Friday, June 25, 2010

Shakuhachi Beat going to Pittsburgh; back on the 29th

New Age Nazi

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Shakuhachi Watch, June 23: Buying a shakuhachi good for lessons

1.8 Chikusen Tamai Shakuhachi from Perry Yung on Vimeo.


A flute like this starting out at $800 is a very good bet. It's a circa 1970 shakuhachi, meaning modern tuning but not without character. Perry offers a 30 day trial guarantee. If your teacher thinks this flute will work for you, it's a great way to learn (on a master craftsman piece of bamboo).

Also on eBay:

1.8 "D" shakuhachi japanese bamboo flute Kazan

I actually played this flute and liked it. At the time I was looking for a very loud, strong, hard sounding flute, so I didn't purchase it. It's thick but relatively lightweight, mellow in tone, but very, very capable. Great looks and feels good. I think it's at least a Cap size 8. I found it very comfortable to play. Made by an old Tozan master maker using the KAZAN hanko. As I recall it was culled from the collection of Yoshinobu Taniguchi and was resold through Alcvin Ramos of Ryuzen Shakuhachi in British Columbia. I'm not sure if the instrument is tuned A440, but I remember it being close enough. Ask for an audition for a week or two if your teacher thinks an older Tozan is okay for your lessons.

Other related topics

A few Kitahara Seika 1.8 shakuhachi are being seen on eBay. Very reliable maker. If you are buying this for lessons, ask if the shakuhachi is tuned to A=440 (A440). It is very important that when playing for most teachers that your shakuhachi be in tune to A440 give or take a couple of "cents". Some modern shakuhachi are tuned A442 even as high as A444. Ask your teacher if that is okay. Trying to take formal lessons on older shakuhachi tuned to A434 or A436 will prove very frustrating if that particular teacher is using an A440 tuned instrument. Older shakuhachi that are tuned lower than A440 are fine as long as your not using them for lessons, playing ensemble music or with fixed pitched instruments. Some of them sound even better tuned slightly lower. BUT if you're taking lessons, A440, maybe as high as A442, is the way to go.

You might be able to work with an A438 flute, but your teacher needs to accommodate for that. Most beginning students play too flat to begin with. A438 is about 8 cents flat.(A434 is about 25-cents flat). It takes time and effort to learn how to play up to the full tuning potential of your flute. If your flute is flatter than modern pitch (A440) then your learning curve may be steeper or worse, impaired. Shakuhachi asks of it's students to play some notes a semitone flatter (F to E), sometimes a whole tone (F-E-flat or D to C). Sometimes even lower! You need _room_ to adjust to these pitch changes, so the tuning of your flute is important. A good teacher will explain this to you.

(p.s.: I have run into one or two teachers who might attempt to sell you shakuhachi tuned lower than A440 because they say that the style you're learning requires very strong breath and you will learn to blow the shakuhachi "up to pitch". --This was told to me about a flute tuned to A434 which is about 25-cents flat of A440-- If I were you, I'd strongly consider a. Not buying that shakuhachi, no matter how 'old' or 'great' it is; and b. Finding a new teacher. There's only so much bullshit a shakuhachi student has to accept as gospel, no matter what degree, rank or license that teacher has. A good teacher will not try to sell you a "specialty" instrument for formal lessons, regardless of school, ryu or sect. I'll publish any and all challenges to that statement, too.)

Also seen on eBay recently: a couple of older shakuhachi refurbished by Monty Levenson of Tai Hei Shakuhachi aka Monty is a stickler for pitch so a shakuhachi with his maker's hanko or repair-hanko are pretty sure bets for playability and usability in lessons (the repair hanko, although in kanji, looks like the initials "TCM" from a distance). Always double-check with your teacher and always get a returnable audition window of a couple of weeks; longer if your face-to-face teachers are difficult to get to.

Remember your job is to learn shakuhachi. Your job is not to purchase a shakuhachi to make a seller happy.