A Xiao for you


What is it?

The xiao is a Chinese instrument designed in 206 BC by the Qiang people.                      

A person that plays the xiao it’s just called a xiao player. 

Here’s how it looks and sounds

Not to be confused with

You may hear about it with other names like dòngxiāo & shùzhúdí. Pronounced ɕi̯ɑ́ʊ̯, from the Chinese meaning ‘dawn’, ‘morning’, ‘little’ or ‘respectful’.      

Category

The instrument is from the Wind family meaning the sound comes by blowing air in a mouthpiece into a tube(resonator). 

Variants

The types of xiao are determined by Size :

  • Bei xiao: Made of purple bamboo with no root.
  • Qin xiao: Smaller and in F key.
  • Nanxiao/Chiba: Shorter with a mouthpiece and the root of the bamboo. 

You can find xiaos in G(most common) and F, you can also get them with 6 holes(traditional) and 8 holes(modern).

In terms of materials, the options are bamboo (regular, black, and purple) and wood. The material has no effect on the sound (our article here) but it does in price and durability.

Before you buy 

Getting a xiao for sale? as a gift? If you do, here’s all you need to know.

The price of the instrument is around $17 – $150 USD, the cheapest I found was an 8 hole G Xiao and the most expensive was an 8 hole F purple bamboo, Xiao. In the middle, we have something like 8 holes G Rosewood Xiao for $100 USD.

In terms of brands you won’t find many, most of them are handmade, just make sure they have a guarantee and shipping to your country, good reviews and if they don’t you can get them other ways

The size goes around 15 x 4 x 4 In (38 x 10 x 10 Cm) – 33 x 3 x 3 In (84 x 8 x 8 Cm)  and has a weight from 0.9 Lbs (0.4 Kgs) to 1.3 Lbs (0.6 Kgs).                           

Now that you know, you can check on Ebay here.

Accessories

There are a lot of accessories, but you don’t really need much, a case or a bag, a cleaning brush and a stand (you can get a stand for other flutes and use it for this one). Some people add pendants for decoration so you may want to consider getting one.

How to learn the xiao   

We recommend learning to read sheet music, play notes and learn the tricks of playing songs.
For learning to read sheets we try a lot of resources to help you choose.

To learn to play all notes you need a finger chart (also known as position chart).

The tips & tricks are all the details that combined make a big difference.

They way you hold it, efficient warmups, positions and techniques.

You can search for music sheets in places like pinterest & musicaneo

Here are some book and courses:

  • How to play Xiao: free youtube playlist to get started.
  • Tutorial: free youtube playlist of different people explaining the theory.
  • Xiao playing: paid book with CD, but only in Chinese.
  • Winding Method of Xiao: Paid book also in Chinese.

Remember, the xiao is easy to learn and fast too, the hardest part being the embouchure. It’s also similar to the dizi, venu & shakuhachi in style and technique so you can combine those resources to help you learn, we hope this helps, we’ll keep working on this article.

Luis Gerardo

Musician as a hobby for +6 years, documenting every instrument in simple words for this website.

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