Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Tuning a Qin...

Well as it is indeed Chinese New Year today - this seems an appropriate enough time to pass on the following information - this being the most detailed (and dare I worry you the most easy to understand) mail from the 'International Guqin' listserver, regarding the tuning of a Guqin (as in Goo-chin for the pinyin restricted..).

Not too sure how I ever ended up on this thing - I do not own a Qin - however, I have played one before and indeed the following track for your download pleasure includes many sampled plucks, twangs and slides from said instrument (it sounds uber cool with a contact mic stuck on it - otherwise it is one of the most quiet instruments around):

Digital Cutup Lounge - Trad China Dub

Every chance I was somehow added to this list due to having performed numerous times with the rather excellent Fok Sai Kit and her screaching electronic Erhu (plugged into and seriously mutated with the rather nice Korg Kaoss Pad no less).


The 'electronic erhu' is a rather wondeful modern interuptation of the snake-skinned, 2 string traditional chinese instrument


... we have one of these here at home - and O-Glitch at the age of six is already making some rather pleasing soundz come from the baby, z-glitch is as they say - an expert but alas she needs some coaxing to play these days !!.,....

Anyhows - enough of my endless ranting - and down to the details - at least this post should help preserve the secrets of Tuning the Qin forever passing into the dark-hole of history-lost, taken from the only english-source (it would seem) on the web: http://www.silkqin.com/08anal/tuning.htm - makes you kind of glad that you play a standard 6-string guitar does it not ?...

1. Introduction

When my teacher first taught me to tune my guqin there was no discussion of mathematics. He said first to make a general tuning using open strings and stopped sounds, then a fine tuning using harmonics. There was no discussion of absolute pitch, and the sequence was not always the same. The following can be taken as a typical example for standard tuning.























General Tuning (Standard)
If the pitch of either the fourth string or the seventh string seems to be about right, you can start with the following six steps.

  1. Bring the 7th string in tune with the 4th string by having the open 7th string have the same sound as the 4th string stopped in the 9th position.
  2. Tune the 5th string by having the open 7th string have the same sound as the 5th string stopped in the 10th position.
  3. Tune the 6th string by having the open 6th string have the same sound as the 4th string stopped in the 10th position.
  4. Tune the 1st string by having the open 4th string have the same sound as the 1st string stopped in the 9th position.
  5. Tune the 2nd string by having the open 4th string have the same sound as the 2nd string stopped in the 10th position.
  6. Tune the 3rd string by having the open 3rd string have the same sound as the 1st string stopped in the 10th position.
Fine tuning (Standard)
Now use the following harmonic positions to make the tuning more precise. This tuning is more precise because with the stopped sounds it is almost impossible to put the left finger down in precisely the correct position, while the harmonic position must be precise or the note will not ring clearly.
  1. A harmonic played on the 7th position of the 7th string should have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 9th position of the 4th string.
  2. A harmonic played on the 7th position of the 6th string should have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 9th position of the 3rd string.
  3. A harmonic played on the 7th position of the 5th string should have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 9th position of the 2nd string.
  4. A harmonic played on the 7th position of the 4th string should have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 9th position of the 1st string.
  5. A harmonic played on the 9th position of the 7th string should have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 10th position of the 5th string.
  6. A harmonic played on the 9th position of the 6th string should have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 10th position of the 4th string. (Note: A harmonic on the 9th position of the 5th string will not have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 10th position of the 3rd string.)
  7. A harmonic played on the 9th position of the 4th string should have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 10th position of the 2nd string.
  8. A harmonic played on the 9th position of the 3rd string should have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 10th position of the 1st string.

The same results come from testing the harmonic positions at the player's right end of the qin, as follows.

  1. A harmonic played on the 7th position of the 7th string should have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 5th position of the 4th string.
  2. A harmonic played on the 7th position of the 6th string should have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 5th position of the 4th string.
  3. A harmonic played on the 7th position of the 5th string should have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 5th position of the 2nd string.
  4. A harmonic played on the 7th position of the 4th string should have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 5th position of the 1st string.
  5. A harmonic played on the 5th position of the 7th string should have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 4th position of the 5th string.
  6. A harmonic played on the 5th position of the 6th string should have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 4th position of the 4th string. (Note: A harmonic on the 5th position of the 5th string will not have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 4th position of the 3rd string.
  7. A harmonic played on the 5th position of the 4th string should have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 4th position of the 2nd string.
  8. A harmonic played on the 5th position of the 3rd string should have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 4th position of the 1st string.
During the above process, if one of the strings is found to be out of tune, you make the necessary adjustments then go through either the entire sequence again or, more commonly, only the harmonic sequence. In fact many people do their tuning using only the harmonic sequences, unless the qin has gone very badly out of tune.

Almost all melodies in the active repertoire (i.e., excluding melodies reconstructed from early tablature) use this standard tuning. With different tunings, the relationships are always given in terms of how they deviate from this standard tuning. For example the raised 5th string tuning (usually called ruibin diao in old handbooks but today other names may be used) is usually indicated as follows.

General Tuning (Ruibin)
First do the standard tuning, as above. Then from standard tuning raise (tighten) the 5th string so that the open 7th string has the same sound as the 5th string stopped in the 11th position (newer handbooks may try to be more precise by saying position 10.8).

Fine Tuning (Ruibin)
The harmonic equivalents have now changed, as follows.

  1. A harmonic played on the 7th position of the 7th string should still have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 9th position of the 4th string.
  2. A harmonic played on the 7th position of the 6th string should still have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 9th position of the 3rd string. (Note: A harmonic on the 7th position of the 5th string no longer has the same sound as a harmonic played on the 9th position of the 2nd string.)
  3. A harmonic played on the 7th position of the 4th string should still have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 9th position of the 1st string.) (Note: A harmonic on the 9th position of the 7th string no longer has the same sound as a harmonic played on the 10th position of the 5th string.
  4. A harmonic played on the 9th position of the 6th string should still have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 10th position of the 4th string.
  5. A harmonic played on the 9th position of the 5th string should now have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 10th position of the 3rd string.
  6. A harmonic played on the 9th position of the 4th string should still have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 10th position of the 2nd string.
  7. A harmonic played on the 9th position of the 3rd string should still have the same sound as a harmonic played on the 10th position of the 1st string.

1 comment:

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