Key Changes

Key changes on guzheng can be confusing. It's important to remember that they have two parts. Part 1 is the pitch of the strings as controlled by the placement of the bridges. Part 2 is the notation on sheet music. The number "1" on a score corresponds to the note of the key's name. For example:

The Key of D has the notes D,E,F#,A,B which are written on sheet music as 1,2,3,5,6. D=1.

The Key of G has the same physical strings tuned to D,E,G,A,B, but the notation shifts to G =1. So on sheet music, 1,2,3,5,6 means G,A,B,D,E.

Confusing, right? Well, there's one helpful principle: If your instrument's bridges are placed correctly you'll notice you end up with bridges in alternating sets of 3 and 2. The left bridge in the set of 3 is always number 1 on sheet music. This holds for all of the following 6 key changes:

 

Starting With D=1: (D,E,F#,A,B)

Change to G=1: Move F# bridges to right, becoming G

Starting with G (G,A,B,D,E)

Change to C:  Move B bridges to right, becoming C

Starting with C (C,D,E,G,A)

Change to F: Move E bridges to right, becoming F

Starting with F (F,G,A,C,D)

Change to B♭: Move A bridges to right, becoming B♭

Ending on B♭ (B♭,C,D,F,G)

Change to E♭=1: Move D bridges to the right, becoming E♭

Ending on E♭=1:  (E♭,F,G,B♭,C,)

 

Additionally, there are several keys that can be reached from D by shifting bridges to the left.

Starting With D=1: (D,E,F#,A,B)

Change to A=1: Move D bridges to the left, becoming C#

Ending with A=1 (A,B,C#,E,F#)

There is also the key of E, but I have not successfully tuned an instrument to it, nor seen sheet music with this tuning.

Starting with A=1 (A,B,C#,E,F#)

Change to E=1: Move A bridges to the left, becoming G

Ending on E=1:  (E,F#,G,B,C#)

According to Kwok 1987, determining the tuning an instrument is in by listening to a song is so difficult as to be impossible. The main reason for this is that most songs use a combination of open and pressed strings to cover a range of as much as 4 notes on a single string. A musician could play the same set of notes on several different turnings depending on how much and how many strings they pressed.

To see more about guzheng tuning and how different keys play out across the entire instrument, visit the Tuning page.