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I play, and they are all hand made, so you can get a real wide spectrum of instruments. Basically it is very hard to play. The Japanese say that it takes a couple of years in order to get a sound, but that is an exaggeration- I got a decent sound in about 5 minutes of farting around with it.

I believe one Japanese instrument mass-produced a plastic version of a shakuhachi, which was easier to play...maybe Zen-on?
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I play, and they are all hand made, so you can get a real wide spectrum of instruments. Basically it is very hard to play. The Japanese say that it takes a couple of years in order to get a sound, but that is an exaggeration- I got a decent sound in about 5 minutes of farting around with it.

I believe one Japanese instrument mass-produced a plastic version of a shakuhachi, which was easier to play...maybe Zen-on?
Where did you get a hold of one, and learn? Self taught? Where did you first find out about them?
I'm curious
 

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I learned of the shakahachi, (means 1 ft. 8 in.), in the mid 60's from a Canadian music prof. He studied the end blown flute in Japan. I took a course of lessons and started to learn how to read the Japanese musical notation. It was interesting but I never followed up on it. Last year, I met a childhood friend who has made a couple of shaks and gives the occasional lesson. He lives in Victoria. BC. and sounds pretty good on it.

The instrument is made from the root end of a fairly thick piece of bamboo. The inside is smoothed out a polished to perfection. There's a little "nick" at the top of the piece which you blow over and it takes a bit of practice to find just the right angle, etc. Played by a master, they can sound incredible.
 

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Thanks, hopefully he'll chime in. Or I'll have to send him a nice email.

You played one before?
Ding! Here I am.

Traditional shakuhachi are made from the root end of madake bamboo. Originally there simply had the scepta between the sections opened up, so that the bore was essentially whatever the inside dimensions of that particular culm of bamboo happened to be. And the holes (five of them) were placed for aesthetics, not for accuracy of intonation. These were solo instruments, blown for meditation, and so they didn't have to be in tune.

Sometime around the turn of the 20th century, they started being used in ensemble, so that intonation became more important. Therefore makers started filling the inside of the bamboo (generally too large for good response in the higher notes and not the right shape for accurate octaves) with a kind of putty, and constructing a bore.

So they were traditionally all handmade, including the bore profile, which led to significant variations in the way they played and their intonation (and still does). It is therefore quite dangerous to buy one without trying it. Much of the stuff being sold on eBay is crap, and even what look like fine old traditional flutes, made in Japan by actual shakuhachi makers, can vary tremendously in quality.

Recently Monty Levenson, John Neptune and Tom Deaver, as well as some Japanese makers, have taken to making cast-bore instruments. These are relatively cheap and generally play quite well. But bamboo is tricky stuff and cracks quite easily, especially in dry climates, or where temperatures vary a lot. While cracked flutes are generally repairable, it isn't really cheap.

Very good alternatives for learning are the Shakuhachi Yuu, a decent plastic instrument, and wooden shakuhachi made in Japan, which generally sell (at least here in Japan) for the equivalent of about $200. Don't expect to find any kind of decent bamboo instrument for under $700 minimum, at least not unless you can spend time in Japan browsing the flea markets, etc.

They are not actually so difficult to blow, but they are difficult to play well traditionally, since almost everything is based on subtlety--with only five holes, alternate notes are achieved by very precise half-holing, and embouchure position to shade the note. Traditonal music makes use of various breath attacks and difficult vibrato techniques, as well as precise embouchure control--nothing like the rather fixed embouchure of Western flute.

They come in various sizes, shakuhachi (being a measure of length meaning 1 shaku and 8 sun) play in D. Generally sizes run from 1.1 shaku to 2.7 shaku, each decimal place being a semitone. "Jinashi" shakuhachi do not use putty, but rely on the shape of the bamboo to form the bore. They are often not so well in tune, and only play around two octaves well, but have a "woodier" sound appreciated by certain people. "Jiari" have bore made of putty, and generally have a brighter sound, and good ones can play three octaves minus a couple of semitones in the third octave.

That's for starters.

Toby
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for that!

Pete mentions that you make them?
Is he correct?
 

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I don't mean to potentially hijack the thread, but I wonder if this would make for a reasonably good substitute for an actual shakuhachi, while still using standard concert flute fingerings?

http://www.shakuhachi.com/Q-Models-Headjoint.html
 

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I don't mean to potentially hijack the thread, but I wonder if this would make for a reasonably good substitute for an actual shakuhachi, while still using standard concert flute fingerings?

http://www.shakuhachi.com/Q-Models-Headjoint.html
Resurrecting this thread.

Yes, I made them in the past, no time at the moment.

I visited Monty and tried his shakulute headjoints. They work well and do give the blowing feel of a shakuhachi to the standard flute, and it is quite different than a normal flute headjoint, including the sound. You can also do standard shakuhachi techniques, including meri and kari (kind of like rolling the flute in and out to vary the pitch and the tone), plosive sounds, etc.

What you can't do is all the half-holing and shading that is possible only with non-keyed fingerholes; however this will give a whole different tone-color to your flute playing. Be aware, however, that all endblown flutes like this are going to play sharp in the third octave, although you will be reasonably in tune up to F3 or so. I have an okuralo (playing it in my avatar), which is basically a Boehm flute with a metal shakuhachi head, and I really like it. Monty's shakulutes sound almost exactly the same. You'll need to get some kind of thumbrest for the right thumb to support the instrument vertically; I think Monty has something for that.
 

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Brian Ritchie from Violent Femmes plays. He lives in Hobart, Tasmania and does some collaborations with a guy I play with occasionally.
 

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You should at least listen to a real player. I play some shakuhachi, and also studied shakuhachi construction when living in Japan for 32 years. They only have five finger holes, so everything is done with shading tone holes and embouchure, called "meri" and "kari", adjusting angle to either sharpen or flatten the note. To learn to play shakuhachi well takes many many years. It is not difficult to get a sound, but to learn the fingerings, which often involve very careful shading of the holes, the traditional expressions, breath control and ornamentation is a very rigorous discipline.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7s-wXZWT5o
 

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I have played shakuhachi for a while now. I would also recommend the Shakuhachi Yuu as a great inexpensive instrument to start on. I have one I take to the woods with me when I don't want to worry about my main one. I would also recommend the Shakuhachi Camp of the Rockies as a great and fun way to immerse yourself in all things shakuhachi.

One of my favorite shakuhachi pictures -

View attachment 264778
 

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So I just received a Shakuhachi Yuu. Someone here said it's not difficult to get an initial sound, but I think I will have to disagree... Need to watch more YouTube videos of how to play this instrument.
 

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So I just received a Shakuhachi Yuu. Someone here said it's not difficult to get an initial sound, but I think I will have to disagree... Need to watch more YouTube videos of how to play this instrument.
Put your mouth, closed, in the middle of the end of the flute. Roll it back until the bottom edge is resting on the indentation between the bottom of your teeth and your chin. Keep your lips closed and blow enough that your lips separate and allow an airstream, and aim it at the utaguchi (sharp blowing edge) of the flute. Change the angle by moving your head up and down and listen for a sound...
 

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Ding! Here I am.

Traditional shakuhachi are made from the root end of madake bamboo. Originally there simply had the scepta between the sections opened up, so that the bore was essentially whatever the inside dimensions of that particular culm of bamboo happened to be. And the holes (five of them) were placed for aesthetics, not for accuracy of intonation. These were solo instruments, blown for meditation, and so they didn't have to be in tune.

Sometime around the turn of the 20th century, they started being used in ensemble, so that intonation became more important. Therefore makers started filling the inside of the bamboo (generally too large for good response in the higher notes and not the right shape for accurate octaves) with a kind of putty, and constructing a bore.

So they were traditionally all handmade, including the bore profile, which led to significant variations in the way they played and their intonation (and still does). It is therefore quite dangerous to buy one without trying it. Much of the stuff being sold on eBay is crap, and even what look like fine old traditional flutes, made in Japan by actual shakuhachi makers, can vary tremendously in quality.

Recently Monty Levenson, John Neptune and Tom Deaver, as well as some Japanese makers, have taken to making cast-bore instruments. These are relatively cheap and generally play quite well. But bamboo is tricky stuff and cracks quite easily, especially in dry climates, or where temperatures vary a lot. While cracked flutes are generally repairable, it isn't really cheap.

Very good alternatives for learning are the Shakuhachi Yuu, a decent plastic instrument, and wooden shakuhachi made in Japan, which generally sell (at least here in Japan) for the equivalent of about $200. Don't expect to find any kind of decent bamboo instrument for under $700 minimum, at least not unless you can spend time in Japan browsing the flea markets, etc.

They are not actually so difficult to blow, but they are difficult to play well traditionally, since almost everything is based on subtlety--with only five holes, alternate notes are achieved by very precise half-holing, and embouchure position to shade the note. Traditonal music makes use of various breath attacks and difficult vibrato techniques, as well as precise embouchure control--nothing like the rather fixed embouchure of Western flute.

They come in various sizes, shakuhachi (being a measure of length meaning 1 shaku and 8 sun) play in D. Generally sizes run from 1.1 shaku to 2.7 shaku, each decimal place being a semitone. "Jinashi" shakuhachi do not use putty, but rely on the shape of the bamboo to form the bore. They are often not so well in tune, and only play around two octaves well, but have a "woodier" sound appreciated by certain people. "Jiari" have bore made of putty, and generally have a brighter sound, and good ones can play three octaves minus a couple of semitones in the third octave.

That's for starters.

Toby
I have two Yozan Shakuchachis a 1.8 and 1.7 the best I ever had amazing tone and range

I don't work for him or am sponsored was turned on bY a player named Shawn Head


https://www.yozan-hikichi.shop
 

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It is usually important to try one before you buy. There are well-respected makers whose flutes are generally consistent, but since each is handmade, there are significant variations even with a given maker. I once went to an exhibition/sale by Shinzen, arguably the most famous modern maker of shakuhachi. The prices ranged from $3000 to $50,000 (1990s dollars). I played maybe 30 of his flutes, and they were pretty consistent, but actually the most expensive was not the best, in my opinion. However that one had gold joint rings and was an absolutely beautiful piece of bamboo. The cheaper ones had various aesthetic deficiencies, such as less symmetrical root ends, joint spacings, etc.
 
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