Tips in selecting guzhengs 如何挑選古箏
We love guzheng, and we want to share good quality guzheng with all of you. Our goal is to provide the best quality guzheng to all players at an affordable low price. We work closely with the makers. From soundboard selecting to carving the shape of the sound chamber, we ensure the production of the best sound quality of the guzheng. Each guzheng is hand picked by our professional at the factories. Our guzheng are all quality guaranteed. As guzheng lovers, we can not stand any low quality ones. Here are tips in selecting a guzheng:
1. Soundboard. The soundboard of a guzheng should be made of paulownia that has been dried properly and thoroughly. If the soundboard is air-dried, it should be dried for at least a year. Air-dried soundboard retain the natural color of wood, usually in light golden color. Typically air-dried guzheng has a warm tone. Shanghai makers prefer to oven-dry the soundboard which gives a sweet tone to the guzheng.
There are flame-dried guzheng that has dark grayish soundboard that looks like a piece of charcoal. The dark soundboards are flame dried using a fire gun directly flame on surface. Although flame drying speed up the drying process from 1 year to 30 minutes, 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. Therefore, a flame-dried soundboard is not desirable.
Ideally, a quartersawn-cut soundboard 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 and straight wood grains.
2. Bottom board. The bottom board is as important as the soundboard. A good quality bottom board should use paulownia. However, to lower the cost, some makers use plywood instead of real paulownia and lacqured the board to cover it. So, if the guzheng is painted dark at the bottom, you know that's probably using plywood instead of using real paulownia. The sound of a guzheng with plywood bottom is very muddy, 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.