The suona is a double-reed woodwind instrument that was first made popular in China. It is known for its loud, harsh sound that is played through a wooden conical bore with a flared bell. The suona has been used for military and ceremonial services and also features as a part of traditional Chinese orchestras and ensembles.
History of the Suona
The suona has a long and complicated history as it is thought to have first originated in India, perhaps among other early woodwind instruments of that time such as the sorna from Iran. The earliest written evidence suggests the suona arrived in China around the time of the Han dynasty between the third and fifth century BC and soon became a staple of Buddhist temples. This aerophone instrument was widely established by the time written records mention its presence during the Ming dynasty. The typical suona developed to have seven to eight finger tone holes for producing the changes in pitch and began to be used in occasions as diverse as military service and martial ceremonies. The strong, loud sound of the suona allowed it to be heard among the other percussion instruments of traditional Chinese bands and orchestras. Circular breathing is required to play the continuous sound of a suona which makes it a deceptively complex instrument to perform. Since 2006, the suona has been adopted on China’s list of ‘intangible cultural treasures’.
Inventor: Unknown

Where to Buy

£25 - £70

Hear the Suona

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How to Play

A type of horn played by blowing air into the mouthpiece and pressing the keys to change the pitch of the sound produced.

In Popular Music

The suona is rarely used in western popular music but may have been used and uncredited in several western film scores. It's primarily used as a traditional Chinese wind instrument

Famous Players

Guo Yazhi, Wu Wei, Liu Zhong

Close Relations

Sheng, Guan
Video Credit: CGTN
Understanding the Suona




14th century






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