When playing the guqin, it is most commonly encountered on some sort of table – either a specific guqin table, or any table really which could suffice. Due to the size of the guqin, and its relatively quiet projection, the table serves as a sturdy and stable base to play the guqin on, as well as providing a reflecting surface underneath to help project the tone. Interestingly enough, as opposed with most other instruments, this combination of playing the guqin on the table can lead to the table, in part, almost becoming part of the sound mechanism of the instrument itself in an indirect way. It can easily be tested and observed that different tables will produce different results on the projected sound of the instrument. In theory, one could even make a table that could amplify a particular range of harmonics (such as maybe projecting more bass tone from the qin).
As such, one often encounters specially made “guqin tables”, often designed with a hollow table top to help amplify the tone, often made from paulownia, making it light and strong. These tables are also made to be portable and carried around in a case as needed, which can add convenience when traveling and playing. However, I have found that these tables are often grossly overpriced for their function (usually several hundreds of dollars!), and can easily be made and designed significantly cheaper with a few tools and common materials. One can also certainly play the guqin without a table, either on their lap, or in a kneeling position with the bridge-side resting propped up on the legs and the nut side resting on the floor, with the instrument at a diagonal slant, but it is most recommended, and by far almost completely unanimously common to use the guqin on a table. The table should not be too high or too low relative to sitting height, and should allow for comfortable playing without strain on the arms, hands, wrist, and back. In my case, I almost always find myself playing my guqin across my lap, as my tables are usually always too cluttered to put the qin on!
While I have yet to make a more “proper” qin table, as this is still on my list of future projects to do, I have made a very simple and dirt cheap design for basic testing and recording purposes. For my purposes, I needed something light and portable that provides a constant surface for me to test my qin on with various strings, and to make it easy for me to bring to other locations should I want to make test recordings of qin other than my own. This table cost me less than $30 to make, use very simple materials from Home Depot, though most hardware stores should have the basic wood to make this. The table can be made essentially with 2 hand tools – a hand drill, and a hand saw, and can be easily expanded or modified. It is made entirely from pine, using oak dowel inserts in the legs for added support. This table design can very easily be modified, strengthened, or made more portable – I am just presenting it to provide an absolute bare-bones simple table design to get ideas off of. For example, the legs can easily be extended with longer leg inserts to become a proper sitting table, and can be reinforced with a cross-bar. The leg supports on the bottom are just glued in place for my design, but for a full sitting table they should be reinforced with screws or dowels, and could be extended longer to better support the legs, which themselves are removable. To make it even more portable, the table could easily be shortened if needed, as long as the qin still rests on the table. Other things to consider could be including a center hinge in the table itself so that it could fold in half, in which a center bar with locking dowels would be needed to support it. In any case, possibly the most important design consideration is to make sure that the legs are tight and secure and do not wobble, regardless if they are removable legs for a portable table or fixed legs for a permanent table. Pine is dirt cheap and common, and very light, but the table could really be made out of anything – note however that this will affect the projection of the instrument to an extent depending on the material used and the method of construction (hollow vs. solid). However, it doesn’t even need to be made from wood! A hollow table with a sound-hole may provide the largest amount of amplification, but for simplicity and ease a solid top table will usually suffice.
In addition to some pictures provided below, I have organized everything, including the full dimensions and specifications for making this table in a PDF available for download for convenience (dimensions are located on the last two pages of the PDF):
DIY Portable Kneeling Guqin Table Pics