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Thread: ARTS: Shakuhachi

  1. #1

    ARTS: Shakuhachi

    There has been some discussion of the shakuhachi in various threads, but perhaps it would be good to have a thread just discussing that instrument. I have been playing for about three years; Iím still a beginner. I know Kotei also plays, and I believe there are others interested in playing or in shakuhachi instrument.

    So for those who want to learn a bit more about how this instrument is made, my teacher just posted this video on YouTube of a wonderful player and maker, Kodama Hiroyuki, showing how he makes jinashi shakuhachi. (Jinashi is one of the two types of shakuhachi, where the bore is left rough; the other type, jiari, has a paste in the bore to make the sound purer.)

    I have a shakuhachi made by Kodama, and it is the instrument I play most.




    Gassho,

    Ryumon

    Sat
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-19-2021 at 01:30 AM.
    -----

    流文

    I know nothing.

  2. #2
    And here is a video of Kodama playing a long shakuhachi, under the performing name of Chiku Za.



    Gassho,

    Ryumon

    Sat
    -----

    流文

    I know nothing.

  3. #3
    Member Seikan's Avatar
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    Apr 2020
    Location
    Massachusetts, United States
    I've long been a fan of the Shakuhachi. There's simply nothing else like it that can create such a hauntingly beautiful tone.

    I used to try to play back in the day. I still have a simple, jinashi-style (non-root end) shakuhachi that was made by Ken Lacosse around 20+ years ago. For the life of me, I struggled for a long time to get a decent tone out of it. I've never studied with a proper teacher, so I have no idea if the problem was me, the shakuhachi, or a combination of both. It's probably just me and my inability to form a proper embouchure.

    I keep telling myself that I'd like to pick it back up someday, but as I'm currently studying piano (with a teacher), I should probably not spread myself too thin.

    Looking forward to learning more from folks here and hearing some of your playing. Perhaps you'll inspire me to pick it up again.

    Gassho,
    Seikan

    -stlah-
    聖簡 Seikan (Sacred Simplicity)

  4. #4
    I've heard it said that the shakuhachi is one of the most difficult instruments to play. In my experience playing music, having played (not at any great skill level) several instruments, this certainly seems to be the case. As such, I don't think it's an instrument one can learn alone; I really think you need a teacher. In part this is because getting a sound is extremely difficult. But also because scores don't tell everything about how a piece is played; a lot of the music is transmitted orally.

    If you still have a flute by Ken Lacosse, you're lucky. He passed away about a year ago, and I wish I could own one of his instruments. They don't seem to be sold used very often. Is it a taimu, the big, thick, deep flutes he was known for, or a more normal instrument?

    Gassho,

    Ryūmon

    sat
    -----

    流文

    I know nothing.

  5. #5
    Member Seikan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2020
    Location
    Massachusetts, United States
    Agree with you 100% Ryumon. I was in my early 20s when I tried to pick up the Shakuhachi, and I was naive enough to think I could coax a decent enough tone out of it for solo meditative practice. Studying with a proper teach is a must. Now that the world is a bit closer thanks to online instruction opportunities, perhaps I can finally give it another go in the near future.

    Regarding my flute, it is one of the most basic models that Ken offered at the time (late 1990s). His legacy website doesn't even show this option any more. In fact, I ordered it from a printed catalog that I received via mail and called him on a landline phone to place my order! When was the last time we did that?!?

    This is a natural bore (no paste), non-root end flute. The only upgrades from the most basic version are the addition of the binding and the Utaguchi inlay (see pics below).

    I just tried to give it a blow for the first time in forever and made a lovely breeze, but nothing more.

    Gassho,
    Seikan

    -stlah-


    Sent from my Pixel 4a (5G) using Tapatalk
    聖簡 Seikan (Sacred Simplicity)

  6. #6
    Someone just posted a link to this paper in a shakuhachi group on Facebook:

    The Music of Buddha Nature - Blowing Zen on the Shakuhachi

    Very interesting, though I think some of the historical information is contested.

    Gassho,

    Ryūmon

    sat
    -----

    流文

    I know nothing.

  7. #7
    Thank you Ryumon, interesting read!

    Reading about "The Bell which isn't" - "empty bell" made me smile.
    After sitting in the morning, I usually practice a bit with the flute in my little Zendo.
    The bell in the room sounds in resonance when playing Otsu Re on the 2.06 flute.
    Playing Kyorei - the empty bell - with the bell that isn't, actually makes the real bell sound

    Gassho,
    Kotei sattoday.

    義道 冴庭 / Gidou Kotei.
    Being a novice priest doesn't mean that my writing about the Dharma is more substantial than yours. Actually, it might well be the other way round.

  8. #8

    Shakuhachi Players

    Dear Sangha:


    Does anyone here play the shakuhachi? I was looking for advice on getting started. What should I look for when choosing a beginner's shakuhachi?


    Gassho,


    -Jared
    (Sat Today)
    Last edited by Yamabushi; 09-05-2021 at 04:20 PM.

  9. #9
    We have a couple of shakuhachi players, Kotei and Ryumon being two of them.

    SatToday
    Bion
    美音

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  10. #10
    If I may, I am going to move this into our Arts & Music section, where we already have some discussion of this ...

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  11. #11
    Following this now. I studied a bit with a teacher 20+ years ago but haven't played in awhile. Never had the chance to play a jinashi and wow, does that look fun and challenging to play. Thanks for posting that!
    I'd also like to know a bit more about choosing a quality shakuhachi.
    Gassho,
    Chris

  12. #12
    Hello Jared,

    I think it depends on the genre, you'd like to learn playing and on your teacher, if you're planning to work with one (some teach online).

    There is for instance ensemble and other types of music, where you'd need an instrument, tuned to the other instruments or to a western scale.
    That would most likely be a "Jiari" flute. The ones with a joint in the middle and with "Ji", a paste that was used inside the instrument to tune it.

    The flutes that are mostly used for Honkyoku (original pieces) have no joint and are often tuned just to themselves and called "Jinashi" (without "Ji").
    That would be the pieces developed from those that were originally played in the Zen Temples of the Fuke-shu as part of their Zen practice. There are different schools with a different technique and repertoire (some with different notation systems, too).

    There are many differently made flutes between the extremes of a clean sounding totally lacquered and tuned flute and 'naked' bamboo sticks with rough insides, sounding like the wind in the reed ;-).

    I am more interested in practicing the Honkyoku pieces, which imho have a quite unique approach to breathing, rhythm and melody.
    When learning these pieces, some teachers insist on an instrument with a certain length/tuning. Shakuhachi meaning one shaku and 8(hachi) sun, so a 1.8 (Shakuhachi - 54.5cm) is tuned to a D'.
    Usually the teachers can assist in finding an instrument.
    As it is quite difficult to learn producing any sound at all and the tone pitch changes with slight movements of the lips or the head, a beginner can not easily try and test the tuning of an instrument.

    I am far from being advanced enough to be recognized as a reliable information source and don't know much about US instrument makers and teachers but will try my best to help (which might not be much ;-) ).

    edit: there are plastic "Yuu" (not that pricy) and laminate (not that cheap) made flutes available, that might be an option. The "pro" root-end bamboo instruments can be quite pricy and the good "student" ones made without the root-end are still not cheap.

    Gassho,
    Kotei sat/lah today.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yamabushi View Post
    Dear Sangha:


    Does anyone here play the shakuhachi? I was looking for advice on getting started. What should I look for when choosing a beginner's shakuhachi?


    Gassho,


    -Jared
    (Sat Today)
    Last edited by Kotei; 09-06-2021 at 08:44 AM.

    義道 冴庭 / Gidou Kotei.
    Being a novice priest doesn't mean that my writing about the Dharma is more substantial than yours. Actually, it might well be the other way round.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Kotei View Post
    Hello Jared,

    I think it depends on the genre, you'd like to learn playing and on your teacher, if you're planning to work with one (some teach online).

    There is for instance ensemble and other types of music, where you'd need an instrument, tuned to the other instruments or to a western scale.
    That would most likely be a "Jiari" flute. The ones with a joint in the middle and with "Ji", a paste that was used inside the instrument to tune it.

    The flutes that are mostly used for Honkyoku (original pieces) have no joint and are often tuned just to themselves and called "Jinashi" (without "Ji").
    That would be the pieces developed from those that were originally played in the Zen Temples of the Fuke-shu as part of their Zen practice. There are different schools with a different technique and repertoire (some with different notation systems, too).

    There are many differently made flutes between the extremes of a clean sounding totally lacquered and tuned flute and 'naked' bamboo sticks with rough insides, sounding like the wind in the reed ;-).

    I am more interested in practicing the Honkyoku pieces, which imho have a quite unique approach to breathing, rhythm and melody.
    When learning these pieces, some teachers insist on an instrument with a certain length/tuning. Shakuhachi meaning one shaku and 8(hachi) sun, so a 1.8 (Shakuhachi - 54.5cm) is tuned to a D'.
    Usually the teachers can assist in finding an instrument.
    As it is quite difficult to learn producing any sound at all and the tone pitch changes with slight movements of the lips or the head, a beginner can not easily try and test the tuning of an instrument.

    I am far from being advanced enough to be recognized as a reliable information source and don't know much about US instrument makers and teachers but will try my best to help (which might not be much ;-) ).

    edit: there are plastic "Yuu" (not that pricy) and laminate (not that cheap) made flutes available, that might be an option. The "pro" root-end bamboo instruments can be quite pricy and the good "student" ones made without the root-end are still not cheap.

    Gassho,
    Kotei sat/lah today.
    Kotei:


    Thank you for your insight on the shakuhachi. The information about the flute being 1.8 and tuned to D was exactly what I was looking for.


    Gassho,

    -Jared
    Sat Today

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Yamabushi View Post
    Kotei:


    Thank you for your insight on the shakuhachi. The information about the flute being 1.8 and tuned to D was exactly what I was looking for.


    Gassho,

    -Jared
    Sat Today
    That's just one of the possible sizes. The 1.8 is the 'standard' if you want so. Some teachers want you to start with such, some don't.
    I know Ryumon likes to play larger, deeper sounding flutes. They have a larger opening, too.
    My main flute is a 2.06 Jinashi, but I also play and take lessons with a 1.8. The 2.06 is not tuned to an external standard at all and the 1.8 being a natural Jinashi is only roughly in tune, but very pleasant in itself.
    Gassho,
    Kotei sat/lah today.

    Gassho,
    Kotei.

    義道 冴庭 / Gidou Kotei.
    Being a novice priest doesn't mean that my writing about the Dharma is more substantial than yours. Actually, it might well be the other way round.

  15. #15
    What Kotei said. It really is a question of finding the style you want to learn, then finding a teacher and getting a flute from them. Most teachers can source beginners' flutes - and even better - with no difficulty.

    My main flute is a 2.0ish (not precise, for the reason Kotei says); I also have a 1.8 and a 2.2. But since they're jinashi flutes, and I'm learning to play honkyoku, which is solo music, it doesn't matter much.

    And I'd like to get a longer flute, perhaps a 2.4, which is probably the longest I can play comfortably. The longer flutes have deeper, much powerful sounds.

    Gassho,

    Ryūmon

    sat
    -----

    流文

    I know nothing.

  16. #16
    My old Japanese culture teacher from a Japanese University I was at during a year exchange recently contacted me to talk about his new flute (His wife and he often butt heads because of how many he buys), as he knows I myself enjoy playing Bansuri (North Indian bamboo flute). He asked if I was interested offering some links of where to buy one from as well as advice on how to start. This was before I saw this post, the universe making its intent heard perhaps?

    Gassho
    Mark
    ST
    "We may hear and understand as well, yet in our daily lives still be subject to our habitual ways. And so we do zazen to cut all of this habitualization away. If we donít cut, we end up carrying more and more burdens around."
    Finding Our Essence of Mind

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by WanderingIntrospection View Post
    My old Japanese culture teacher from a Japanese University I was at during a year exchange recently contacted me to talk about his new flute (His wife and he often butt heads because of how many he buys), as he knows I myself enjoy playing Bansuri (North Indian bamboo flute). He asked if I was interested offering some links of where to buy one from as well as advice on how to start. This was before I saw this post, the universe making its intent heard perhaps?
    Given that you are in Japan, you have no shortage of opportunities to buy a shakuhachi. In other countries, it is very different.

    Gassho,

    Ryūmon

    sat
    -----

    流文

    I know nothing.

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