Written by John Murphy
Are you interested in traditional music? Do you enjoy learning about Chinese culture? Well, today I would like to introduce you to the Dizi!
The Dizi is a truly enchanting Chinese instrument, primarily used in traditional and folk music. One legend says that the Dizi was originally invented by the Yellow Emperor, a Chinese deity said to be the originator of Chinese civilization. Interestingly, Archeologists have discovered that simple flutes existed in China up to 9000 years ago. It is no wonder that flutes are so deeply ingrained in Chinese culture. The modern Dizi in its current form can be traced back to around the 5th century B.C. As you can see, this is an instrument with a long history in China. The Dizi is not only worthwhile to learn about for educational purposes, but also to experience beautiful sounds that exemplify Chinese music!
Historically, the Dizi was popular with everyday people because it was portable, lightweight, and easy to make (being carved out of bamboo). Nowadays, it is a great instrument to play for fun and also to increase your musical knowledge. For someone who isn’t from China, the Dizi allows them to experience new sounds that may not be present in the familiar Western repertoire of instruments. Dizi are usually made of bamboo. In the past, Dizi were made with a single piece of bamboo, but as this is difficult to tune, a musician named Zheng Jinwen redesigned the Dizi to utilize a copper joint which would connect two smaller pieces of bamboo. This allows the length of the bamboo to be changed, which allows players to alter the pitch of the Dizi.
The Dizi differs from western woodwinds in one key way: the addition of an extra hole. Most flutes, of course, have a blowing hole and finger holes, but the Dizi also has a special hole known as the mo kong. A tissue-thin membrane called the dimo (the “di-membrane”) is laid out over this hole and secured with animal glue. This adds harmonics to the Dizi’s sound which creates a buzzing in the final tone.
Here’s a fun fact: the first famous western player to be known for his skill in the Dizi is a Canadian woodwind player named Ron Korb. He graduated from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music with a degree in performance. In many of his recordings, the Dizi has the role of lead instrument. Ron Korb is certainly a pioneer of the Dizi in the western world, and in time, it is likely that many others will join him in appreciating this fantastic instrument!
Ron Korb rocks the Dizi in this video featuring the song “Ancient China” from his album Asian Beauty:
And here is another video showcasing a very talented Chinese musician playing the Dizi:
We can see how this instrument produces a truly majestic sound. There isn’t a better way to appreciate the subtleties present in Chinese music than giving authentic songs like these a listen. Share this video with your friends if you think they’d appreciate the sound of Dizi!
While trying a new instrument may seem intimidating at first, whether you are already a woodwind player like Rob Korb, or someone brand new to music, the Dizi at first glance is straightforward and accessible to everyone. However, many experts utilize several advanced techniques when playing the Dizi. This includes: circular breathing, slides, popped notes, harmonics, and double-tonguing, amongst many others. You don’t have to know the ins-and-outs of all these techniques to see that the Dizi allows room for a master player to truly shine and demonstrate his or her abilities.
Hopefully, this inspires you to check out other traditional Chinese instruments and take a look at more Dizi songs online! Definitely share what you like with your friends, and if you feel like undertaking a new adventure, maybe purchasing a Chinese instrument is just what you need to add some new excitement to your life! At Interact China, we don’t only want to give you an enriching education on oriental aesthetics, we want you to immerse yourself in a new culture. And most importantly, have fun!
About Interact China
“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide”
Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 10 years solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we position well to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and bring you direct finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.
So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion, Kungfu Clothing, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.
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