Mapping of Keys to dizi and Fingering Patterns

In earlier articles of this section, we focused heavily on the fingering patterns on the dizi, emphasising its importance due to the large number of dizi available.

In this article, we close the relationship of the fingering patterns back to the concert pitch by introducing the table that maps fingering patterns to the various concert pitch keys via the base key of the dizi.

For those who are here only to look for specific fingering charts for specific dizi, consider looking at 12-tone Fingering Chart for the 6-hole dizi: Part 2.

The Chart

You can download the PDF chart and consult the example one below to understand how to read it. Skip ahead to explanation.

6-hole dizi, key and fingering mapping
Mapping of major & minor keys to dizi and fingering patterns with both dizi fingering pattern names and concert flute major scale fingering pattern names.

Explaining the Chart

There are four general sections in the chart. The top two rows consist of the fingering pattern names, the left two columns are the concert pitch scales, the lowest row consists of fingering pattern mnemonics, and everything else are the base keys of the dizi.

We will explain the first three sections here, and talk about the last one later.

Fingering Pattern Names

6-hole dizi, fingering pattern name
(Top) Names of fingering patterns using concert flute and dizi terminology.

If one has been following the articles so far, the order of the second row of fingering pattern names should be familiar---they are exactly the tongyin names (an octave off), arranged in descending order of ease/familiarity. The last three tongyin as ♯5̣, ♭3̣, and ♯1̣ are deliberately walled off because they are mechanically hard to be dextrous in.

The top row labelled ``Flute(Maj)'' needs explanation that will only make sense if one has experience with the concert flute. The concert flute is a C instrument, which means that when all the holes are covered, the tone it emits has the pitch of C (C-foot flutes of course). If one were to play the various major scales on the concert flute, the resulting fingering patterns will be exactly as mapped in these two rows.

So, if one were to play a B♭ major scale on the concert flute, the resulting fingering pattern will be tongyin as .

The analogy is not perfect of course, since the concert flute has mechanisms that kick in when special keys are pressed---the classic example is the use of the right ring-finger for F♯.

The best way to consider the concert flute analogy is by looking at the actual tone holes that are covered and use that to inspire the fingering patterns for the 6-hole dizi.

Concert Pitch Scales

6-hole dizi, concert pitch scales
(Left) Concert pitch scales, minor and major.

This one is relatively easy to understand. We list down the Minor and Major scales in concert pitch in the left columns, providing simple enharmonic equivalents.

When confronted with the key signature in jianpu, if 1=X is encountered, look for X under the column labelled ``Major''.

If 6̣=Y is encountered instead, look for Y under the column labelled ``Minor''.

Fingering Pattern Mnemonics

6-hole dizi, fingering pattern mnemonics
(Bottom) Mnemonics for fingering pattern.

Put simply, the braille-like grid is used to provide a reminder on which fingers will need to cover the associated tone hole partially.

The left column represents the left hand, with the lowest row the index finger and the highest row the pinky. A similar set up exists for the right column as well. The diagram below should explain this a little more explicitly.

Fingering pattern mapping
Mapping mnemonic symbol-grid to fingers. In this example, it can be interpreted as only the left hand index finger (tone hole 6 for the 6-hole dizi) needs to half-cover a tone hole at some point in the [diatonic] scale.

In the diagram above, it shows that the left index finger needs to know how to half-cover a tone hole.

Note that the mnemonic symbol corresponds to eight fingers, while the 6-hole dizi uses only six.

If we examine the progression of the mnemonic patterns in conjunction with the fingering pattern names, we can immediately understand why the fingering patterns are taught in the order they were, and why the deliberate ordering of the fingering patterns in this chart.

The simpler ones (on the left) are those with fewer demands on finger dexterity, while the further right one goes on the chart, the more fingers that need to be flexible enough to half-cover tone holes.

Picking the dizi for a Key

The question this chart helps to answer is simple:

What is the base key of the dizi to play a given key such that it is most natural?

It's actually quite simple.

  1. Locate the key on the left columns under the Concert Pitch Scales section.
  2. The row thus obtained will yield all the base key of dizi in increasing difficulty of the fingering pattern.
  3. The final choice of dizi is to be made based on the following criteria:
    1. Prefer fingering patterns that yield a music-compatible timbre.
    2. Prefer fingering patterns that cover the range of the dizi in the piece.
    3. Prefer simpler fingering patterns (to the left).
    4. Prefer dizi of a standard base key (i.e. from A, B♭, C, D, E, F, or G).

Consider the following worked example:

Worked example.
Composite diagram of scales-mapping for worked example.
  1. The piece is in G-major, so we look under Major G and isolate the row.
  2. The list of base keys of dizi is therefore G, D, C, A, E, F, B♭, B, or F♯. We ignore the last three fingering patterns.
  3. Criteria matching:
    1. Genre of music is 二人台 (or er'rentai, a regional opera type), tendency to have stronger mediants (third scale degree), weak tonics (first scale degree) and dominants (fifth scale degree).
    2. Lowest pitch seen was , highest around .
    3. So we have C, D, and E left to consider. Criterion says prefer easier fingerings, but the range cannot be met and there are specific timbre requirements.
    4. No problems here.

So based on the criteria, it turns out that the E dizi is the appropriate one.

Rules of Thumb

This will re-appear when we talk about playing in orchestras, but here are some useful rules of thumb:

Further articles will demonstrate other ways of combining both finger patterns and key selection/mapping (both base key of dizi and concert key).