Select Page

Download the tuning charts of all available dizi of Sound of Dragon Ensemble, arranged according to the fingerings below.  Dizi music is generally notated one octave lower than actual sound in treble clef.

Chinese transverse flutes are called Dizi (笛子). They are made of different types of bamboo tubes and available in various sizes and keys. “The tube is closed at the blowing end with a cork, open at the bottom. Distributed along the upper surface are a blow-hole, membrane hole and six finger-holes, with two end-holes on the underside which define the length of the vibrating air column and may be used to attach a string or decorative tassel” (Yueqi, Thrasher & Wong 2011).

Traditionally, a dizi is made of one piece of bamboo tube. Today, many dizi are made of two pieces of bamboo tubes. Adjusting the tightness of how the two pieces connect together allows the player to fine tune the instrument. The membrane hole is covered by a fine piece of bamboo skin from the inner surface of the tube, which produces the unique buzzing tone.

There are generally two types of dizi: the longer version is qudi (曲笛) from southern China, with darker tone and more graceful repertoire; the shorter version is bangdi (梆笛) from northern China, with brighter tone and passionate repertoire. Dizi are usually named by the pitch it produces with three upper holes (#4-6, next to the membrane hole) closed. Commonly qudi is tuned to C, D, or E; while the higher pitch bangdi may be in F, G, or A. The dizi longer and lower than qudi are called dadi (big dizi) and the one smaller and higher than bangdi are called xiaodi (small dizi).

The earlier versions of flutes in China had no membrane. “The presence of a membrane was first mentioned in the early 12th century treatise Yueshu”(Yueqi, Thrasher & Wong 2011). By the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the bangdi and qudi have become the lead instruments in regional operas and instrumental ensembles. 

In theory, all semitones are playable on a dizi. Semitones or microtones can be played by adjusting how much a finger hole is covered. Covering half of the hole should produce a semitone. The more a hole is covered, the lower is the pitch. “But whenever we use half holes, the timbre is affected because the vibration of the membrane is muted. It’d be challenging to play half holes in a fast temple. Some semitones have alternative fingerings, instead of half holes. Their intonation is not as accurate, but they can be used in fast passages” (Charlie Lui). Another way to change the pitch is by adjusting the angle between the mouth and the blow hole. This technique is commonly used to fine tune the pitches.

The playable range of each dizi is about 16th (from the base note with all holes covered as “sol” to “la” in 2 octaves higher). Depending on the quality of the dizi and the ability of the player, one or two tones higher than “la” are also possible. 

Single Zheyin
Compound Zheyin

Dizi Techniques

“Articulation, for the most part, is accomplished by special finger movements. Otherwise, a smooth legato style without tonguing is idiomatic for most traditional music. Tonguing is reserved for special effects only. Vibrato is commonly employed on notes of longer duration – that is, a slow, pulsing diaphragm vibrato rather than the continuous fast style usually heard in western flute performance. These elements of performance are standard and rarely notated” (Yueqi, Thrasher & Wong 2011).

Although the following techniques are introduced individually, in practice various techniques may be combined to produce a single note/phrase.


Southern Style techniques (south of Yangzi River):
Dieyin 疊音 (‘layering note’)– traditionally indicated as “又“, now simply shown as an upper grace note, a grace note from one tone higher than the principal note. This technique employs only the finger movement without tonguing. 

Dayin 打音 (‘marking note’)– traditionally marked as “丁“, a grace note from one tone lower than the principal note. This technique employs only the finger movement without tonguing. Both Dieyin and Dayin are often used to articulate a single note when it is repeated. 

Lianyin 漣音 (‘ripple note’) – marked as “w“ as a short trill, starting with the principal note, than quickly play one tone higher or lower for 1, 2 or 3 times.

Chanyin 顫音 (‘trembling note’) – marked “tr“ as a long trill, starting with the principal note, than quickly play one tone higher or lower for more than 3 times. 3rd or 4th or wider intervals are also sometimes trilled. 

Zengyin 贈音 (‘gift note’) – marked with a curved line from lower left to higher right, followed by “(  )“. This techniques is used in the end of a phrase/long tone by releasing the finger(s) immediately and stopping blowing at the same time. Zengyin refers to the soft short percussive sound produced by the air left in the bamboo tube.  

Yiyin 倚音 (‘lining note’) – Fast grace note(s) leading to the principal note. The first note is lightly emphasized with the tongue to aid the articulation. When the notes are ascending line, it is called Shangyiyin, anddescending is Xiayiyin. When this technique is played in northern style repertoire, it is blown harder. 
a) danyiyin 單倚音 (single) – play one grace note before the principal note, from a either higher or lower pitch.
b) shuangyiyin 雙倚音 (double) – play two grace notes before the principal note, from a either higher or lower pitch.
c) fuyiyin 複倚音 (multiple) – play 3 or more grace notes before the principal note, from a either higher or lower pitch.

Northern Style Techniques (north of Yangzi River):
Tuyin 吐音 (‘tongued note’) – marked as “T” for single tongue, or “TK” for double tongue. Employed in the performance of staccato passages or for emphasis, using the tip of the tongue to articulate each successive note.
a) dantu 單吐 (‘single tongue’) – when playing, form the mouth as if to say “tu”, without speaking out.  It is used to play long tones, such as quarter or eighth notes; also for 16th notes in a tempo of quarter note = 130 or slower. 
b) shuangtu 雙吐 (‘double tongue’) – alternate “T” and “K” positions of the tongue for staccato performance of faster notes ( TK TK ). When playing, form the mouth as if to say “tu”, without speaking out, followed by “ku”. It is best for 16th notes in the tempo between quarter note = 128-158. All the notes should be played evenly with one breathe.
c) santun 三吐 (‘triple tongue’) – the combination of dantu & shuantun in extremely fast passages: T TK or Tk T.  This is usually used in lively music, with a galloping feel.

Huashe 花舌 (‘flower tongue’) – marked “ * “,  or improvised. A flutter tongue (like a rolled “R”), either short or long, essentially creating a tremolo. For pitches in the high range primarily.

Huayin 滑音 (‘sliding note’) –usually marked with an arrow up for ascending,  or an arrow down for descending, but basically any arrow before or over the note. This portamento technique is effected by sliding one or two fingers upward or downward, gradually opening or closing holes adjacent to the principal melodic pitch. 

Duoyin 剁音 (‘chopped note’) – A sudden drop to the melodic note from a higher pitch, which is usually played uncovering all finger holes. This higher note is played slightly before the principal note. The larger the interval, the more difficult it is to play. To reach the principal note, all the fingers should be closed at the same time, showing no grace notes in between. The leading high note should be played with a strong accent at the high note.

Liyin 瀝音 (‘scattering note’) – a series of grace notes in the sequence of the scale (not missing any note) played very fast in exciting passages. Start slightly slower and run the notes faster and faster to the end.

Fei 飛指 (‘flying fingers’)  notated as “飞”.  Pull from the arm to move the fingers left and right rapidly just slightly above the fingering holes. This may be done with either hand. The fingers should be kept together with no space in between. 


Circular Breathing 循環換氣 – Circular Breathing allows the player to perform long passages without any break to catch the breathe. The player breathes in from the nose and blows out with the mouth simultaneously. There are two methods to do circular breathing, during the long tones and during shuangtu (‘double tongue’). 

Zhenyin 震音 (‘shaking note’) – slight regular variation of the pitch creates waves in the tone, similar to vibrato on bowed instruments. This can be achievement by changing the amount of air blown out or with small movements of the fingerings. The vibrato may be played from slow to fast or from fast to slow, from gentle to wide or from wide to gentle.
a) fuzhenyin 腹震音 – regulating how hard to blow with the control of the diaphragm. It is used in slow, sad and narrative songs. 
b) qizhenyin 气震音 – used in more gentle slow music
c) qichongyin 气沖音 – this intensive fast vibrato is often used in passionate and exciting music
d) zhizhenyin 指震音– created with minor movement of the fingers, it is used in softer music
e) yarouzhenyin 壓揉震音 –  fast angular movements, the combination of both the finger and arm, to produce more dramatic tone.
f) huarouzhenyin 滑揉震音 – dramatic sound, imitating the vocals in Chinese regional opera.
g) rouzhenyin 揉震音

Harmonics 泛音 – Notated as “。”. Harmonics are produced by adjusting the amount of air blown out, keeping it between the air needed for the higher and the medium registers. The harmonics are a 12th above the note of the regular fingering. The volume is softer.

Houyin 喉音 – making a “hou” sound in the throat while blowing. Similar sound to Huashe, but the part vibrating is in the throat, not the tongue.