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Chinese Music and Its Types Essay

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Updated: Oct 26th, 2019


In any nation, music is a paramount parameter of entertaining, education and disseminating people. Although the contemporary music appears different from traditional music, it is certain the roles of music remain unchanged. Like any other music, the Chinese music dates back to the era of Chinese civilization.

During the Shang Dynasty, the Chinese people developed different types of equipment. Among the equipments developed, include musical instruments like sheng, bronze bells, stone chimes and panpipes. Coincidentally, in Europe, European music was also developing. Like in Europe, classy melodic devices and an inclusive musical theory arrangement were before now emerging in China. There are four different types of Chinese music, which the paper will explore.

Traditional Chinese Music

In traditional Chinese societies, many people believed that music purifies one’s thoughts and not necessarily amusing. As a result, Confucius, who strongly believed that music provides a mechanism of calming the passions and dispersing strife and antagonism, decided to advance ritual Chinese music.

Later on, the Hans Dynasty funded the setting up of a Music Bureau, which will assemble and edit all antique melodies and folk songs. Nevertheless, as time went by, foreign music appeared in China due to the buying and selling of commodities down the Silk Road in Central Asia, bringing changes to the traditional Chinese music.

The imperial court established by the Hans Dynasty controlled all affairs taking place in the Music Bureau. The imperial court organized song and dance troupes, which sired numerous musicians and established a dense foundation for what many people refer today as traditional Chinese music.

In general, Chinese music characterizes with two important features, melody and tone quality. In addition, the composers of Chinese music highlight proper articulation and inflection as the main factors of building a music tone. Notably, many Chinese composers employ the five-tone scale to compose their pieces although in some cases, some of them employ the heptatonic scale but not often.

Unlike European music, traditional Chinese music exhibit variations of tone quality, beat, tempo, and superfluities thus, making it exceedingly idiosyncratic. This is because of the various Chinese musical instruments that produce different sounds resulting into a melodious and gorgeous acoustic ambiance.

Classical Instrumental Music

For along time now, instrumental performance, has dominated Chinese art music. In most cases, many composers of Chinese music like solo performance.

Perhaps this is the reason why solo instrumental performance is the solemn musical genre in Chinese music. When doing a classical instrumental music performance, the performers must bring out harmony with the environs even if it means using an aggressive tone.

On the other hand, the classical instrumental music characterizes with a restrained intonation, analogous the one used in poetic recitation. Much classical instrumental music comprises of unique compositions that differed from one performance to another, primarily because of different instruments with different repertories.

Chinese Opera Orchestra

Another type of Chinese music is the Chinese opera orchestra, which involves a group of six or seven performers positioned at one side of the stage. It is important to note that the musicians of Chinese opera orchestra are experienced performers who normally perform from memory. On the other hand, this type of Chinese music comprise of a conductor, a percussionist playing a bangu and wooden clappers while directing the group on stage.

In performing a Chinese opera orchestra, several instruments accompany the composition. The instruments fall into three categories, that is, string, wind and percussion. The high-pitched fiddle known as erhu, a two-stringed Chinese viola popularly known as hu chin, san hsien (a three-stringed lute), and a Chinese banjo are some of the string instruments used in performing a Chinese opera orchestra.

These instruments perform the role of supplementing the singing in addition to horse neighing and rooster crowing. The drums popularly known as bangu, gongs, cymbals and wooden clappers form the family of percussion instruments that escort singing. A Chinese opera orchestra also involves the use of nonfigurative choreography and acrobatics in order to induce a theatrical performance. Singers also perform body movements as ne of the facets off Chinese opera.

Modern Chinese Music

The contemporary Chinese music is reasonably analogous to the current Western music. For instance, like the western youth, the Chinese youth also go to famous concert halls to enjoy modern Chinese music performed by Chinese pop stars.

On the other hand, the modern Chinese orchestra appears different from the ancient Chinese orchestra by combining versions of traditional pieces, and classical and contemporary symphonic works of art. Notably, western music instruments like electric keyboards and guitars accompany modern Chinese pieces resulting into modern Chinese music.

Nevertheless, some facets of traditional Chinese music still dominate in the modern Chinese music. For example, in order to perform a modern Chinese music, musicians use both traditional and contemporary instruments to produce a multiplicity of sounds and rhythms, and inimitable Chinese sounds. In addition, some of the western stringed instruments have also gained acceptance in modern Chinese music.

Clearly, we see great changes in Chinese music due to the borrowing of western styles and incorporating them with Chinese styles to produce modern Chinese pieces. It is also important to note that the combination of traditional and modern instruments such as piano in music performance adds vitality and vigor to music to give it a modern style. Nonetheless, the Chinese instrumental music remains largely conventional, and like in the past, small quartets and large orchestras still dominate traditional music performances.

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1. IvyPanda. "Chinese Music and Its Types." October 26, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/chinese-music/.


IvyPanda. "Chinese Music and Its Types." October 26, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/chinese-music/.


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