12-tone Fingering Chart for the 6-hole dizi: Part 1

In this article, we present a unified view of the fingering patterns of the dizi, presenting the dizi as a 12-tone [equal temperament] instrument. These charts are necessarily more complicated than the previous two charts within these set of articles, but they contain just as much information as the other two.

We first present a reproduction of the simpler fingering pattern chart, followed by list of fingering pattern charts for download.

For staff-related fingering charts, do look at part 2 of this article.

Example Chart (And How To Read It)

The basic version of the great 6-hole dizi fingering pattern chart (笛子指法大表(六孔笛,简化) or dizi zhifa dabiao (liukong di, jianhua)) is reproduced below to help explain the features. Skip ahead to explanation. Note that further on, we present two downloadable versions, namely this, and the complete one that contains all the known and tested fingering pattern variants.

12-tone fingering charts for the 6-hole dizi
Much simplified version of the chart---only common variations of fingering patterns are displayed. The maximum range is also greatly reduced compared to the full chart.

Explaining the Chart

Despite the complicated appearance, there are four large sections, namely the fingering pattern lists by tongyin (top), fingering pattern labels by zhifa or by the concert flute analogy (left), the 12-tone equal temperament listing under each tongyin heading to support concert pitch and dizi base key selection (bottom), and the diatonic progression for each scale headed by a tongyin (right, under tongyin headings).

Fingering Pattern Lists by tongyin

tongyin labels
(Top) The tongyin labels for each list of fingering patterns.

Consistent with this section of articles, we have the tongyin names (an octave off) arranged in a natural sort of order. Each of these labels head an entire column of diatonic progressions that map between the fingering pattern to the diatonic scale; details to be seen later on.

These headings are useful to describe the fingering pattern in the traditional manner. We will point out the concert flute equivalent system later.

Note that the tongyin as 5 is marked with a special border. This is the base key of the dizi and is marked out for use as the reference point for using the chart to figure out key mappings.

Fingering Pattern Labels

fingering pattern labels
(Left) Schematic of fingering pattern (orthodox) with unambiguous pattern label based on concert flute analogy.

There are two sub-columns that both label the fingering pattern that occurs:

指法 (zhifa)
These represent the state of the holes as laid out in all the fingering charts in this set of articles. The symbols , , , and have their usual meaning. The holes are labelled above the first zhifa entry as a mnemonic.
西式长笛音 (xishi changdi yin)
Another way to label the fingering pattern is to use the concert flute analogy and quote the pitch that comes out from that particular tone hole layout. In this cutaway, we see that the first pattern of all-closed (654--321) is labelled as D,, representing the low D that a concert flute would yield.

Why the duality in labelling? Frankly, there's no need for the concert flute analogy here since stating the tongyin and the associated jianpu pitch is sufficient to specify what set of fingering patterns are needed. But it's long-winded and requires some mental gymnastics.

If one already has some background in concert flute, the reference makes it easier to specify the tone hole fingering patterns in a near unambiguous way without having the listener to apply mental gymnastics.

12-Tone Equal Temperament Listing

12-tone eequal temperament listing
(Bottom) List of pitches under 12-tone equal temperament corresponding to the tongyin labels.

The row that says 十二平均律表 (shi'er pingjun lü) is a chart of the 12 enharmonic chromatic notes written to fit one per tongyin column.

This list of labels fulfills two purposes, namely as a way of labelling each tongyin with the equivalent concert flute major scale, and as a way of determining key mappings by counting.

Diatonic Progression Headed by tongyin

The rest of the chart that isn't the top, bottom or left belongs to the diatonic progressions.

The diatonic progressions are written in jianpu, with the numbers 1 to 7 covering each pitch within the [major] diatonic scale.

Instead of using a dot below to represent an octave lower (like ), we write a comma next to the pitch instead (like 1,).

Similarly, instead of a dot above to represent an octave higher (like ), we write a prime next to the pitch instead (like 1′). Similarly for pitches a fifteenth higher (like :1), we write a double prime next to the pitch instead (like 1″).

These rather strange symbols were used to save on the vertical space in the table.

Using the Chart

There are two use cases for the chart, the first is to learn the fingering patterns for a given tongyin, and the second is to determine various key mappings.

Learning Fingering Patterns for tongyin

Just seek the tongyin column, and look at the diatonic progression and correlate it with the fingering patterns on the left side to figure out how to play it.

If there are multiple options for the same jianpu pitch, they are ordered from top to bottom in decreasing order of preference. For some dizi, the alternative fingering patterns may give better intonation or reaction depending on what comes before and after---some experimentation is necessary.

For an easier way to learn each tongyin, the simplified charts from a previous article in this set of articles is recommended.

Determining Various Key Mappings

Here is a common scenario: a piece of music has a given key km. A dizi that the player has is of key kd. Which tongyin should the player use to play key km on the dizi with key kd?

Using the chart, it is quite simple, though the description is long. Here are the steps:

  1. Locate kd on the same row.
  2. Locate km on the final row that says 十二平均律表.
  3. Count the number of notes/tongyin columns to move from kd to km. Remember the direction that was used as well.
  4. Now, starting with tongyin as count the same number of notes in the same direction as found out in the previous step. Sometimes, there may be a need to wrap around the other side of the tongyin columns.

The tongyin column finally landed on is the set of fingering patterns to play key km on a dizi of key kd.

Here is a worked example to illustrate the process. Suppose we have a piece of music in E-major and we want to play it using a dizi in the key of A. Then,

  1. We locate the A-note (kd) on the final row.
  2. We also locate the E-note (km) on the final row.
  3. We observe from the A-note (kd), we can move five columns to the right to the E-note (km).
  4. Now, starting with tongyin as we count five columns to the right, wrap around, and end on tongyin as .

So to play E-major music on a dizi with ``base'' key A, we use the tongyin as fingering patterns.

Or use the mapping of keys chart from a previous article instead.

Fingering Pattern Charts Downloads

Unlike the previous articles, here we only have two versions, in increasing order of complexity:

  1. Basic version: commonly seen fingering patterns, easier to use.
  2. Complete version: complete set of variant fingering patterns, can help with alternative fingering patterns for badly tuned dizi.

As noted before, these charts contain way more information than is usually needed, and should be seen as a form of reference rather than as the first source for learning the specific fingering.

If you are looking for specific fingering charts for a given dizi, considering looking at part 2 of this article.