Sheng

Michael playing sheng.

Michael playing sheng.

        I’m currently working on a new orchestra composition that adds two Chinese instruments to the orchestra, the shēng and gǔzhēngThe sheng is a 3000 year old Chinese free-reed bamboo mouth organ. It reached Europe around 1777 with Pere Amiot, and its influence was so strong that it resulted in the invention of the reed organ, concertina, harmonica and accordion. I have been learning how to play the sheng since the summer of 2008, when I finally bought one in Taipei, Taiwan.  I have been interested in the instrument for 20 years, though I first learned about the Japanese version called a shō. I bought a modern 38 key chromatic jiàn sheng, which is a very versatile instrument. Being chromatic means it can play in any key and works well in western music as well as traditional Chinese. One of the things that I like about this instruments is it play chords like a piano. As a life long woodwind player I rarely get to play chords on my instruments so it is great to be able to. Another thing that is cool about this instrument is it makes sound when you breath out or in. So you can keep it making sound for a long time.  

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9 Responses to “Sheng”

  1. […] instrument I have wanted to play for 20 years, the 笙 (shēng) (more on the sheng in an earlier post). So I started to add that instrument into the composition and ended up featuring sheng and guzheng […]

  2. Daniele says:

    Hi there! A friend of mine bring to me a fanatastic shang from china…can you give me some tips for fingering?..It’s very difficult to find something on the web!…
    Hope for a reply

  3. There are several different types of shengs so first you to figure which type (how many pipes) you have. Then my friend’s at Melody of China have fingering charts posted on their website. Hope that helps, have fun.

  4. Dear Michael,
    I was researching the sheng and found you on this blog! Hello from Hong Kong. How many notes can a sheng play at once? 8, one for each finger? Any other restrictions? I found the fingering chart, thank you.

    I may see you this October – I’ll be in town and will visit SFCCO if possible.

    — Alexis

  5. mcooke says:

    Well there different sizes of Sheng, I have the big one with 32 keys some keys right next to each other can be pressed by the same finger and you get a 4th. On my Sheng you can do 6-12 notes at a time.The trick is the notes have to be in a reachable configuration for the hand. So that can be more limiting to the amount of notes in the chord. You can breath in and out to make sound on the sheng so you can have it play long sustained sections though there will be a sound shift where the performer changes breathing directions. You should check out my composition A Baby Sleeps.
    We might be ships passing in the night for October, I might be back in Taiwan then. Good to here from you, hope Hong Kong is treating you nicely.

  6. Elaine Fishwick says:

    I’ve bought my son a sheng for his birthday – can you please tell me if there are any tutors in the Merseyside area? If not – where is the nearest place to find a good player? Are there any traditional Chinese orchestras (including a sheng) playing in the North West of England?

  7. Hanna says:

    Hi dear, i’ve bougth a sheng and i would like to know more about maintenance and minnor repair for tuning, did you have any tips for me? It’s realy hard to find information about it

    Thanks a lot man

  8. sevan says:

    hi there! tahnks for your blog and love this instrument! do you know where to get one on the internet? the 17 pipes would be fare to start? i heard it is hard to keep in good shape because fragile instrument! i play duduk , maybe we can jam one day!
    thanks!
    sevan, france

  9. mcooke says:

    Well I’m not sure if they ship to France but I have worked with some of the people from melodyofchina.com. You can try them.

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