The erhu dates back a thousand years and has become one of the most popular Chinese instruments. Sometimes called the Chinese violin or Chinese two-stringed fiddle, it is a very expressive instrument and is used for playing traditional and contemporary music. 'The erhu produces a sound which is similar to a human singing voice. It is believed to have the ability to express inner emotions such as pleasure, anger, sorrow and joy,' says Terence Lam, course co-ordinator of music, at the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. The school offers three courses suitable for beginners: introduction to erhu, fundamentals of erhu and quick access to erhu playing. Each course involves 10 classes with total tuition time being 71/2, 15 and 10 hours respectively. All courses focus on introducing the basic characteristics and care of the erhu, playing with good posture, and basic playing techniques for the right and left hand include different bowing styles. Students will also learn basic music theory and how to read simplified musical scores. Cost ranges from HK$760 to HK$1,220 and students are required to have their own instruments. All courses are run three times a year, with the summer course now open for enrolment. For students who have some experience in playing the erhu, the school also offers an advanced level course called playing the erhu classics. This course involves six hours of tuition over eight lessons and focuses on developing styles of musical interpretation and tonal colour. Traditional folk song melodies Songs of Fishing Boats at Dusk and Sorrow of River will be taught. 'We encourage our students to listen to CD recordings in order to develop a better sense of pitch and avoid playing out of tune,' Lam says. 'Regular daily practice is also recommended, but the duration of practice depends on a student's individual need.' The Music Office of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department ( www.lcsd.gov.hk/musicoffice ) offers two short courses. Foundation 1 is suitable for the absolute beginner, while foundation 2 is intended for people with some experience. There are two age group classes for each course, six to 14 years and 15 to adults. All courses comprise 20, one-hour lessons, have a maximum class size of 10 and cost HK$800. Instruments are not provided and participants in foundation 1 will be given advice in the first lesson on purchasing their own instrument. The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra ( www.hkco.org ) also offers erhu courses for children ( six to 18 years) and adults. Courses run at beginner and advanced levels for both groups. All courses involve 12, one-hour lessons with a maximum class size of seven at beginner level and four at advanced level. Tuition cost is HK$2,240 and HK$4,670 respectively. New students can join any time at the beginner level only.