Hello Music Community,

I just received my Chinese bamboo flute of key "D", that I want to learn to play. I want to emphasize, that I have no experience playing musical instruments whatsoever.

The thing is, that I want to learn to play this Chinese song Painted Heart, for which I have found the notes (See link or picture below). But I noticed, that the notes are made for a key "C" flute, and not a key "D" as I have.

So how can I play the song, the notes for which are written in key "C", but my flute is of key "D"?

Is there some way to "convert" between the keys?

Link to notes of Painted Heart

enter image description here

  • 2
    Please don't post text as an image; it can't be searched, copy/pasted into answers, or read by screen-readers. Apr 21, 2019 at 19:53

2 Answers 2


C instruments play music as it is written, and it comes out with those very notes. A 'D' instrument has to have the music written a whole tone lower, so when the player reads it, it comes out at the correct pitch.

There are two ways round the problem, assuming you can play notes as written on your instrument.

  1. Simply play it as it's written. It will come out sounding a bit higher than it should, but it will still work fine.

  2. Re-write all the notes out a tone lower - F becomes E♭, G becomes F, etc. Then read properly. This way, it will be in the key written - it will sound that way. Another plus for method 2 is that when you play with others, who use the same sort of music in the same key, it will sound right with them.

There is a no.3. Learn to play 'wrongly'. In other words, learn all the notes as if they are written out a tone higher. I did this with trumpet, which goes the other way - notes are written a tone higher. So I played all the 'wrong notes a tone higher than written, and I could play along with others who were using standard keys written down.

  1. Obtain another flute - this time in C!
  • Than you for your response, @Tim! Method 2) of rewriting the notes sounds interesting! So, I have found the charts for key "C": duduk.msk.ru/info/di/di_c.pdf And this is the note for key "D": duduk.msk.ru/info/di/di_d.pdf Regarding the conversion, the following sequence in "C": FFG would become: GGA in "D", is that correct?
    – Gandhara
    Apr 21, 2019 at 18:23
  • I am basing that on reading the finger position of each letter in "C", find the corresponding ginfer position in "D" and read the letter for that position, is that the way to go?
    – Gandhara
    Apr 21, 2019 at 18:29
  • Good! Just watch out for the # and b which may make a difference in the new key.
    – Tim
    Apr 21, 2019 at 18:29
  • can you confirm, if my proposed suggestion of converting the sequence FFG from "C" to "D" becomes GGA? It doesn't seem to correspond to what you suggested.
    – Gandhara
    Apr 21, 2019 at 18:36
  • No. You have gone in the opposite direction. Your flute is designed so when you see 'F', it plays G. If you want to play F itself, you'll need to write one tone lower, which is Eb. So, instead of GGA, it needs to be EbEbF.
    – Tim
    Apr 22, 2019 at 15:49


The note A# in your transcription is a Bb and the key the song that you’ve copied is written is Bb (respectively G Aeolian, I‘ve edited as the final note is G).

If you don‘t play with another instrument like piano or guitar it doesn‘t matter in which key you are playing and you don‘t have to mind the tuning of your instrument.

But I think you‘d better play it in F than in Bb, as the fingerings for the b-flats are sometimes harder to learn. As you‘ll play in F it will sound in G and C-instruments will have to accompany in G. (Your D-flute is transposing a whole tone up).

The following notation is in F, when you play it as written your flute will transpose it to G. It starts with CAA (corresponding to yours @ 2:59)


(If you want to play to a video that is in Bb then you had to play transpose a whole tone down - that means in Ab - but it will be easier to find a version that you can transpose into another key.)

If I can give you an advicie: It would be better to learn reading sheet music instead of playing just from letters - as your example - or fingerings like this:


This would be more helpful and beneficial for the future.

  • Thank you for your response, @Albrect Hügli! I am trying to understand what you mean (all the new musical terms are yet alien to me!) So you're basically suggesting, that I can use the chart for the "C" key: duduk.msk.ru/info/di/di_c.pdf and use those letters/finger positions for my "D" key flute, right?
    – Gandhara
    Apr 21, 2019 at 19:18
  • @Albrect Hügli, Another thing: If I want to convert the notes to "D", what would the sequence FFG become?
    – Gandhara
    Apr 21, 2019 at 19:19
  • As you have a D flute you must play it in C. The notation is in Bb) and you‘ll have to play it one tone higher starting with GGA Apr 21, 2019 at 19:37
  • Hügli, I am sorry, but I am not following you (please be patient with me): I am assuming, that it is correct, that FFG in "C" becomes GGA in "D"? I just have a hard time understanding if I should use the note chart for key "C" or "D" to learn to play the song. Also, I don't quite understand the problem with Bb...
    – Gandhara
    Apr 21, 2019 at 19:42
  • @Albrect Hügli, thank you for your suggestion, regarding how to begin to play the Chinese bamboo flute. I am actually learning to produce the notes for a "D" key: duduk.msk.ru/info/di/di_d.pdf What still confuses me is, what you would do, if you have notes written in another key: As far as I understand so far, I can play it anyway for the notes (and fingerpositions) for the C key on my D flute, or I can convert the C notes to D.
    – Gandhara
    Apr 21, 2019 at 20:06

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