My years of playing musical instruments and taking lessons taught me the importance of tone.
I know the importance of correct technique--the way I hold my hands, the way I position my body, the way I touch and pluck and manipulate the strings.
The guzheng is a complicated instrument and a challenge to learn.
I learned to tune the guzheng. This is the easy part.
I use picks that I tape (with medical tape) to my fingers.
Yes, these are my fingers. I am holding my hand at a funny angle.
My ear is becoming used to the pentatonic scale.
I am learning a new musical notation. (This is not so easy.)
Every single black speck means something.
All those numbers and dots and lines and squiggles.
I can't read the Chinese, but I can read this music. I can't play this exercise yet--it is toward the back of the book.
If you click on the picture you will be able to see the music more clearly. (The link takes you to a larger photo.)
My guzheng teacher and Chinese teaching methods focus on technique. The first book contains exercises that teach me some (all?) of the ways of creating sound on the guzheng. I am learning rapidly. My teacher allows me to progress as fast as I can, after all I don't need to take the exams like everyone else.
My teacher doesn't speak English.
I don't speak Chinese.
She demonstrates and I imitate. She moves my hands and fingers into the correct positions. This is hard. She is constantly correcting my hand position and with my left hand holding it in the correct position for a whole exercise. And it is hard to keep the open fist position and use the correct plucking technique. Very hard.
I try to hold my hands too close to the strings--I'm supposed to hold them quite far away.
It is hard for my hands to get used to different positions--to get in the habit so it is automatic to move in certain ways.
My left hand struggles--and wants to be in a piano position. The left hand is used on both sides of the bridges--one side to play melody and harmony, and the other side to create vibrato, change the actual note value as in making an A an B or an F an F#, and create sound effects.
I've been taking lessons for over 3 months. I realize that it takes years to learn to play the guzheng well.
The guzheng sounds SO cool.
The songs are very diverse and fun to listen to.
I hope to post a music sample of me playing within the next few months.
I hope to learn to play songs while I live in China. Where else could I find a teacher?
Photo of my Guzheng
Technique and tone are also critical to writing--but I'll let you make the comparisons.
Sarah has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is a writer and photographer whose blog explores writing craft, stories and the cultures (and places) she lives.
She has lived in Brazil, Finland, Iceland, China, Germany, Nigeria, Egypt and many places in the United States. Her website is at http://www.sarahblakejohnson.com/