Sheng – tonal structure

Subject: Re: A question about the sheng
Date: Mon, 2 Jun 2008 18:19:06 +0800
From: Chris Lim
To: Simon McKechnie

Hi Simon,

Sorry for the late reply as I have been buzy with work recently. Thanks for your comments about my website. Basically, the tonal structure of the sheng is different from other wind instruments (e.g. flute, oboe, clarinet, other chinese wind instruments, etc…). Each individual note is produced by one single bamboo pipe. (either by pressing the keys or covering the holes on the bamboo pipes) The fingering of the 37-reed Soprano Sheng is quite complex and the notes of the different registers are not arranged in order. The range of this Sheng is from g to g3. In most cases, the 37-reed Soprano Sheng should be able to play any piece of music.

By the way, there are also many types of sheng in the market. For example, the 36-reed Soprano Keyed Sheng, 36-reed Alto Sheng, 32-reed Bass Sheng, etc… (The fingering of these 3 types of Shengs are arranged in an orderly manner but these shengs are not as expressive as the 37-reed sheng.)

Chris Lim

From: Simon McKechnie 
To: Chris Lim
Sent: Mon, 26 May 2008 19:14:53 +0100
Subject: A question about the sheng

Hi Chris,

I’ve been searching on the net about the sheng and found your very nice site and My Space. My name is Simon McKechnie. I am a composer based in London UK. The Luxembourg Sinfonietta is asking for scores for the 37 key soprano sheng and a chamber group made up of eleven other musicians. I’m interested to write something for them and so I’m writing to you because I’d be very grateful if you could answer a question about the soprano sheng’s tonal structure. I understand that the lowest register is accessed by the two thumbs, the middle register by the first finger and high register by the remaining three fingers. I can see that the tones in each register go from low on the outside to high in the middle, but what I don’t know is exactly which notes are produced by which pipes. If you have a moment could you please tell me the tones produced by each register (from left to right for example)? I saw that there is a guide written by a Loo Sze Wang that has a diagram outlining exactly this information, but unfortunately it is scanned at a low resolution and is illegible.

Many thanks,
Simon McKechnie

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