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Playing - Tips

Advice for Beginners

Points on getting a strong tone

When you play Shakuhachi you ideally want an embouchure that is fixed like a recorder mouthpiece, so the high octave, and the low, can be played easily, without having to change the lip shape for each note played. (Holes on the shakuhachi are numbered from the bottom up, so the back hole is 5)

  1. Play 'C' (125 closed). Play it as strong and loud as possible. Not much goes wrong when this note is blown hard, as the sound is produced by a hole high up on the tube.
  2. When this note can be blown strongly, and pitched at 'C', immediately play the note below it. 'A' (45 closed). Play it as strongly as the 'C'.
  3. Play this 'C' again, powerfully, then go up a note to 'D'. (1 2 3 4 5 closed). Don't reduce the breath power just because you have changed notes. You have now gone from 'C' to a note in the low octave and from 'C' to the first note of the upper octave. Retain the same embouchure for these transitions.
  4. Gradually ass more notes going down and up from the 'C', all with a fixed embouchure, and all played with the same strength. To do this you must have good support from your centre. (strong diaphragm!)
  5. If the notes fail as you go further down and up the scale, then the embouchure is incorrect, and you have to experiment to find a better one.
P.S. With a poor shakuhachi this is not possible as the lower notes will 'flip' to the high octave, or 'warble' and 'burble' with the 'wolf' notes. This is one reason people do not play strongly, and the pitch of notes will be too low.