I don't know if this is "impossible" due to the different construction of the two instruments, but do you know if the violin can imitate the sound of the Chinese erhu? Here is a YouTube video for reference. I just love the sound of this instrument and was wanting to see if I could add this sound to my technique on the violin.


Yes and no. Yes, you can imitate the erhu style of playing on the violin: lots of glissandi, lots of vibrato on certain notes, very quick appoggiaturas, pentatonic melodies, and so forth. What you can't so easily imitate is the tone color: since the erhu has a snakeskin belly and silk strings (at least traditionally), it sounds different from a violin.

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  • The erhu seems to have a subtly softer, more nasal timbre that could maybe be approximated with a mute (Con sordino)? There seems to be a variety of mutes available, both in terms of design and material, so one might fit the bill. – ABragg May 16 '17 at 13:00
  • @ABragg- I'm sure you're right. But I don't know how close you could get. It's worth experimenting with for sure. – Scott Wallace May 16 '17 at 14:34
  • Mutes damp down the body resonance of the violin and therefore make the instrument quieter, but "good" mutes don't change the basic tone quality as much as "poor" ones. But "poor" ones tend to give a nasal sound, which seems to be going in the wrong direction for imitating an erhu sound. – user19146 May 16 '17 at 16:32
  • @ScottWallace I thought it would be near impossible to imitate the tonal texture of the erhu because of its build. Would silk strings work on a violin? – Briard May 17 '17 at 1:54
  • @Briard- well, of course it depends on what is close enough to count as "imitation". I suspect that nothing you could do to a violin without electronic help is going to make it sound so much like an erhu that it will fool experts. It's not just the tone color- due to the construction with the bow hair between the two strings, there are kinds of articulation possible that I doubt are perfectly fakeable on a violin. But as I said, I bet you could get pretty close. ABragg's suggestion of trying different mutes is a good one, and yes- you could use silk strings- violins used to have them. – Scott Wallace May 18 '17 at 8:37

You might get closer with an electric violin, and some sound processing.

With an acoustic violin, the tone depends mainly on the vibration response both of the wooden body of the instrument and the air cavity inside the body, which are both completely different from the erhu.

Filling the violin body with acoustic wadding (used to damp the air resonance in loudspeaker cabinets, etc) might work, but inserting and removing the wadding through the sound holes could be difficult, and taking the violin apart just to try to experiment is a bit drastic, even if you are a luthier and have the capability to do it yourself!

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  • 1
    I actually have a "spare" violin that a music store appraised for a "violin shaped object. :P I could try what you said with that. – Briard May 17 '17 at 1:49

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