It has a metal soundbox covered with snakeskin and a long fretless fingerboard. The two strings pass over a small bridge that is placed on the snakeskin, near the top edge.
It is played while the player is seated in a chair, with the instrument's body resting in the player's lap and the instrument held in a vertical or near-vertical position. Unlike the ''erhu'' and other instruments in the ''huqin'' family, the strings are pressed against the fingerboard in the manner of a ''sanxian''.
The ''leiqin'' was adapted from an earlier traditional instrument called ''zhuihu'' in the 1920s.