Key Changes

Jump to: Changing to G, C, F, B flat, E flat | Changing to D, A, E, and B | Why Notation Changes

Guzheng are tuned in Major Pentatonic Keys. The most common are D and G but you will encounter others. You change keys by shifting one bridge in each octave to the left or right.

It’s also important to know that the notation on sheet music changes with each key. The number "1" on a guzheng score corresponds to the first scale degree or tonic note - the same note the key is named after.

Download the Key Table

 
Guzheng Key Chart 2.png
 

For example:

The Key of D has the notes D,E,F#,A,B. The 1st scale degree or tonic note is D. So, sheet music is written as 1,2,3,5,6 where D=1. The Key of G shifts each F# bridge slightly to the right to become G. You end up with the notes D,E,G,A,B, BUT we change the notation to start counting with 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 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 9 keys.

D, G, C, F, B flat, E flat - Shift Bridges to the Right

There are several keys that can be reached from D by shifting bridges to the right.

Change Guzheng Key D to G.png

Starting with key of D: (D,E,F#,A,B)

Change to key of G by moving F# bridges to the right until they play G.

(Bridges #4, #9, #14, #19)

Change Guzheng Key G to C.png

Starting with key of G (G,A,B,D,E):

Change to key of C by moving B bridges to the right until they play C.

(Bridges #2, #7, #12, #17)

Change Guzheng Key C to F.png

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

Change to key of F by moving E bridges to the right until they play F.

(Bridges #5, #10, #15, #20)

Change Guzheng Key F to Bb.png

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

Change to key of B♭ by moving A bridges to the right until they play B♭.

(Bridges #3, #8, #13, #18)

Change Guzheng Key Bb to Eb.png

Starting with key of B♭ (B♭,C,D,F,G)

Change to key of C by moving D bridges to the right until they play E♭.

(Bridges #1, #6, #11, #16, #21)

Ending on key of E♭:  (E♭,F,G,B♭,C)

D, A, E, and B - Shift Bridges to the Left

There are several keys that can be reached from G by shifting bridges to the left.

Change Guzheng Key G to D.png

Starting with key of G: (D,E,F#,A,B)

Change to key of D by moving G bridges to the left until they play F#.

(Bridges #4, #9, #14, #19)

Change Guzheng Key D to A.png

Starting With key of D: (D,E,F#,A,B)

Change to key of A by moving D bridges to the left until they play C#.

(Bridges #1, #6, #11, #16, #21)

Change Guzheng Key A to E.png

Starting with key of A: (A,B,C#,E,F#)

Change to key of E by moving A bridges to the left until they play G#.

(Bridges #3, #8, #13, #18)

Change Guzheng Key E to B.png

Starting with key of E: (E,F#,G#,B,C#)

Change to key of B: by moving E bridges to the left until they play D#.

(Bridges #5, #10, #15, #20)

End on key of B: (B,C#,D#,F#,G#)

Why?

So why does the notation change with each key? That’s to help players know how far they need to press strings to get to the next note in the key. By shifting which note is “1” we guarantee that the “4” note is always a half step above “3” and the “7” note is always a half step above “6”. The 3 and 6 strings only need to be pressed a little bit to reach the 4 and 7. If the notation did not change the player could not predict how far to press strings.

Fun note:

According to Kwok 1987, determining the tuning an instrument is in by listening to a song is so difficult as to be impossible. 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.