donderdag 31 december 2009

Happy New Year!

In 3,5 hours it is time: a new year has arrived! I wish you all the readers and visitors of my blog a very good 2010 and if it less then that I wish you all the best dealing with that. Happy new year and hopefully it will bring a lot of new shakuhachi experiences!

dinsdag 29 december 2009

Funagawa Toshio Memorial Concert Recordings

Check out the

Shakuhachi Stuff Writing Ten Minutes a Day

 and some nifty recording of a concert: free music!

see the blog and the music here 

 original Japanese source here

maandag 28 december 2009

Full tone

I have been intruiged with sound and full tone of instruments; what to do to play its best to my ears. With a recorder, the instrument I started on, there was little to no room for changing or influencing the tone itself. Then I played saxophone: a whole lot more room for change! Soft, loud, roaring, sharp, fat etcetera. It was not really hard to make the sound, sound good and fat: relax your jaw and blow with a concentration\ steady pressure. On the shakuhachi is is harder to grasp. There is just as much room to change the tone, maybe even to a larger degree than the sax. But making a flute 'sing' is another thing. I sometimes have that sensation. Mostly after playing a more difficult part when I played more tensed then usual. After that I relax and doodle around on the flute, it sounds very nice! Then it really sing, it feels as a focused relaxed way of playing, which 'unlocks' this sound. I can't do it on demand -yet- though, which will come perhaps. When it comes now it feels as a little gift and gives a glimps of the most beautifull aspect of the shakuhachi: its complex sound.

zondag 20 december 2009

shakuhachi Void

Momentarilly I feel I am in a shakuhachi- void. I keep on practising, playing and that is it! Hah. In the beginning I experiences much more: more progression, more oohs and aaahs, I had more questions about flutes, about playing and learning with the flute in the beginning. Now I just play...Maybe I am not in a void after all but just something of a phase in my learning.

The picture above is of my 3 1.8's: a Kitahara, the Yuu (tainted) and my fav: Gyokusui. This pic is to see the difference in backhole position. I am thinking of letting the hole of the Kitahara (top) getting replaced for better tuning. In that flute, the hi and go no hi were pretty high compared to the rest of the flute. so hope that helps. For the repair the flute is in good hands (Perry Yung).

zondag 29 november 2009

one year of playing and blogging

At the beginning of this month it has been a year that I first choose to purchase a Yuu-shakuhachi. I contacted a local afficionado and he wrote me a letter back if I was certain to want to learn an instument as difficult as this one. The answer now is yes! I like that part of this flute. It holds secrets in itself and in its traditions. It seems to be a simple thing: a bamboo stick. My friend always say something like "whoa: 1000$ for a piece of bamboo!", that I can understand from a 3rd person's view of perspective...but then adds: "why don't you sell it?"...and that I will never do...
This was a wonderfull year shakuhachi wise: I learned a lot, practices a lot, meet a lot of new interesting  people, met two very different and wonderfull teachers who help me along the way. One is at the other end of the world, but with a lot of help from the technology today online lessons is possible as well!
I underwent a very energetic 4 days of summerschool and I have learned a lot of new things. Now that I am one year on the go, I notice the learning slows down more. At first there were more 'oooohs and aaaahs' then nowadays. The music or pieces I can play now are actually more interesting then in the beginning, so one reccomendation to beginners: start and keep at it.
Thank you as well to the readers up till now!! The interaction via this blog adds more depth into my playing and experience. Thanks!
For fun: I recorded Tsubaki Saku Mura to listen to. More of Fukuda Rando I recorded can be listened. I recorded this song (name doesn't come to mind) with my Edo flute.
I like to play his songs; they are quite diverse and moving.

dinsdag 17 november 2009

Hon Shirabe take 3 - the yearly recordings

I once in a while record this Honkyoku song. Also in some of my first posts of this blog I did that. This will be the 3rd take online of this song. This one done as it should be played and thus I can record my progress -or lack thereoff- while playing it.
This version is played on my 1.8 Gyokusui.
>>Listen here<<

maandag 9 november 2009

Playing and painting

When being busy with painting with oil paint -for the first time- I tought about the similarities. They're both a form of art of expressing yourself. One with paint, one with sound. When you do so, or better when I am into one or the other I forget time. You just play or just paint. Times seems to be no more, but it comes back when you consiously see or hear youself doing it. Both will get better - is my experience- when not thinking too much. And that is an aspect I really like. Many things in live desire decisions, choices or hard thinking. The flute, the music, the paint, the pictures makes me wanna do instead of think. Even more with painting, but also with playing: just start and you'll get somewhere. Here is my first painted self-portrait, taken with a cellphone camera.

 Selfportrait, oil on canvasboard. 30' x30' (cm).

zondag 8 november 2009

Edo flute II

I've added a sound file to the add below. To get an impression!

zaterdag 7 november 2009

Edo 1.9 Jinashi nobekan

 I bought this one from Brian Tairaku Ritchie as the 'el cheapo edo'. And that is what this flute is: not a great flute of that era, but an ok one and a good one if played soft with a little vibrato. It has a sweet sound, not too focused, with a lovely kan register.
A flute like this, dated to late 19th century, will give you a glimpse of that time and past. Due to the imperfect tuning, normaly to this kind of flutes, it is more suited for solo play and honkyoku.
click to hear me play Fukuda Rando on this flute:
>>>>Sound file<<<<<

vrijdag 16 oktober 2009

When beginning this blog I thought of doing it for tracking my lesson-tips, techniques and my own progress by adding recordings of my playing. The latter I have done -a little-  and the former not at all. I post about techniques in my first posts, but not after that. In general the blog has a more wider view on the journey of learning. Nonetheless I will post today the things that helped me the most in learning getting better at playing.
One of those things is the 'technique' of not blowing. I've read this somewhere on the net, and is about not blowing air out to get a tone, but getting the tension up in your abdomen and let the air get out controlled. It is more pressuring the air out, while the lip-opening defines the air speed. More open: lower speed, more closed: faster speed and thus making the difference in otsu or kan. Try imagening blowing a balloon, that feeling in your belly is what I mean.
Another thing I found helped me is blowing with this pressure on to my hand from 10 cm distance and try to focus the air like a tube of air. I feel a small circle on my hand. When I don't change anything in the blowing and replace my hand for the flute: tadaa! instantly Kan register without any effort (beside the balloon-feeling).
This way I succeed to blow kan and otsu as long a normal breath duration (blowing through your lips without flute).
Blowing this way I got kan in an okay matter, playing it more and more, seems to train my embouchure and lips. The smaller I can get the opening the easier it seems to play higher kan notes. For higher kan notes one thing has to change: more air speed. giving more pressure in my belly wasn't working: it was already pretty solid. So the mouth- opening should close. Well that comes with practice and time.
While I play kan that way, in a more focused like way, I tried blowing Otsu that way as well: a smaller opening of lips, but with a little less pressure. Otsu became more effecient in breath; ie you need less breath for the same effect.
The last tip or thing wich I think is most important: have fun while doing it. It is a hobby, not a chore. In this it helps me to just doodle around, not to practice sometimes and play silly things. It also makes it more easy not to set goals but just try and play. Only now in looking back I can see and feel that things get easier and harder: I also feel there is much more to discover!

maandag 5 oktober 2009

more radio

More radio can be listend to here. It is the first of a series dedicated to the European Summerschool held in Leiden. The speech is in Dutch this time, though there might be a change some of the interviews on later broadcasts are in English. The music is international though! Music can be heared from Kurahashi, Gunnar Linder, Vlatislav Matousek and more. I'll post more when more broadcasts have been.
The series will be broadcasted on 'de wandelende tak' (logo above)

zondag 4 oktober 2009

Cause en effect

How things can effect each other is interesting. A reader of my blog posted me about my previous post on my shakublues. Which now is better, maybe due to writing a bit about it. He (or she), Ronen, sended me a nice e-mail about it and posted a post about learning curves he wrote about learning the shakuhachi in general. Learning he experiences goes in stages. This reminds me of a post Michael Gould wrote about learning and floors of a house: you start at the bottom and after some time develop to the next floor, seeing new challenges and theme's on that floor, you couldn't previously see! There is also some scientific evidence that some learning, especially in childhood goes in this way and this is propagated by Prof. P. van Geert, who is a proponent of the dynamic systems view he developed and tested. I recall this because he was the professor of one of my main directions in study. Ronen write very nicely on his site and I recommend it. He also write more on his playing\ learning of the shakuhachi. You can find that here. He post on many more personal subjects though. The only thing though, you actually read the things he write, read his name (real name?) on his site, but never find out who he himself is, quite ego-less and still it is designed around a online identity.

dinsdag 29 september 2009

Wavering motivation

I find my inspiration and motivation to learn about the flute playing somewhat wavering. It is not that I dislike it, absolutely not, but maybe I can call it 'shaku fatique...'. The thing what matters to me most is playing the instrument and that I do, to listen to the music I like as well, so it lies not therein. Maybe I feel a bit tired of shaku-talking and shaku-reading. The same questions come along on the forum, and it is all talk about the shakuhachi and I feel my motivation to participate in it is lowered. I feel this is part of learning and playing or life in is not always shining bright. But sometimes this pattern is difficult to accept. But even when feeling uninspired I can play and practise. The abillity to do so stays fortunately and I am sure more inspiration will come in some time. Maybe I have the autumn shaku-blues.

vrijdag 18 september 2009

Why do you play?

Why do I, or you play, that is a question I was thinking about lately. In the first place the question 'why' is perhaps too difficult to answer or wrongly formulated in the first place. I was tough by social psychologist that our brain is pretty bad in making choices beyond the difficulty of choosing a toothpaste. People make choices of course, but they seem to originate from reason, while in fact they are produced by a concept called implicite self. That part of your brain takes all you knoe, feel into account and after some time an answer or choice pops out. The question 'why' is in that sense too difficult to answer. In other words: I don't know why I play.  Of course you can think of something or tell something about it, but that would be just a narrative of your mind, not the truth. The social psychologist, mentioned above, who is examening these things also told me that asking a question in that way, like: why do you love person X, makes your mind to work to come up with a narrative, but destroys in that process what really counts: the unrational thing that makes you love person X or makes you play the shakuhachi.
So I'd better not ask this question then. Better would be to ask: what do you feel when you play the shakuhachi (or seeing, talking to person X). That information is much more available in the human mind. Well what do I feel or experience? Even that is hard to descrive, but is kinda special. It is: excitement, gratification, irritation, calmness, relaxation, devotion, frustration......aaaargh! These are all things or feelings you can imagine...Why then do I play? Well: I don't know! Overall it makes me feel good.
It is a thing I want to do and that's just it.

woensdag 2 september 2009

Mushin: 2002 interview with Shakuhachi grandmaster Yokoyama

An inspiring article I found on the international forum, which essentialy is about the process of learning itself and some part the ego-lessness or mindlesness or as it is called Mushin. I'll post it here to read, enjoy:

[What follows is from an article in the Hogaku Journal, February, 2002, by Yokoyama Katsuya, one of the great shakuhachi players of the 20th century. Yokoyoma-sensei is now in his mid-70's and is debilitated by a series of strokes, so he can no longer play, but as you can see below he still has much of value to say. He is still active in his shakuhachi school, although he must undergo dialysis several times a week.]
"In their youth, most performers have no money, no confidence, and no fame. Many times they feel insecure about their future. Even current masters got over such periods, and according to those artists, their 26th year was a turning point. Here's how Katsuya Yokoyama overcame the challenges he faced at age 26.
"I began to play the shakuhachi after hearing a record by Watazumi-sensei (sensei means "master" or "teacher" in Japanese). I was a junior high school student and was amazed by his playing, and wanted to play the instrument, not just listen to it. My father and grandfather both played kinko shakuhachi, so I was hearing shakuhachi all day. I always respected my father's playing, but Watazumi-sensei's sound struck me to the core of my being.
"If this tradition was dying out, as my father had told me, I wanted to continue it even if only for a generation, whether I could make a living at it or not. After graduating from high school and working at a company for 6 years, I came to Tokyo. It was a very difficult time for me. For the first time I realized how hard it must have been for my father to make a living playing the shakuhachi in a rural area. When I told my father that I wanted to be a shakuhachi player, he told me that he didn't want me to suffer from two types of hardships: financial and artistic.
"In Tokyo, I studied under two masters, Watazumi-sensei and Fukuda Rando-sensei.
Fukuda sensei taught me while playing the piano, not the shakuhachi. Watazumi-sensei told me 'Teaching students makes me play poorly,' even though his lesson fee was extremely high compared to other teachers! I couldn't understand the notation used in my lessons, and I cried in despair several times. Still I had to keep playing, and I used up all the money I'd saved working for those six years on my tuition.
"My practice at that time focused on acquiring good pitch. I used a tuning fork since that was all I had. I wanted to be able to improvise, so I used to play to whatever was on the radio. By doing so, I learned which size shakuhachi I should use for each song. I wasn't good at korokoro (finger tremolo) so I practiced it all the time until my fingers cramped. In order to practice tamane (flutter tongueing) I played Rokudan & Chidori using only tamane. I practiced holding my breath so that I could do so for up to 3 minutes and 20 to 30 seconds. The point is that you must become your own strict master. You cannot improve unless the bridge is burning behind you. You need to come up with your own methods and strive hard to improve.
"I am confident to say that nobody worked harder than I did to become a better player.
Some people complain that their memory isn't good, but this is because they are not trying hard enough. Or some say 'Since I'm starting in middle age, I cannot become better than someone who started in junior high school;' but this too can be overcome. As soon as you have negative thoughts you'll cease improving. Keep your mind focused on spirituality and on all creation. Keep doing what you believe is important and good. That is precious.
"Being able to study your sound from 360 degrees, from all directions, in three dimensions, is crucial. For instance, only a few people can immediately answer what 'Rokudan' is expressing, but it must be trying to tell us something. A good performance is one where the means of making the music good are beyond what the listeners can imagine. If you like someone's playing, you will study it, which eventually will bring you to a certain state of mind. If you are then satisfied with yourself, you won't improve. You should make progress by observing yourself from 360 degrees. If you play with doubt, the audience will feel the doubt or confusion 10-20 times stronger than you do. It doesn't matter if you play badly as
long as you play with all your heart. I once had such an experience. A long time ago I went camping by a lake near Mt. Fuji. I began to hear a not-so-good rendition of 'Chidori.' But I was very touched by it. Irrespective of the performance being good or bad, I think the player played with no-mindedness (mushin). I don't use the word no-mindedness easily, because I wasn't able to attain no-mindedness myself. I was desperate to attain nomindedness, so this man's playing was incredible to me. I still remember it vividly.
"I truly wanted my sound to be non-individualistic. I found out when I was 25 or 26 that the root of the honkyoku is to be non-individualistic: that is how you get a rich sound. The important thing is how much accumulation of knowledge and experience you have within yourself. This is also important when improvising: how well you can adjust to everchanging circumstances."

~ Translated by Saori and Peter Hill(April, 2002) [Additional notes by eB]

For an PDF look here.

woensdag 26 augustus 2009

Ikkyu and Murasaki Reiho song

With the great help of shakuhachi player, Annelies Nederbragt, who gladly recorded a nice tale about the important zen monk Ikkyu told by Kurahashi sensei. It was a pleasure to be present at his workshop wich was centered around the song dedicated to -or made by- Ikkyu. I got a hold of a copy of this tale and his playing of this song: Murasaki Reiho. That score can be downloaded free from Kurahashi's site here.

Hear him play the song: here.

His story, which I found quite interesting can be heared below or downloaded (34M)

Before posting this information I contacted Kurahashi about his consent on the posting. He answered in his style: 'You may use them completely as you like.' :)

woensdag 19 augustus 2009

Shakuhachi marketplace opened!

There is a new initiative of the the international shakuhachi forum an ebay like selling forum intended for shakuhachi related products! I think this initiative is nice and was missing in the shakuhachi society!
The flute I have for sale I put up there and can be found here.

On the forum this announcenment was made by Ken LaCosse:

Hello Shakuhachi Forum Members,I'd like to announce the opening of The Shakuhachi Marketplace. This commercial site is the new buy/sell forum and allows registered members the opportunity to buy and sell items by auction or fixed price. It operates much like Ebay except it is less costly for sellers and will focus on the niche market of shakuhachi. This method of buying and selling will solve some of the commercial issues we've experienced with the Shakuhachi Forum. It will also provide a service to the shakuhachi community by establishing a fully functioning, stand alone, niche market for shakuhachi commerce - something which was difficult to achieve within the Shakuhachi Forum walls. In addition, the site will help provide revenue to keep the Shakuhachi Forum running. Sellers have the option to set up stores or list individual items. Stores arefree for the first 30 days of the site and $10 a month thereafter. Basic individual listings are free to post for the first 30 days. Charges apply to features which give items more prominence such as 'front page featured,' 'bold,' extraphotographs,' etc. Sellers will be billed 5% of the selling price only if the item sells. There are no charges for buyers. All transactions are secure as the site is equipped with an SSL Security Certificate. Paypal is the preferred method of payment. What to sell?Although The Shakuhachi Marketplace is a niche site, there are also categories for recordings, accessories, books, as well as other instruments. In addition, members are allowed to list non-shakuhachi related items or anything you think shakuhachi people might be interested in! A variety of shakuhachi quality and price levels are allowed providingdescriptions are accurate. Item editing and allowance are at the discretion of the administration. Banner ad space can also be purchased for those who are interested inadvertising on the The Shakuhachi Marketplace pages. Feel free to take a look at The first step is to register. It's always free. It is recommended to register with your forum usernameor something recognizable to ensure credibility. Once registered you are able to buy and sell items. There is a help and FAQ's section to help you get used to the site. Also, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments.Hopefully this will be a venture that can be beneficial to all of us.

Best regards,


zondag 16 augustus 2009

European Summerschool part II

Some more pictures here to see about the Summerschool, held in Leiden. Now with me in them as well. And even one where Gunnar Linder 'persuaded' me to join the ESS (European Shakuhachi Society) which is good!

zaterdag 15 augustus 2009

The wondrous world of ...

Some days ago, another fellow-blogger about the shakuhachi Erin wrote about me! Well I was the subject, but not the main point of her entry. She wrote about the wondrous world of the digital era we live in and the possibilities it gives us to communicate. Because this entry had me in it and gave me a warm smile and I'll copy her entry here for my memories. The technology is wondrous, the shakuhachi world is, the flute certainly is! and Erin is a wondrous person as well! Her blog is recommended, but for the shakuhachi readers that is no news probably. Here are her words:

A few weeks ago I got together with my friend Bas to talk about shakuhachi playing and practicing. We met at home, he in his den while I sat at my dining room table. We played various of our flutes for each other and compared the shakuhachi in our small collections. Bas has a wonderful shakuhachi blog and he began his journey on the bamboo path about the same time as I. We have numerous other aspects in common, as friends generally do, and though he lives in the Netherlands I feel close to him. Both Bas and I have the same shakuhachi teacher and we find it interesting to compare notes with regards to pieces being practiced and techniques being honed. It is inspiring for me to have a friend at about the same level. Naturally I am impressed and amazed by the great shakuhachi players' recordings but to have a peer who is progressing along side of me offers a special and much more personal inspiration. I can hear his accomplishments and can feel directly encouraged by them. Sometimes when I hear a player with years of experience playing a piece, I wonder if I will ever be able to play anywhere near that level however when I hear friends play who are closer to my level of learning I feel motivated by their skill and renew my efforts believing more in my potential to master the basics which are of course the foundation of all playing which will follow. Much of this would not be possible if we did not live in the digital age. Bas and I correspond by email, within each others blogs and, most recently, over Skype. Yes, some day it would be good to actually meet and play in person but for now I feel my life is enriched thanks to technology allowing our friendship to flourish. Thank you Bas!

dinsdag 11 augustus 2009

Shakuhachi on the radio!

For the interested listeners some older and more recent radio-streams. They are sourced from the Boeddistische omroep (Buddhistic Broadcast)

The first and most recent (9-8-2008) is a full length broadcast and interview (with music) with mr. Kurahashi. It can be found here. Lots of music there!

Another more older (16-2-2005), but interesting is this broadcast with Akikazu Nakamura. It can be found here. The interview starts at 35' minutes. It is in English with some Dutch in between.

Another nice interview, fully in Dutch, with: Harrie Starreveld about Komuso and Shakuhachi. De moeite waard over een persoonlijke ontdekking van de shakuhachi. (17-2-2008 )

Happy listening!

maandag 10 augustus 2009

Not available: El cheapo Edo jinashi (1.9)

Not for sale: the flute I bought from Brian Tairaku Ritchie: the 19th century jinashi Edo period flute aka 'El cheapo Edo'. Brian's words about it were: it is a good flute, not great, and to make it sound the best play it soft with a little vibrato. I can concur that, it isn't a flute of agression, but one with a sweet tone. Especially the kan register is unusually sweet (comment of another player on European Summerschool). Tilo Burdach played, saying he didn't like the shakuhachi sound in general, but this one sounded more friendly to his ears. He almost traded it for the Kyotaku I wanted (and later bought). The Edo flute is 1.9ish in size.
I am asking the same price as Brian sold me, it is a nice price for a nice flute I believe. The floot is in good condition. The utagushi is a bit wobbly, but smooth and this doesn't effect playing whatsoever. It is a jinashi, with some nodes left inside and a nobekan.
See pictures for more details:

donderdag 30 juli 2009

Learning and teaching

The proces of learning things interests me much, part because of my occupation, but also as a shakuhachi player. What is the right way to learn it? and is there one right way? On the shakuhachi festival in Leiden it was special to experience different teaching style's. Some more strict, some loose, some above you and some besides you, so to speak. Personally I like to informal style of teachers and I use that mostly in my work as well. But sometimes a more srict or direct approach is essential.
What is learning? Forcing your master experience or knowledge upon someone else? Or is it stimulating the inherent personal potential? Does one has to be tought to play like him\herself or like the teacher? Well I believe this difference in style of teaching had a lot to do with culture and 'the way it is' done in a given time. None is best perhaps, each has its merits. Well I can't say that I like being shouted at or scolded during a lesson, which can happen in Japan, I heared. I believe in a more humane appoach which is fortunately more common in the west.
Maybe the 'best' way is the way which brings you the closest to your goals and desires. It all depends on your desires then! For learning the flute I believe the 'west' is a good place: there are less strict rules, no playing forced in one school en more options of various teaching ways. As well many resources are available on the net. Mr. Kurahashi told me that playing Dai Kan notes was highly uncommon in Japan some time ago, it wasn't tought or tried. Only few did it. Now he told Dai Kan was a sound a beginner could make, so the pace has probably gone up on the learning curve. The most hard thing to do can't be speeded: getting a personal full tone.

Kurahashi playing Kyorei (part of concert)

One good lesson was Kurahashi told: do no forget your beginners sound when getting better. It is the soft, breathy tone and is pretty!

dinsdag 28 juli 2009

Summerschool report 2009

The European Summerschool 2009 held in Leiden was great! Many great teachers were present. Plenty of workshops about songs, technique's, about Kyoktaku, about meditative playing and improvising were present. It has been four days of hyper exposure on playing, flutes, and lovers of this flute. I really enjoyed it a lot. Especially the vibe and energy which was present.

Although the players were from many country's (Bulgaria, Czech, Ireland, US, Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain and Holland) all the people had one thing in common: this interest in the shakuhachi. Most of them very true to themself and authentic.

I believe the mix of contemplative, meditative, contemporary, truly original and various traditional pieces made this year a great succes. It was very inspiring to me and I'll post more about my findings about the concept of 'learning' shakuhachi and one's way with this flute: one's own way, the traditional way or the 'highway'.
Maybe if lucky I'll post more footage or soundclips.

maandag 20 juli 2009

European Summerschool 2009

Next week I will take part of my first big event like this European Summerschool held in Leiden, the Netherlands. I'll probably post some of it after the summerschool. Various teachers and workshops will be held, just as concerts and lectures...
Please join it if you like! For some more exposure:

European Shakuhachi Summer School 2009 in Leiden, the Netherlands.

This year's European Shakuhachi Summer School will be in Leiden, the Netherlands. It will be the first shakuhachi summerschool in Holland and it will be organised by the Dutch Shakuhachi Society KAITO together with the European Shakuhachi Society.

The date of the summerschool will be 23, 24, 25 and 26 July.

To read more details see here.

maandag 13 juli 2009

Super Phat Taimu !?

In this last contribution of my Malaysian travels, I'll post about the shakuhachi I made myself. You could call it a super fat Taimu! I made it from a big bamboostick lying around. It was in poor condition, a bit moldy and too wet. That ony made it easier to work on it with my old swiss army knife. A few blisters were the price, a lot of fun and a shakuhachi which was extremely difficult to sound. I succeeded to make 3 Ro's out of it, which were dull and uninteresting... On the picture you can see the difference with the Yuu which I took as a model, and the self-made one. Nevertheless it was fun to do and make me consider how difficult it is to make one which sound ok, how difficult it would be to make one which sounds great?? Well in respect to the Taimu's my creation better not be named that way. By the way I left it there, so when you visit Pulau Tioman, Juara village and John's place 'Riverview', you maybe will be able to make more sound out of it then I did. This place to stay is highly reccomended!

Sometimes I read on the forum about the zen and meditative aspect of playing the shakuhachi and therefore not needing good flutes. For me meditative aspectis a part of playing, but the potential of a flute as well. I like to make nice sounds, and learn to play pieces they can sounds. The meditative attitude is less orientated to development or learning the flute itself (it is probably orientated to learning more about oneself). Well I like developing in the field of the fluteplaying itself even more. So back in Holland I can go back to exploring my newest acquisition: a 1.8 Gono Gyokusai II. This is my best 'gem' until now.

Jungle Improv

Hi there, back to post some more! This time an improvisation I have done in front of a large bamboo vegetation. I dunno if it is Madake, but it was the only patch I saw growing in the Taman Negara Jungle. Here is the vid:

Even a Gecko adds soms nice touch to the end.
I played it on my Yuu, which is pretty travelsave.

vrijdag 26 juni 2009

Travelling Malaysia

Now travelling for almost a month in Malaysia and Singapore I miss my bamboo flutes a lot. They smell like 'wood' they feel comfortable to the touch, they play nice. I feel that a bamboo shak has a total different feel, aura or 'energy' then one made of non-bamboo material. So a few days and I'll be able to play my Seikado, the raw Mujitsu or my rather newly acquired Gykosui, with wich I am most content. Nonetheless I have been playing some shakuhachi over here as I took my plastic -nasty word- Yuu. It plays everything well and nice but lacks some spirit to me. But without it I wouldn't have been able to take one along after all. I could do it...the humidity is quite high here (85%) and bamboo originates as well and grows very well in this climate. But the traveling by air with a shakuhachi...I dunno...
When home I'll post some more of my small shak adventures in this nice country with friendly people!

zondag 14 juni 2009

Mindfullness all the way

Now being on vacation I type this in Taman Negara, well the small town besides the big ancient 130-milion year old jungle called Taman Negara. Earlier in another jungle -Malaysia has more then only jungles- on a track walking the Cameron Highlands I slipped and injured my foot at the ankle...I have somewhat weak ankles perhaps, but you forget that in a normal situation when you don't do anything challenging with them. Well it happened -fortunately not too severe- I could walk on, for 3 hours! But now much more mindfull of where I walked and how my body and feet felt not to slip again. It was like a cripple in the jungle! Well I made it, but was surprised what the concentration I needed for walking and climbing back, also to notice how tiresome it was. Today I walked another jungle with bandage to fortify it all and it went good, walked the long cannopy walkway and crossed for 4 hours through this old forrest. I made a film playing in front of a big bamboo plant wich I intend to add later (the film)...

donderdag 28 mei 2009

Nifty video

Here a vid of very nice playing of Aoki Reibo and Goro Yamaguchi. Also a way for me to try to embed a youtube video. Thanks to a Dutch Kaito member for finding the video :)
If I have it right they are playing Shika No Tone (Distant call of deer).

Here it is:

dinsdag 12 mei 2009

Reaction of others

When playing or when carrying the flute, the reactions the flute elicits are quite various. Mostly people are curious and want to know what it is you are holding or playing. They seem quite interested! More so than my experience is with a more common instrument. Then there is the name of this flute 'shakuhachi', not a name which has a real pleasant ring to it. The reaction to the sound is more even: people like it and associate it with relaxing or spiritual, zenlike music. -or people are polite- :). the shrill tones of the kan register-practise aren't always relaxing!
The most enthousiastic reaction though is from children, they are quite direct and want to try themselves immediatly, just to give up short thereafter finding out it is impossible for them to make a sound. Fortunately there is the plastic flute, which can be washed of saliva.
Here above a picture of Januari this year, during skiing in Austria. With that 2 children hanging around while I practised.

zondag 3 mei 2009

Kifu Mitsuhashi plays Chikurai

Check out this very nice video:

Chikurai from naha Jaja on Vimeo.

Kifu Mitsuhashi plays Chikurai - series of five compositions by Moroi Mokota. Chikurai translates as sound of bamboo, it is composed for shakuhachi, japanese bamboo flute. The compositions synthesize contemporary and traditional playing styles, phrases and techniques. Footage was shot on the main concert of Prague Shakuhachi Summer School 08.

woensdag 29 april 2009

Naru Ro or 'Honking' ~ overtones

Recently I have been investigating the meaning of a Honking Ro or honkin in general. A shakuhachi is not a car so I am not fond of the term honk and doesn't do it enough justice. The honking or Naru (see below) is more than that I believe. It is about changing the tonal characteristics of the note, it is about enhancing certain frequencies or natural overtones and speed op power of blowing is also relevant. Tone of this flute is characteristic and also one of its main features. There are little other instruments on which you can alter so much in the tone, the voice perhaps is most similar.
From the world discussion forum this soundclip comes which demonstrates the Honking very neatly:

This clip or soundbite was posted by Edosan and is by Aoki Reibo playing Sarashi.

I would also cite parts of Chikuzens comment on this matter:

Honking" in Japanese is called "naru" or, it's a verb, "to naru". There are varying degrees of this. Some types of names have been offered here, "honking" and "growling", etc. It would be useful to have a common vocabulary but it has to built out of shared experiences. It's a bit subjective too without the audio references. Big fat jinashi flutes don't usually "naru" according to jiari players but they glow, growl and snarl. However, jinashi people (people who play mostly jinashi) use the word "naru" also but it points to a different sound...

... There are always flutes out there that seem to "cross the lines" but in general, the jinashi flutes that "naru" usually have a narrow bore and jiari flutes that don't "naru" usually have a big fat bore.

Another viewpoint would be that "honking" is like revving up an engine to hear it run and see what it can take. It takes technique in the embouchure and breathing which takes technique. Some flutes do it more, some less and some not well at all.

The reason to practice this is that it's smart to practice something you can't do since you'll have to change how you play. If you are willing to do this (change) you'll learn something from it and maybe even develop technique if you do it long enough. You can always back off this "honk" when playing according to the energy that's appropriate to the song you're playing.

So ultimately flexibility is key.

maandag 27 april 2009

Up and Down: Japanese patterns

Also a subject Kurahashi brought up in his workshop was this pattern used often in Japanese song: A different pattern of going up in pitch and then down. It can be played like in the picture (with my own caligraphy)

Like the first line: Ro - Tsu - Re | Re - Tsu meri - Ro. Play it and you'll get the picture. It explains why sometimes other notations for the same pitch are used. The up movement used kari notes and are notated as such; they sound strong. In line 3, I wrote it wrongly: It should be noted as the note between the (chi kari). When the movement goes down, like in line 3, the 5th note has the pitch of Tsu but needs to be played soft and be a meri note: so Re dai meri is written (wich has the same pitch as Tsu in this case). So in the downward movement the second note is always played meri and soft. Now you know!
This way of notating can be found in his version of Kumoijishi.

vrijdag 24 april 2009

Yung flutes site is back

The hijacked site of Perry Yung is back online and looking neat! Check it out. It holds nice information on the flute, especially for beginning flutists.

donderdag 23 april 2009

Workshop part II

Here you'll find some pictures of the workshop given by mr. Kurahashi
If you are on it and don't want to be publically exposed, let me know!

woensdag 22 april 2009

Kurahashi Workshop

Begin April I attended a group workshop given by the most friendly and polite person mr. Kurahahsi. For me its quite rare to meet and play with a Japanese master of the Shakuhachi. He visited the Netherlands for a week and hopefully returns for the European Summer school, wich I will attend in July in Leiden. See the post below this one for details. More details can be found at the ESS-site, link to the right -> or at the Kaito site (also link to the right->). During the workshop we were taught or trained in the details of the song Kumoijishi. The same copy of that song made by Kurahashi can be found here: Kumoijishi PDF More honkyoku are on his site: visit the site of Kurahashi a good recource. We played version 1, on page 1. The second version is to be played on a 2.0 C and can be played together with version 1 on a 1.8 D. The picture above depicts a version coming from site.

info from the ISS about this song:
This is an Edo Period (1603-1867) piece that originated at Itchoken, a famous temple in Hakata City on the southern island of Kyushu. The song has another name, Neagari Jishi, and was popular in Kyushu because of it's beautiful melody.

The meaning of this piece comes from the fact that songs with "shishi "("lion") in the title are generally played quickly and "kumo" of "kumoi" is the character for "cloud(s)". This honkyoku is, hence, played almost completely in the upper (kan) register and with a fast tempo. Kumoijishi is often it is used as an omedetai kyoku or a song played at joyous celebrations. It is more upbeat and auspicious than many of the sadder sounding honkyoku.
The difference is that in the workshop we played the song quite slowly, not as fast as by the example below wich is from Tai Hei Shakuhachi:

I'll post pictures of the workshop later and maybe try to record a version of this song as well to track progress.

zondag 12 april 2009

Playing in Holland

Here in the Netherlands we have a small, but nice and well organised bunch of shaku-players -if I may say so-. I have joined Kaito the Dutch shakuhachi organisation.I recently joined a master workshop of the very friendly Kurahashi. Perhaps I'll post about that workshop later. Later in summer Holland will be organising the European Shakuhachi Summer school. The following text is from the European site :

2009 - JULY 23-26 Shakuhachi Summer School in Leiden, Nederland

  • Teachers:
    • Yoshio Kurahshi
    • Vlastislav Matousek
    • Steve Cohn
    • Tilo Burdach
    • Kees Kort

    To register: send an email to or

    Price: not fixed yet, but probably around:
    • Non-members: € 250
    • Members: € 200

    Accommodation: help is available in finding a hotel. There are also possibilities to stay with a guest family for low prices.

Kees Kort -one of the teachers- organisers of the school and chairman of Kaito played yesterday in a small village during an opening of a very nice museum of various arts. See the picture below of his playing in the sunny garden.

vrijdag 10 april 2009

SOLD: 2.4 A Chikusing 2 hanko Jinashi

SOLD I have this very nice jinashi Chikusing 2 hanko shak made by Perry Yung. It is of 2.4 length and tuned to A. It is his range of flutes between earth-models and his professional Yung-flutes. It has a windy, mellow and rich sound. It has a very thin layer of darkred urushi in the bore and has spot tuning added by Perry, which is particular of the chikusing models. The flute is in very good condition. For pics and an improv on the flute (mind I play for half a year).

zondag 22 maart 2009

Shakuhachi of old

I have acquired myself a nice old flute of about late 19th century and to be said of belonging to the edo period (1603 - 1867). to even have a flute of that era and age is quite something to me. When the opportunity arised I got this flute, which is a komosu-flute and by itself not a great flute, but a nice one nonetheless. It is a 1.9 ish flute in tune (reasonably) to itself and it plays rather 'lovely' and sweet. The amount of possible meri-ing is amazing (1 full note is quite easy -even for a beginner such as I-). The tuning is a bit tacky at parts, but can be countered.

picture of the hanko

Overall I am very happy being able to play a flute of this era. I'll post a picture of the hanko as well and hope someone will recognize it. I became interested in reading about older flutes in this article by John Singer In Search of the Magic Flute
It is a nice read and has an interview at the bottom by Brian Tairaku Ritchie.

The Hanko displays the kanji for Nakajima (Naka-shima or could also be read Chutou.
It is probably an owners Hanko (not a makers).