood instrument is gone. A guzheng should sound rich with warm wood tone, but the flame-
dried board guzhengs only sound metallic.
Ideally, a quartersawn-cut sound board will be most stable for an instrument. However, paulownia wood
generally is not big enough to make a quarter-sawn cut for 21-stringed guzheng. Therefore, the maker
uses the most central part of a flatsawn piece instead. According to Guzheng Father Master Xu Zhen-Gao:
"the central part (of a flatsawn) is considered the most stable piece". The best piece of guzheng sound
board should have straight and even wood grains, with tighter grains in the high range and looser grains in
the low range. To achieve this perfect sounding board, some makers also use combined-quartersawn
piece to obtain an even wood grains.
2. Bottom board. The bottom board is as important as the sound board. A good quality bottom board
should use a single piece of paulownia. However, to lower the cost, the makers use plywood instead of
real paulownia. So, if the guzheng is painted dark at the bottom, you know that's probably using plywood
instead of using real paulownia. The sound quality of a plywood one is not as clear when comparing to a
paulownia one, but the price is only one-third as much.
3. Frames. The frame of a guzheng is made of hard wood such as Madagascar Rosewood, East Indian
Rosewood, Bois de Rose, Golden-thread Nanmu, Burmese Rosewood or Blackwood. The effects of a
good frame doesn't really add a lot to the sound quality of guzheng, but it adds a difference to the tone.
Madagascar Rosewood is considered to have clear and pure tone, Thailand Rosewood is considered to
have rich and sweet tone, while Golden-thread Nanmu is considered to have deep tone. However since a
guzheng with an expensive frame usually means higher price in the market, the makers spend more efforts
in selecting a good paulownia piece and better bridges and strings for it. The main board of a guzheng with
high priced frame generally is better in quality and is hand carved by experienced craftsman, while others
are just cut by machine or junior craftsman.
Read more about the different frame woods in the "Common Frame Woods used on Guzheng" article.
Read more about guzheng making and selecting in our FAQ page.
Please visit the links below for selection of our guzhengs, accessories, and music:
|Sound of China Guzheng Music Promotion Center