Sunday, June 2, 2019

Parting At Yang Guan Gate Comparison of the playing of 4 qin masters

Parting at Yangguan Gate is a beautiful and popular ancient qin melody, which is often used as a training piece for beginners. Almost every qin players has learned or knows about this piece. Because of its popularity and its moderate length, I think it is good to take this piece and look into a little bit more detail on different master's playing.  I have listened 7 qin masters playing of Parting at Yangguan Gate, and here I would like to take 4 to discuss and see how the same piece can be interpreted differently with different players and hope we can all learned something from each of them.

So I will first give a brief highlight of each player's life background and then I will show some sound recordings on two short sections against music notations, and discuss a little bit from that. Then the conclusion.

Two qin players were trained in a Conservatory of Music, while two qin players were trained by so called literati qin players. Three have passed away. WP is still very active currently. Three are/were located in southern China, while one is in northern China.

Sound or Video Recordings

Cheng Gong-liang (

Notation on the two sections I picked from each recording

This is the beginning part of this piece. I use WZJ’s notation as the foundation and use red color to highlight the differences in each qin player’s part.

WP used 38 seconds on these three phrases which is the longest time.

Start from the first bar here, CGD made the 5th note a pressing note with vibrato, while the others played open string.

The 3rd phrase ... WP and CGL's playing are similar, but WP's vibratos are more noticeable...

The sense of rhythm of each master has slight differences.

This is from the 2nd to 4th phrases of the 3rd section of YG3D. We can see CGL and WP’s playing has more variations than WZJ and CGD.

CGL and WP created more notes while CGD bends notes to create more flat notes.


There is still more that can be discussed. Such as the dynamics and each qin master’s life philosophy to their qin playing, and the evolution of the tablature of this piece.  I believe that will help more clearly define each qin player’s playing style.
Today’s brief discussion reveals that a piece of melody can be played in many different ways, based on the player’s sense of rhythm and the nuances in vibratos or nicely creating an extra harmonised note, to enrich the sound and make the music very fruitful. Yet the melody can be still recognized as its original creation.
To conclude my feelings about each player’s

WZJ- 真體內充, 清微淡遠 - Calm and lofty with authentic rich energy.
CGL - 與古為新, 微婉細膩 - Innovation with Inheriting tradition; exquisite & beautiful.
CGD - 含蓄儒雅, 灑脫自適 - Implicit, free-spirited.
WP - 行健存雄, 縝細豪邁 - Vigorous and elaborate.g