Type: Transverse Flute, Aerophones.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 421.121.12
Pa Yin: Bamboo 竹.
Specimens: 3 in collection.
Region: Far East Asia.
Acquisition Source: Randy Raine-Reusch @ asza.com.
Description: The dizi [in Chinese: 笛子, pinyin dízi, pronounced approximately “titseu”], also called Zhudi [竹笛]. It is a traditional musical instrument of the Han Chinese, it is a flute made of bamboo. Being a major Chinese musical instrument it is found in many genres of Chinese folk music, Chinese opera and modern Chinese orchestra. Traditionally, the dizi has also been popular among the Chinese common people, and it is simple to make and easy to carry.
Features: Traditionally dizi is made by using a single piece of bamboo. While simple and straightforward, it is also impossible to change the fundamental tuning once the bamboo is cut, which made it a problem when it was played with other instruments in a modern Chinese orchestra. In the 1920s musician Zheng Jinwen [鄭覲文, 1872-1935] resolved this issue by inserting a copper joint to connect two pieces of shorter bamboo. This method allows the length of the bamboo to be modified for minute adjustment to its fundamental pitch.
The dizi has a unique feature among flutes being a membrane covering a whole with the inner membrane of a common reed, called “di-mo” [笛膜]. This material can be acquired from the common reed, or purchased in a Chinese music store. Gum or Garlic juice is used to apply as an adhesive to hold the di-mo in place. The dizi is a relatively easy instrument to learn at first, but the standard for good dizi playing is quite high.
Traditional dizi the finger-holes are spaced approximately equidistant, which produces a temperament of mixed whole-tone and three-quarter-tone intervals. Zheng also repositioned the figure-holes to change the notes produced. During the middle of the 20th century dizi makers further changed the finger hole placements to allow for playing in equal temperament, as demanded by new musical developments and compositions, although the traditional dizi continue to be used for purposes such as kunqu accompaniment.
Varieties: The bangdi is one the smaller sized dizi’s available, whose rapid bird-song playing is familiar to Northern China. During the 20th Century, a third category appeared having a 7th finger hole. Formerly concentrated in the city of Suzhou. The bangdi pitched in the same range as western piccolo and qudi pitched a fourth or fifth lower than the bangdi are the most predominant, other dizi include the xiaodi / gaoyindi pitched a fourth of fifth higher than the bangdi, the dadi / diyindi (pitched a fourth or fifth lower than qudi), and the deidi / diyindadi (pitched an octave lower than qudi). In the 1930s, an 11-hole fully chromatic version of the dizi was created, pitched in the same range as the western flute. However, the modified dizi’s extra tone holes prevent the effective use of the membrane, so this instrument lacks the inherent timbre of the traditional dizi family.
Manufacturing: The success of this relatively inexpensive instrument is so great today, that the demand for raw material has made the bamboos old enough to build high-end flutes. Many of the major instrument makers, such as the famous Zhou Linsheng, continue to use yellow or white bamboo at an ever higher cost, and reserve their instruments for collectors and maestros scholarships. Others have turned to the use of bamboo less rare, harder to work, but no less interesting acoustically, especially from the regions of Hunan and Hubei.