The guzheng (Chinese zither) is our big ol' 24-stringed magic machine and Honorary Founding Member of Matteo. It was upon hearing the shimmery, stepping-into-the-fountain-of-eternity glissando one achieves by running his fingers across the strings of this instrument that Eric Chipman first thought, Huh, maybe I like the sound of Chinese music.
The ruan (Chinese banjo), or "Ron," affectionately, is the Chinese instrument that sounds the most familiar to a western ear; though it looks like a banjo, it sounds very similar to a classical guitar. Jordan likes to tell people that the tuning of the Ruan (GDGD) makes it an ideal candidate for learning how to play Smoke on the Water. Look for our album of classic rock cover songs, slated for a Christmas 2035 release.
The erhu (Chinese violin) is a two-stringed demon, a hair-thin tightrope across the Chasm of Sorrow. It is absurdly difficult to play (if you play a western bowed instrument, congratulations! You have the right-hand technique required to play one of the erhu's two strings), and Brinn—who plays this thing beautifully—was told by her teacher at Sichuan University that it can only play sad songs.
The liuqin (Chinese mandolin) is the newest addition to the Matteo menagerie. Picked up during our 2012 residency at Sichuan University, this little guy sounds a bit like an unplugged electric guitar. It's tuned identically to the ruan (but raised an octave), making it, theoretically, also ideal for power-chord-mashing. We use it more for melodies and textures than chords, but in Matteo's punk side-project, Ricci & the Redaction, it plays a more structural role.