Behind the persona of every artist lies a human being, just like you and I. The Human Diaries series thus explores the multifaceted lives of our musicians, which gained popularity during Season 1 last year. Expect the unexpected in Season 2 as we step into the homes and favourite places of our musicians, conductors, and Composer-in-Residence, discovering stories untold.



Did you know that SCO suona/guan principal Jin Shiyi invented a new music instrument called the SINGuan? In this episode of Human Diaries, hear more about the inspiration behind his innovation, as well as his journey and lasting passion for music.

Text: Sean Goh & Oh Hui Yin

Photo: Singapore Chinese Orchestra


Modernising the tradition

Traditional Chinese instruments have a long history, many of which can be traced back to a few thousand years. Though many of the instruments are still being played today, many youngsters are not as interested in these instruments as it is being viewed as “too traditional”, or “old-fashioned”.

As such, similar to many other musicians who plays traditional instruments, SCO suona/guan principal Jin Shiyi has always been thinking of how to modernise the suona and guan, which are both very traditional instruments. He seeks to spark interest among the younger generation.

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(Screenshot from Human Diaries video)

Things will not get done just by thinking about it. About three to four years ago, after having the idea, Jin Shiyi collaborated with SCO suona musician Liu Jiang and developed “SINGuan”. SINGuan is an improvised version of Guan, adding a mouthpiece to a traditional guan while preserving the fingering and blowing techniques.

In addition to being easier to play, the newly invented instrument provides better intonation and is compatible with the rest of the orchestra.

Jin Shiyi hopes that “the SINGuan will have its place in the orchestra and strengthen the guan family, providing the guan section with more possibilities in the orchestra.”

Picture of SINGuan

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From the very beginning

Jin Shiyi majored in suona and guan while studying in University. In the blink of an eye, Jin Shiyi has been with SCO for 25 years. He first joined SCO when it was established in 1996.

Fun fact: He was the first musician in China to obtain a Master’s degree in guan performance.

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(Screenshot from Human Diaries video)

After joining SCO, he has received my opportunities to do solo performances, to maximise his skills and capabilities.

Recounting the early years of SCO’s establishment, Jin Shiyi shared that “the young orchestra was vibrant and energetic, which in turn sparked my creativity.” To challenge his creativity, Jin Shiyi attempted genres outside of the traditional Chinese music, trying genres like hip hop. 

Keeping creative during the pandemic

Pandemic hit the world hard and many sectors, including arts and culture, were greatly affected. The Safe Management Measures put forth by the government has affected many artists and musicians. They were prevented from bringing their work to audiences due to the halt in live concerts and gathering restrictions.

Just like any other sectors, digitalisation was the only way for artists to exhibit their work, hence they needed to adjust promptly.

Jin Shiyi reacted fast to this change and started to compose, perform and produce two music videos during the pandemic- Xi Chu Yang Guan and The Rainy Days.

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(Screenshot from Human Diaries video)

Both the music videos are beautifully made! You can check them out on Jin Shiyi’s YouTube channel: JinSuoNa_SG


If you haven't caught Jin Shiyi’s Human Diaries episode, click here.


Thank you for following through the article thus far. Here, we share some bonus behind-the-scenes moments:

Jin Shiyi taking photos of the nature

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Say Cheese!

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