The roots of music go as deep as time in our history. Pipa is a musical instrument that originated in ancient times. It is a lute with four strings, which is played with a plucking movement. It is believed to have descended from instruments in Western and Central parts of Asia. It reached China through old trade routes during the reign of the Northern Wei dynasty with its innovative sound, which was new to the region at the time.
The method of playing the Pipa has changed over the years. Originally, a triangular plectrum was used to pluck the strings, while the performer held the instrument horizontally. But, by the time of the Tang dynasty, players began holding the Pipa in a more upright position and some started using fingernails to pluck the silk strings. The material of strings has also changed from silk to present day nylon.
The name of the instrument is derived from the movement of plucking itself. ‘Pi’ means to play forward and ‘pa’ means to play backwards. Although taken as an unfamiliar instrument at first, Pipa gained a lot of popularity in courts and solo play with its unique appeal. The Chinese Bayin registers Pipa as a silk instrument based on the eight material based classification of the instrument system.
Pipa is designed with a plain back but an incredible body. It has frets running to the belly of the instrument and the peg box is ornamented with symbolic illustrations. They served as a noble gift as well. It bears a family resemblance to the Biwa of Japan with its flat back and to the Arabic Ud, with its a round back.
The instrument is known best for filling the atmosphere with the enchantment of reflections of nature that its music creates. The excellence of sound and efficiency of performance of Pipa has always made musicians fall in love with it.