How to Make an Erhu

An Erhu is a Chinese instrument that dates back over 1,000 years. It has since been adopted by many composers, and the sound of the erhu can be heard in many orchestral music compositions. The erhu is a bowed string instrument that is traditionally constructed in China with farmed python skin. Travelers coming from China are permitted to export only two erhus per visit, so they are quite rare instruments. As such, many people choose to make an erhu themselves, using inexpensive, readily available materials. Though a homemade erhu won’t carry the official Chinese certification associated with a traditional Asian erhu, it can be a gratifying and unique instrument to enjoy playing for personal use.

Procure the Materials

First, procure the necessary materials to make an erhu and assemble them around a work surface, such as a large table or work bench. The materials needed will be

28-ounce aluminum can, such as a food can
20-inch long wooden dowel, 1” in diameter
4-inch long wooden dowel, 3/8” in diameter
Wood block (pine is ideal), measure 3” x ½” x ¼”
Metal guitar string, 0.10 gauge
Duct tape

Ready the Can

Open the can and remove the lid entirely. Empty the contents if necessary and wash and dry thoroughly. Remove any outside label. If the label doesn’t immediately come off because it’s glued on, melt the glue with a warm hair dryer, being careful to protect hands. Cover the sharp edges of the can with a thin strip of duct tape. Use an awl or drill with 1-inch bit to puncture the can. Locate the two punctures at the closed end of the can. Measure up about 1-1/2” from the bottom end of the can. The holes should be 1-inch in diameter when finished. Cover the sharp edges of the two holes with thin strips of duct tape.


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