The videos available here were made for a series of qin classes designed for beginners. These pieces, however, can be played at any level - there is a tradition saying that these require more skill than do the typical virtuoso pieces (e.g., see Liu Shui comparison).3
Videos for beginning to play guqin
In recommended order of learning
Snapshot from a recording session 2
Basic stroke techniques plus learning where to put right hand without looking
Exercise 1: tiao open 7th, gou open 4th strings, etc.
Important: always look at left hand; correct right hand position must become instinctive
- Exercise 2: tiao open 7th, gou 4th string stopped at 9th hui, etc.
Left thumb presses down hard ("入木 enter wood")
- Exercise 3: Combine #1 and #2
Play smoothly; note how sound changes depending on how close right hand is to bridge when plucking
- Exercise 4: tiao open 7th, gou open 5th strings, etc.
Reminder: do not look at right hand
- Exercise 5: tiao open 7th, gou 5th string stopped at 10th hui, etc.
Note that open 5th is paired with 11th hui on 3rd string.
- Exercise 6: Combine #4 and #5
- Exercise 7: Harmonics at positions 7 and 9
With harmonics touch the strings the way
dragonflies skim over water
- Exercise 8: Harmonics at positions 9 and 10
Play these eight exercises until you can do them without looking at the right hand
- Lesson 1
Sing along with recording before playing; "Xianweng" is Chen Tuan
- Caoman Yin of 1585, Section 1: commentary
Strokes as above but last phrase has a mo 6 and a duiqi
- Caoman Yin of 1585, Section 1 with lyrics;
Not necessary to sing while playing: this would be more advanced
- Lesson 2
First melody I learned from my own teacher,
- Xianweng Cao (Melody of the Transcendent Immortal;
- Lesson 3
Last two notes are same as first two, so this can be played continuously as a meditation
- Gu Qiu Feng (1511; Old Autumn Wind;
Compare the later Meian Autumn Wind Melody
(Qiu Feng Ci;
- Lesson 4
- Feng Ru Song Ge (1511; Wind in the Pines;
transcription with audio recording
Attributions are mainly to Xi Kang, but also Jiao Ran and Yongmen Zhou
- Lesson 5
- Zhao Yin (1425; Seeking a Recluse);
transcription with lyrics;
Second Video: more rhythmic
(old qin music often has a regular structure: learn the structure then interpret it freely
- Lesson 6
- Jiu Kuang (1425; Wine Mad);
transcription (includes song from 1589); audio recording;
Double rhythm version; most people today follow Yao Bingyan's
There are also smaller .mov files here for some pieces, such as Cao Man Yin 1 and Cao Man Yin 2. Video quality is somewhat lower; more dramatic is the lower sound quality.
Most of the videos currently online here are .mp4 files with sizes ranging from about 30 MB to over 100 MB per minute. Depending on the computer, it may be possible to play them simply by clicking on them, or it might be better first to download them onto a computer.
In addition, I have made a few videos of other melodies for beginners:
- Nan Feng Ge (1511; Southern Winds);
This and the next piece use only five strings
- Si Qin Cao (1511; Thinking of Parents);
Video demonstrates playing qin on one's lap
- Xiang Fei Yuan (1511; Lament of the Xiang River Concubines); commentary;
Earliest version of Xiang Jiang Yuan
(commentary links to transcription)
- Chun Gui Yuan (1799? Spring Chamber Lament);
Earliest version of Yu Lou Chun Xiao
Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a
The above is a "snapshot" from a video made with a Flip Ultra. I began making these in November 2009, but then the Flip was discontinued. In 2016 I switched to a Sony HDR-MV1, sometimes on its own, sometimes with external microphones. However, it too is now discontinued. As for camera positions I am still experimenting with these as well as with microphone set up, etc. This particular recording was made with light from one standing lamp and one desk lamp. More recent recordings were made in a room with little outside light but more lamps.
This is rather comparable to the attitude of those who say Mozart is more difficult than Chopin: according to them, the pyrotechnics in the latter may impress a lot of people but sophisticated listeners (i.e.,
"zhi yin") appreciate a more subtle approach. This does not mean that they cannot enjoy Chopin, and appreciate all the hard work that goes into learning the techniques needed to play it, but they also think that Mozart requires as much skill, just not of a flashy sort.
When I began studying qin there were never "exercises": one just learned melodies. This was done by facing the teacher and trying to imitate what he did (see image)
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or to the Guqin ToC.