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Other videos incl. Text only videos  /  See also this video of my teacher Sun Yuqin (details) 首頁
Videos for learning to play guqin 1 學古琴的錄像
  Snapshot from a recording session 2        
The videos here through Lesson 6 have been made for a series of qin classes designed for beginners. My strong recommendation is that, before beginning, students familiarize themselves with background information such as one can find on this website. Particularly appropriate for this study are:

As for the melodies themselves, even beginners' melodies can be played at any level - there is a tradition saying that the apparently simple melodies often require more skill than do the typical virtuoso pieces (e.g., see Liu Shui comparison).3

As students are encouraged also to study the artistic and cultural context of this music, beginning with Lesson 1 below links are given to such information about each melody.

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.

Other videos
Other videos of melodies for students are here divided into three types:

  1. Songs: it is especially good for students to sing melodies before playing them. Singing while playing is more difficult, requiring memorizing the lyrics
    Songs are here subdivided into two sections:

    1. Songs from the earliest existing collection of qin songs, Taigu Yiyin (1511).
      In addition to two that are included above (Gu Qiu Feng and Feng Ru Song Ge) this includes the following:

      1. 南風歌 Nan Feng Ge (Song of Southern Winds); commentary; transcription
        This and the next piece use only five strings
      2. 思親操 Si Qin Cao (Thinking of Parents); commentary; transcription (sung)
        Video demonstrates playing qin on one's lap
      3. 湘妃怨 Xiang Fei Yuan (Lament of the Xiang River Concubines); commentary; transcription
        Earliest version of 湘江怨 Xiang Jiang Yuan (its commentary links to its transcription)
      4. 亞聖操 Ya Sheng Cao (Lament of the Proximate Sage); commentary; transcription
        Same refrain for each of seven sections: good training to repeat a passage so often
      5. 歸去來辭 Gui Qu Lai Ci (Come Away Home); commentary; transcription (sung)
        Earliest version of a melody in the standard repertoire, with famous lyrics seldom sung

    2. Miscellaneous Songs from later sources

      1. 陽關三疊 Yang Guan San Die (1530; Thrice "Yang Guan"; solo qin); title?; commentary
        陽關三疊 Yang Guan San Die (1530; Thrice "Yang Guan"; sung with Qin); transcription (pdf)
        A famous parting song expanding on lyrics by Wang Wei; uses the non-standard ruibin tuning
      2. 文君操 Wenjun Cao (1539; Song for Wenjun; solo qin); commentary; pdf of transcription
        文君操 Wenjun Cao (1539; Song for Wenjun; sung with Qin); listen with transcription
        A romantic song also called A Male Phoenix Searches for his Mate(鳳求凰 Feng Qiu Huang
      3. 醉翁吟 Zui Weng Yin (1539 & 1571; Old Toper's Chant) (sung: see lyrics)
        醉翁吟 Zui Weng Yin; commentary; transcription (same music but solo qin)
        Two settings of the same lyrics showing very different treatment
      4. 子夜吳歌 Ziye We Ge (1676; Ziye Songs of Wu); commentary; transcription
        Short song from a handbook published in Japan, with lyrics by Li Bai
      5. 清平樂 Qing Ping Yue (1676; Clear Peaceful Music); commentary; transcription
        Short song from same Japanese source, with romantic lyrics about the Cowherd and the Weaving Girl
      6. 水調歌頭 Shui Diao Ge Tou (1687; Water Tune Prelude); commentary; transcription
        Early melody that can be sung using the lyrics of a modern song popularized by Deng Lijun

  2. Earliest versions from the "standard instrumental repertoire"
    Specifically, the earliest version of melodies I learned from my own teacher, Sun Yuqin. Here note values are informed by the rhythms of the versions I learned from him; in contrast, my interpretation of almost all other pieces in my repertoire come purely from my understanding of the existing tablature itself. Note that the first three listed below (all having lyrics but rarely sung) are already listed and linked above,

    1. 仙翁操 Xian Weng Cao
    2. 湘妃怨 Xiang Fei Yuan
    3. 歸去來辭 Gui Qu Lai Ci
    4. 陽關三疊 Yang Guan San Die

    5. 春閨怨 Chun Gui Yuan (1799? Spring Chamber Lament); commentary; transcription
      Said to be earliest version of 玉樓春曉 Yu Lou Chun Xiao, a piece otherwise not published until 1931, where it is almost the same as here

    6. 良宵引 Liang Xiao Yin (1614 Peaeful Evening Prelude); commentary; transcription
      Can be traced through about 45 versions since 1614, but modern version still quite similar

    7. 梅花三弄 Meihua Sannong (1425; Three Repetitions of "Plum Blossom"); commentary; transcription
      The modern version can be traced through over 50 versions

    8. 漁樵問答 Yu Qiao Wenda (1559; Dialogue between a Fisherman and a Woodcutter"); commentary; transcription
      The modern version can be traced through over 40 versions

    9. 鷗鷺忘機 Oulu Wang Ji (1620; No Ulterior Motives Regarding Seabirds); commentary; transcription
      The modern version can be traced through over 30 versions

    10. 雁落平沙 Yan Luo Pingsha (1634; Wild Geese Descend on a Sandbank); commentary; transcription
      The modern piece can be traced through over 75 handbooks since 1634, many with multiple versions

    11. 梧葉舞秋風 Wuye Wu Qiufeng (1664; Leaves Dance in an Autumn Breeze); commentary; transcription
      This piece can be traced through over 25 handbooks since 1634, but the modern version still seems quite close to the original

  3. Miscellaneous further videos
    Students can choose to learn from a wide variety of available melodies. Those with video recordings include:

    1. 鶴鳴九皋 He Ming Jiu Gao (1425; Cranes Cry in the Nine Marshbanks); commentary; transcription
      An early melody last published in 1590

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Guqin videos  
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 any case, the aim is to recapture the essence of the way I learned qin, by sitting across the table from the teacher and trying to imitate him or her as much as possible. With this arrangement it was not possible either to look at my right hand or to look at written music.

Most of these videos have been made using a camera with a built in microphone. Because of the simple setup and because the videos have been made for students, the camera is generally closer to the qin than it is in the above image. Having the lens so close to the qin makes it appear rather larger than it is in real life.

2. Recording session
The above image is a "snapshot" from a video made with a Flip Ultra. I made a few such videos with this camera beginning in November 2009, but then I had some problems with the Flip which I couldn't fix because it was discontinued. In 2016 I switched to a Sony HDR-MV1 and started recording again, usually with the camera on its own but sometimes with external microphones. The HDR-MV1 is apparently now also discontinued, so I may again have to switch. But 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.

3. Difficult pieces
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.

4. Preliminary exercises
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)

5. Transcriptions
My teacher told me many times not to look at the tablature, just to copy him. He thereby emphasized that this is an oral tradition: I might occasionally consult the tablature, if I wished, but I was learning from him, not from the tablature. To me this is related to the issue of whether guqin melodies are compositions or creations.

In this regard students should as much as possible try to learn from the accompanying videos, consulting the transcriptions only when the videos are not clear.


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