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The Many Variations of Dizis

A traditional instrument of China, the dizi is a Chinese flute that is played horizontally as opposed to the xiao that is played vertically. This musical instrument is often used in the Chinese opera and orchestra. A master Chinese musician often has seven different dizis, so eBay is a wonderful place to get new ones because the buying and selling process is incredibly easy.

The different types of dizis are explained here.

There are several different types of dizis. Note that the keys are named after the sound the instrument makes when the left hand covers the top three holes. Different types of dizis include:

  • Bangdis - Their lively high-pitched tone is often used in Northern Chinese music; these come pre-tuned to many different keys with A, G, and F being the most common.
  • Qudi - Their low-pitched-lyrical tone is often used in music from Southern China. These come pre-tuned to many different keys with E, D, and C being the most typical.
  • Xiaodis - These musical instruments have a bright tone, so they often take the lead in musical pieces. They come pre-tuned to many different keys with D, C, and B flat being common.
  • Xindis - These instruments have a rich tone, and they are usually pre-tuned to A, G, F, and B flat.
  • Koudi - These very small bamboo flutes have a very high pitch that many describe as sounding like a birds call. They usually come pre-tuned to D or G.
  • Giajiandi - These musical instruments have some keys allowing players to play a wider range of music.
  • Xingzhudi - These 11-hole dizi bamboo flutes are the only ones where players can play a complete chromatic scale.
What are dizis made of?

Most dizis are made from bamboo, which is why they are often called the Chinese bamboo flute. Where the bamboo is obtained affects the sound of the musical instrument. Purple and violet bamboo is often used in northern China to make a livelier instrument. In southern China, a lighter color bamboo is used to make a softer tone. Around Suzhou and Hangzhou, white bamboo is the most common choice giving the instrument a very soft volume. A very few of these Chinese flutes are also made of jade or wood.

What is the mokong?

A mokong membrane is found on many dizi Chinese flutes covering a special hole created between the first finger hole and the embouchure hole. On a traditional dizi bamboo flute, this membrane was made from the inside of the bamboo plant. Traditionally, the membrane was attached in a wrinkled fashion covering this hole to give the musical instrument its unique treble sound. While bamboo is still chosen for the mokong, most membranes are applied with animal glue. If it is not on correctly, then all notes will not buzz.

Where are the holes positioned?

The holes on traditional bamboo flutes, like a xiao, are evenly spaced. Those made more recently have holes that are not an equal distance apart. The change was made so that the instrument would be better able to play notes in Western music.