Chinese traditional tonality? Erhu?
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Old 22-09-2013, 05:42 AM   #1
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Chinese traditional tonality? Erhu?

I love the melodies of traditional Chinese music. I can never emulate it properly within electronic music.. I can kinda cheat it with certain keys/a few modes..

But to my understanding there's an entirely different tonal system.
It's so hard to find information on this based on either the piano or electronic music.
Is there a DAW that supports Chinese tonality? How necessary are the strange harmonics/quarter notes really? When it comes to the more popular Chinese folk dance songs they seem to eschew the quarter tone thing a bit compared to some of the older traditional ballads. I seem to be able to cheat this by automating portamento.. but is that not really how I should be doing it? I really love the traditional dance stuff the most as interesting as it all is.
I've always wanted to mimic the sound and tonality of an Erhu in a completely digital synth.. but that might even be a two thread project because i've made very little progress.

If anyone knows of any more good Erhu music I needs it badly too, the more sample-able the better

Examples:

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Old 22-09-2013, 06:19 PM   #2
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Re: Chinese traditional tonality? Erhu?

I'm no expert on Chinese music, but what I've been told is that Eastern music relies heavily on the pentatonic scale; perhaps you know it, but it's not really clear from your post. I found this bit of info on the scales and its role in different traditions. It doesn't say very much, but it might perhaps serve as inspiration if anyting: [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]


As for automating the portamento, I really don't see why not, it sounds like something I would do If I were into it. I have a few synths with presets to emulate these Eastern instruments and sometimes just for shits and giggles I play around on the black notes to imitate the music.

My mother has a CD with traditional Erhu music which she got from China; more as a souvenir than to listen to(she has a passion for anything to do with music). I guess in this case "Made in China" is good. I'll Phone her and ask the album's name and post it for you.

About the videos. The first one really isn't to my taste; in all honesty, I find that sound quite irritating,but I still listened to get an idea of what you want to achieve. I like the Dance of the Yao People though, I can hear the Eastern influence, but it sounds to me much more Western driven with regular minor and major scales. At certain points the clarinets seem to imitate the sound of the erhu, which is quite cool.

At the bottom of this thread there are suggestions to similar threads, here's one that I think you would find helpful as well: [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]

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Old 23-09-2013, 04:29 AM   #3
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Re: Chinese traditional tonality? Erhu?

Yeah I couldn't find the much better version of that first song unfortunately.. That version is virtuosic and sample-able and all, but gets a bit dull about half-way through.. but the Phases of the moon version of that song is actually really, really pretty.

I usually do just use pentatonic scales/the black keys and it is a ton of fun . There's something odd about the way these songs move around each other melodically I can't quite get though. No matter what I do.. my thinking is still so western.

The microtonality of Chinese music does seem to be a bit of a myth or at least it's exaggerated by people who don't really actually listen to the music..

This thread is great didn't find it searching for similar threads before.. Thanks

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Old 23-09-2013, 11:03 AM   #4
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Re: Chinese traditional tonality? Erhu?

The First one reminds me of Kung Fu Hustle

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Old 23-09-2013, 01:11 PM   #5
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Re: Chinese traditional tonality? Erhu?

This might be a sort and useless answer but I believe they also use non standard tunings which may be tripping you up. More than likely if you leave electronic music out of your search key words youll find the info. Im sure it exists on the internet.

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Old 23-09-2013, 05:33 PM   #6
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Re: Chinese traditional tonality? Erhu?

DSK made a VST that has a bunch of Asian instruments in it. If I remember, it's pretty good, if a bit limited.

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There's also a Kontakt and SF2 library he made for $25. Haven't tried those, but there they are.
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Old 23-09-2013, 05:36 PM   #7
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Re: Chinese traditional tonality? Erhu?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bipolar Joe View Post
DSK made a VST that has a bunch of Asian instruments in it. If I remember, it's pretty good, if a bit limited.

[Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]


There's also a Kontakt and SF2 library he made for $25. Haven't tried those, but there they are.
If you are going to go that route check out EastWest Quantum Leap and MOTU multi sampled instruments. I know that EastWest RA as some cool Asian instruments and they've set them up to work in both Western and traditional tunings. Both are going to set you back though.

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Old 25-09-2013, 01:08 AM   #8
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Re: Chinese traditional tonality? Erhu?

Is there actually a decent multi-sampled erhu? Because that would be a wet dream.

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Old 25-09-2013, 01:51 AM   #9
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Re: Chinese traditional tonality? Erhu?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZheNhir View Post
Is there actually a decent multi-sampled erhu? Because that would be a wet dream.
Check out those two instrument packs I mentioned. Or also Silk Road by EastWest. I bet someone has made one, most films and tv shows are probably scored from digital these days.

Honestly, email Sweetwater and ask. Then buy it from the cheapest retailier ;p

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Old 25-09-2013, 02:07 AM   #10
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Re: Chinese traditional tonality? Erhu?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZheNhir View Post
Is there actually a decent multi-sampled erhu? Because that would be a wet dream.
[Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]


pretty much unparalleled


luckily the erhu is one of the few that have a stripped-down free version as well:

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Old 25-09-2013, 02:46 AM   #11
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Re: Chinese traditional tonality? Erhu?

Chinese music is mainly pentatonic, so there's no need for special tunings.

Arab, Turkish and Persian music uses quarter of tones... 24 quarter of tone to be exact, organized in 30 o 40 maqams

By the way, the only softsynth I know that can be set for quarter of tones is Absynth.
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Old 25-09-2013, 02:58 AM   #12
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Re: Chinese traditional tonality? Erhu?

Quote:
Originally Posted by unterstruktur View Post
Chinese music is mainly pentatonic, so there's no need for special tunings.

Arab, Turkish and Persian music uses quarter of tones... 24 quarter of tone to be exact, organized in 30 o 40 maqams

By the way, the only softsynth I know that can be set for quarter of tones is Absynth.
I use pentatonic scales often...w/o even trying people often comment that some of my tunes have an Eastern flare

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Old 25-09-2013, 03:07 AM   #13
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Re: Chinese traditional tonality? Erhu?

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Originally Posted by ZheNhir View Post
...

But to my understanding there's an entirely different tonal system.

...

For a short and simplified answer: in a practical setting, relative to other tonal systems, you could say it's an entirely identical tonal system. Using a western equal-tempered pentatonic will work.

The long answer is loooong.

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Old 25-09-2013, 03:44 AM   #14
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Re: Chinese traditional tonality? Erhu?

Great responses to this thread i'm learning heaps about it. And it's sparked my interest in Arabic tonality and a few others. And how to imitate their general sounds.
Special props for the free erhu link will definitely be trying that out.

The main problem is that I love the tonality of this music and the way it completely contributes to it's tonal character.. and when westerners imitate it. They tend to trivialize the symphonic qualities of it, which is fair enough, cause that's what i'm having the hardest time imitating. I really don't want to make trivialized chinese-esque music I have a really deep fascination with the culture and especially the ancient music and storytelling of China and even though i'm an English speaking whitey.. I really don't want my music to come across as thinking it's irrelevant or funny or novel like so much tasteless westernized "Chinese" music can (Think of the worst incidental "Chinese" music in films, that happen in slapstick from slightly to bare-facedly racist moments in horrible comedies usually, Being new/knowing nothing to/about this method it's actually hard not to make something like that when I attempt this. If I actually make something good, it usually doesn't actually sound that Chinese just sharing a little bit of the same tonality).

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Old 25-09-2013, 04:58 AM   #15
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Re: Chinese traditional tonality? Erhu?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZheNhir View Post
Great responses to this thread i'm learning heaps about it. And it's sparked my interest in Arabic tonality and a few others. And how to imitate their general sounds.
Special props for the free erhu link will definitely be trying that out.

The main problem is that I love the tonality of this music and the way it completely contributes to it's tonal character.. and when westerners imitate it. They tend to trivialize the symphonic qualities of it, which is fair enough, cause that's what i'm having the hardest time imitating. I really don't want to make trivialized chinese-esque music I have a really deep fascination with the culture and especially the ancient music and storytelling of China and even though i'm an English speaking whitey.. I really don't want my music to come across as thinking it's irrelevant or funny or novel like so much tasteless westernized "Chinese" music can (Think of the worst incidental "Chinese" music in films, that happen in slapstick from slightly to bare-facedly racist moments in horrible comedies usually, Being new/knowing nothing to/about this method it's actually hard not to make something like that when I attempt this. If I actually make something good, it usually doesn't actually sound that Chinese just sharing a little bit of the same tonality).
This is part of the looong answer, in that chinese and western music has had a long symbiotic relationship of influencing each other, and that when they discovered each other they realized the music already had very many similarities. The reason so many westerners like chinese music is because the timbre makes it sound exotic but the underlying emotions are very familiar, as opposed to say arabic music that can sometimes sound totally alien.

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Old 25-09-2013, 05:23 AM   #16
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Re: Chinese traditional tonality? Erhu?

Huh. That's a new way to look at it.. I guess I just hate to hear any of my music sounding like that because it's associated with horrible stereotypes like Kung fu from Batfink. But I think it's the racist film/cartoons that ruined the sound.. not the other way round now you've put it that way.

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