Fingering Pattern Charts

In this article, we will examine a set of fingering patterns based on the diatonic scale. Below is a reproduction of one of the fingering pattern charts, followed by list of fingering pattern charts for download.

Example Chart (and how to read it)

The fingering pattern chart for 筒音作 (tongyin as ) is reproduced below to help explain its features. Skip ahead to explanation.

6-hole dizi, tongyin as 2,
Example diatonic scale fingering chart for tongyin as .

Explaining the Chart

There are three large sections namely a stylised view of the dizi with labels (top), reproductions of same view with various tone holes (zhikong) shaded/half-shaded as the fingering patterns (right), and a section representing the harmonic series with numbers separated by slashes (left).

Stylised View of dizi

6-hole dizi, stylised view
(Top) Stylised view of dizi.

This should be familiar as it is the same as the parts of dizi diagram. Names are written in Chinese characters for reference purposes, with left hand (左 or zuo) and right hand (右 or you) written over the respective tone holes. The tone holes themselves are also numbered with Chinese characters---this will come in useful for some notation one might find in dizi repertoire.

Fingering Patterns Proper

6-hole dizi, fingering patterns
(Right) Fingering patterns on the dizi.

Using the stylised view, we can notate three different ways of covering the tone holes (using their natural fingers), creating various fingering patterns (指法 or zhifa):

``Half-covering'' of tone holes require elaboration. When we say ``half-cover'', we mean that finger is angled out in a way that it vents half the surface area of the tone hole.

In this sample chart, the first line that begins with shows an example of the ``half-covered'' hole---using a tuner, the pitches of the dizi for 654-3 covered and 654-32 covered can be easily measured, then the proper amount of covering needed to achieve will be the one that generates the pitch between the two measured.

There are no short-cuts to figuring out the proper amount of venting for a ``half-covered'' tone hole.

Harmonic Series

6-hole dizi, harmonic series
(Left) Harmonic series on dizi with jianpu symbols.

The harmonic series (谐波率 or xiebo lü) section is both intuitive and deep.

It begins with the following four header information all separated by `/':

Like their names suggest, each of the headers correspond to a specific air stream speed and angle that can resonate that particular harmonic frequency of the dizi.

Subsequently, the number that appears at the intersection of one of these harmonic series headers and fingering patterns is exactly the numeric pitch that one ought to hear when playing the dizi with that specific combination of air stream speed/angle and fingering pattern.

Using our example chart again, suppose we cover 654 and apply a round and relaxed air-stream. Then we'll get in jianpu. If we increase the air-stream to resonate the second harmonic, we'll get 5 instead.

Some harmonic-fingering pattern combinations have no jianpu numbers. It means that the pitch is likely unstable for that combination and can be considered non-standard.

Some harmonic-fingering pattern combinations generate jianpu numbers with a on top of it. This means that while the tone emitted corresponds to the numbered pitch, it is a weak resonance with potentially bad intonation accuracy. Such tones may be used as part of the extended techniques of the dizi (look for it under 泛音 or fanyin).

6-hole dizi, fanyin example
Demonstration of fanyin on dizi.

An example from the chart can be seen as 654-321 fingering pattern under the fourth harmonic (第四谐波 or di si xiebo). Notice that it is a with a on top of it. A combination for that jianpu pitch can be found further down past the dotted line divider, involving 54-321 covered and using the fourth harmonic air stream speed/angle.

Fingering Pattern Charts Downloads

List of fingering pattern charts, in learning order (get all of them in one PDF here):

  1. 筒音作 (tongyin as ): fundamental, must learn.
  2. 筒音作 (tongyin as ): fundamental, must learn.
  3. 筒音作 (tongyin as ): fundamental, must learn.
  4. 筒音作 (tongyin as ): fundamental, must learn.
  5. 筒音作 (tongyin as ): fundamental, must learn.
  6. 筒音作 (tongyin as ): useful sometimes, should learn.
  7. 筒音作♭7̣ (tongyin as ♭7̣): useful sometimes, should learn.
  8. 筒音作 (tongyin as ): rarely seen.
  9. 筒音作♯4̣ (tongyin as ♯4̣): rarely seen.
  10. 筒音作♯5̣ (tongyin as ♯5̣): rarely seen.
  11. 筒音作♭3̣ (tongyin as ♭3̣): rarely seen.
  12. 筒音作♯1̣ (tongyin as ♯1̣): rarely seen.

While this is the first article specifying the traditional (and non-traditional) fingering pattern charts for the dizi, it will still provide useful information in time to come even when one goes into full 12-tone chromaticity for the dizi.