Étiquette : UQINQIN :

GUQIN: The Playing And Notation of The Left Hand -1 2 3 4

The Playing And Notation of The Left Hand – 1
Playing Guqin, the left hand controls the precise pitch of the sound. Therefor the position of the fingers is very important. There are 6 basic finger techniques of the left hand: Yin, Rou, Chuo, Zhu, Shang and Xia. Under these 6 basic techniques, there are a number of variations. The variations are based on the length and the strength of vibrato, creating different atmospheres. Player needs to have an understanding of the piece of music first, so that one can present the appropriate feeling by using different finger techniques.

A, Press String Position of The Left Hand: Click the pictures for bigger image.


There are certain points on the finger tips and fingers that is or are used for playing pressing down (An-yin) or harmonic (Fan-yin) sound. Please click the picture for bigger image.

Da Zhi Notation:
Name: Da Zhi (Thumb)
Explanation: Slightly bend the thumb and using the side of the thumb, where the nail meets the skin or the side of knuckle of the thumb, press down the string. If pressing down 2 strings at one time, use both of the side of the nail and knuckle.

Shi Zhi Notation:
Name: Shi Zhi (Index finger)
Explanation: Naturally position the index finger on the string. It is used more often in Fan Yin, which is just lightly touching the string. Sometimes used together with the thumb.

Zhong Zhi Notation:
Name: Zhong Zhi (Middle finger)
Explanation: Naturally position the middle finger on the string. It is used more often on the 1st string.

Ming Zhi Notation:
Name: Ming Zhi (Ring finger)
Explanation: Slightly bend the ring finger and using the left side where the nail meets the skin to press down the string. Do not use the tip of the finger to press the string and do not use the middle finger to try to help to press down the ring finger. Thumb should not be raised up.

Gui Notation:
Name: Gui (Kneel)
Explanation: Kneeling the ring finger on the string. Using side of the back of the nail or back of the 1st knuckle to press down the string. It is usually used above the 5th Hui.

The Playing And Notation of The Left Hand – 2
The pictures shows the techniques using the thumb, but the techniques can also be perform using the index, middle and ring fingers.

6 Basic Finger Techniques of The Left Hand: Click the pictures for videos.


Yin Notation:
Name: Yín 吟
Explanation: A vibrato movement. A finger of the left hand presses down a string, and after a finger of the right hand plays the string, the left hand quickly moves down (to the left) and up, 2 to 3 times and back to the spot one started with. The strength of this movement is strong at the beginning but gradually reducing at the end. The distance between each up and down is not bigger than 1/5 of the distance to the next Hui position.

Nao Notation:
Name: Náo 猱
Explanation: A vibrato movement. A finger of the left hand presses down a string, and after a finger of the right hand plays the string, the left hand quickly moves up (to the right) and down, 2 to 3 times and back to the spot one started with. The strength of this movement is strong at the beginning but gradually reducing at the end. The distance between each up and down is not bigger than 1/4 of the distance to the next Hui position.

Chuo Notation:
Name: Chùo 綽
Explanation: A finger of the left hand, before pressing down a string on the indicated spot, starts about 5mm. below (to the left) of that spot, and quickly glides to the right, till the place indicated is reached.

Zhu Notation:
Name: Zhù 注
Explanation: It is the opposite of Chùo. The movement starts about 5mm. above (to the right) of the indicated spot, and quickly glides to the left, till the place indicated is reached.

Shang Notation:
Name: Shàng (ascending) 上
Explanation: While the right hand plucks the string that the left hand has pressed down, the left hand glides up to the spot that is indicated. The pressing and moving of the left hand should be solid so that it will create a very clear sound. If there is one ascending after another ascending, the notation will be « 二上 » (Èr Shàng , up twice). In Guqin tableture, only the final destination of Èr Shàng is indicated. So the player has to listen to the tone and move his or her finger up to a proper position for the first ascending tone. Each ascending tone is approximately one whole step, for example, Do- Re- Mi, or Re-Mi-Sol, or Mi- Sol- La, or Sol-La-Do, or La-Do-Re.

Xia Notation:
Name: Xià (descending) 下
Explanation: opposite of « Shàng. » While the right hand plucks the string that the left hand has pressed down, the left hand glides down to the spot that it is indicated. If there is one descending after another descending, the notation will be « 二下 » (Èr Xià, down twice). Same as Èr Shàng that the tableture only indicate the final desitination. So the player has to listen to the tone and move his or her finger down to a proper position for the first descending tone. Each descending tone is approximately one whole step. For example, Do- La- Sol, or La- Sol- Mi, or Sol- Mi-Re, or Mi- Re- Do, or Re- Do- La.

The Variations of Yín and Náo:

Notation: Name: Cháng Yin 長吟
Explanation: A drawn-out vibrato movement. The frequency of up and down is several times more than Yín. The total number can be 7 to 12 times of the frequency.

Notation: Name: Xì Yín 細吟
Explanation: A thin vibrato movement, more delicate than Yín.

Notation: Name: Dìng Yín 定吟
Explanation: A calm vibrato. It is rocking the string back and force without moving the finger.

Notation: Name: Yóu Yín 游吟
Explanation: Swinging vibrato. Similar to Shuang Zhùang (see Shuang Zhuang on next page) but slower.

Notation: Name: Lùo Zhĭ Yín 落指吟
Explanation: Immediately vibrato. Do Yín as soon as the left hand presses the string and the right hand plays the string.

Notation: Name: Lùe Yín 略吟
Explanation: Slightly Yín.

Notation: Name: Cháng Náo 長猱
Explanation: The movement is the same as Náo but the timing of the vibrato is longer. Same situation as Cháng Yín.

Notation: Name: Jí Náo 急猱
Explanation: A fast Náo. Feels tight and rapid but not in a hurry.

Notation: Name: Lùo Zhĭ Náo 落指猱
Explanation: Same situation as Lùo Zhĭ Yín. Do Náo as soon as the left hand presses the string and the right hand plays the string.

Notation: Name: Lùe Náo 略猱
Explanation: Slightly Náo.

For a further study on distinguish the differences between Yín and Náo and a short film of the demo, please visit here.

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The Playing And Notation of The Left Hand – 3
The pictures shows the techniques using the thumb, but the techniques can also be perform using the index, middle and ring fingers.
Click the pictures to view videos.

Tang Notation:
Name: Taňg 淌
Explanation: Same as « Xià » 下 but the movement of the left hand is slower. It is a slow descending sound.

Tuo Notation:
Name: Tuo (or Tuo Shàng) 拖
Explanation: Same as « Shàng » 上 but the movement of the left hand is slower. It is a slow ascending sound.

Zhuàng Notation:
Name: Zhàng (to strike against) 撞
Explanation: When the left hand presses down a string, and then after the right hand has pulled the string, the left hand moves very quickly up (to the right) about 1/5 – 1/2 portion of to next Hui position, and quickly moves back to the spot indicated. The strength of moving up should be timid and fast and the down moving should be strong, solid and fast as well.

Shuang Zhuang Notation:
Name: Shuang Zhàng (to strike against twice) 雙撞
Explanation: Do twice of « Zhuàng. »

Xu Zhuang Notation:
Name: Xu Zhuàng 虛撞
Explanation: “Xu” literally means “empty, unfilled,” therefore a “Xu Zhuàng “is to have a Zhuàng technique happen after a non- plucked sound. For example, the left hand may do a Zhuàng after an upward moving technique (Shàng or Jìng ), or a downward moving technique (Xià or Fù ) or a vibrato technique (Yín or Náo ) has been performed.

Fan Zhuang Notation:
Name: Fǎn zhuàng (Opposit of Zhuàng) 反撞
Explanation: Same technique as « Zhàng » but moves the left hand very quickly down first (to the left) about 1/5 – 1/2 of to the next « Hui » position and moves back quickly to the spot indicated. It is like a faster motion of Tuì fù.

Dò Notation:
Name: Dò 逗
Explanation: While the right hand pulls the string, simultaneously the left hand moves up and back to the hui position quickly. It is similar to Zhuàng 撞, but Zhuàng is done after the right hand pulls the string.

Huàn Notation:
Name: Huàn 渙, 喚,or 換
Explanation: 宋成玉礀[琴書大全]: 注少許,略作猱, 而復引少許. Slides down over to the hui position a little bit, then slightly náo (once or twice), and then slides up to above the hui position a little bit.

Wang Lai Notation:
Name: Waňglaí (back and forth) 往來
Explanation: 往來得聲自上而下三次(或兩次). When a finger of the left hand presses down a string and after the right hand has pulled the string, the left hand moves down to the next sound position to the left and then moves back to where it started; and repeats this movement twice or three times to produce a total of 4 or 6 sounds. (ex. 5,3,5,3,5,3).

Fen Kai Notation:
Name: Fen Kai 分開
Explanation: When a finger of the left hand presses down a string and after the right hand has pulled the string, the left hand glides up to the next Hui position to the right; and then while the right hand pulls the string again, the left hand glides back to where it started, as the action of « Zhù. »

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The Playing And Notation of The Left Hand – 4
Click the pictures to view the videos.

Jin Fu Notation:
Name: Jìn fù 進復 (advancing and returning)
Explanation: When a finger of the left hand presses down a string, and after the right hand has pulled the string, the left hand glides up to the right to a certain point indicated or to one pitch higher, then glides back to where it started.

Tui Fu Notation:
Name: Tuì fù 退復 (backward and returning)
Explanation: Opposite of Jìn fù. When a finger of the left hand presses down a string, and after the right hand has pulled the string, the left hand glides down to the left to a certain point indicated or one pitch lower, then glides back to where it started.

Qia Qi Notation:
Name:Qiā qǐ 掐起
Explanation: This technique is particularly used for the thumb of the left hand. After the thumb presses down a string (on the 8th Hui for example), the ring finger (or middle finger) presses down the same string at the next Hui (the 9th). Instead of using the right hand to pull the string, the thumb of the left hand pulls up the sting. Using the edge of the thumbnail to pull the sting up, at the same time the ring finger (or the middle finger) still presses down steadily.

Zhua Qi Notation:
Name: Zhua Qĭ 抓起
Explanation: This technique is particularly used for the thumb of the left hand. After the thumb presses down a string, it lightly pulls up the string to create a Săn Yin.

Dai Qi Notation:
Name: Dài Qǐ 帶起
Explanation: This technique is particularly used for the ring finger of the left hand. After the left ring finger presses down a string, it plucks the string to create a Sǎn Yin. However, some ancient qin tabletures used « Dài qǐ » not just for the ring finger but for the thumb (as Zhua Qǐ) and middle finger as well.

Yan Notation:
Name: Yǎn 罨 (to cover)
Explanation: This technique is mostly executed with the left hand thumb, that the thumb taps a string to produce a low, dull sound after the left ring finger pressed down the string. For example, when the left ring finger presses down the 3rd string on the 10th Hui, the left thumb taps the same string on the 9th Hui (while the left ring still presses down). and after tapping the string, the left thumb stays there steadily and does not move away.

Xu Yan Notation:
Name: Xū Yǎn 虛罨
Explanation: This technique is mostly executed with the middle or ring finger and sometimes the thumb. Same technique as Yǎn but without pressing down any string before doing Yǎn.

Tue Chu Notation:
Name: Tue Chu (pushing outward) 推出
Explanation: This technique is particularly used on the 1st string for the middle finger of the left hand. After the middle finger presses a sting down, it makes the 1st string sound by pushing it outward.

Ying He Notation:
Name: Yīng Hé 應合 (respond and unite)
Explanation: The left middle or ring finger presses down a string, and the right hand plucks it, the left hand stays on the same string and does not move away yet. While the right hand plucks another string, the left hand moves either up or down to the position where it has the same sound as the string that the right hand had played. Eventually making both strings sound together (one is a solid sound, the other is a soft sound).

Tong Shen Notation:
Name: Tóng Shēng (sounds together) 同聲, also called Dài Hé 帶合
Explanation: This technique is creating a kind of chord. The left hand plucks one string (can be the middle finger Tuīchū, or the ring finger Dàiqǐ or the thumb Zhuāqǐ), at the same time, the right hand plucks another string to make both strings sound together.

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