Shakuhachi - Free Evaluation

If you are considering purchasing a new or previously-owned shakuhachi through an auction site or from a private party on the worldwide web, careful scrutiny is recommended. Bear in mind that most any shakuhachi will play and produce a tone if blown softly, but not perform adequately when blowing is intensified. The question is, how well does the instrument perform, and is its asking price in line with the quality of the flute? Without years of experience blowing shakuhachi, it is difficult, if not impossible, to make these assessments.

In Japan, students of the traditional music usually rely on their teachers to select and recommend an instrument for them. Because a shakuhachi is old or the bamboo looks nice does not assure that it will perform well or even adequately. With so many flutes being offered via the Internet nowadays, it is difficult, if not impossible, for folks to make an accurate appraisal and informed decision.

Over the many years I have been making shakuhachi, I've been asked to make such evaluations for beginning students as well as for advanced players insuring their instruments they are considering purchasing perform at an adequate level commensurate with the price. If you are considering a purchase and would like to know more about the flute, I would be glad to provide complete assessment of its acoustical and performance qualities as well as its proximity to the traditional aesthetic for shakuhachi. In this endeavor, every effort will be made to be as thorough and objective as possible. A signed, dated statement will accompany each evaluation.

There is no charge whatsoever for this service other than the cost of return shipping. These evaluations are offered freely as an appreciation for the long tradition of craftsmanship for which my life has been blessed and a service to members of the world shakuhachi community.

Scope of the Evaluation

In evaluating a shakuhachi two criteria are considered: bamboo aesthetics and craftsmanship along with performance and acoustical issues. The latter criterion takes into account pitch, timbre and resonance of the flute.

Pitch is a simple determination of whether the instrument is in tune or not with standard Western frequencies. If not, which notes are sharp or flat and what can be done to correct the problems. Generally, pitch is determined by the relative size and position of the finger holes, but can be affected by resonance issues as well. It is important to remember, that ambient temperature is a significant factor in measuring intonation, so should always be carefully considered. The standard for most musical instruments tuned to Equal Temperament is A=440 or 442 hz. at a room temperature of 60°F / 20° C).

Timbre or tone color (neiro, in Japanese) is largely determined by the overall design of the bore and essentially a matter of personal taste. Timbre translates into harmonic configuration or the spectrum of frequencies that make up each individual tone. Not much can be done to alter this aspect of the a flute without completely redesigning and rebuilding the bore. Each traditional maker tends to have a recognizable quality of sound in this regard.

Resonance is clearly the most important issue involved in assessing acoustical and performance qualities of a shakuhachi. It is the domain in which most instruments are likely to exhibit problems, but also one that is most correctable. Resonance governs how much air the flute will accept and how hard the sound can be pushed. Any shakuhachi, including the most primitive plastic plumbing pipe models, will perform adequately in this area if the player blows softly. As more air is introduced into the bore and blowing becomes more intense, the higher partials or overtones of the sound are exercised giving the shakuhachi its distinctive ringing tone. If the bore profile of an instrument is not properly designed and rendered to a very precise shape, there are acoustical consequences. Unwanted vibrato, notes jumping into higher octaves, instability and weakness of tone and, in extreme case, the inability to produce a clear sound at all are just a few manifestations of resonance problems. This is an aspect in assessing and grading the quality of a shakuhachi that represents the greatest challenge to traditional makers.

For more information, contact [email protected] 


Tai Hei Shakuhachi Catalog
Shakuhachi: The Sound of Nature
Origins & History of the Shakuhachi
Bamboo Used for Shakuhachi
Precision Cast Bore Technology

Models of Shakuhachi
Professional Root-End Shakuhachi
Jinashi - Natural Bore Flutes
Advanced Student Level Shakuhachi

Student Level Shakuhachi
Meditation Shakuhachi

Shakuhachi Headjoint for the Silver Flute
Traditional Styles
How Shakuhachi are Graded
Flute Accessories
Shakuhachi Repair & Restoration
Frequently Asked Questions
Free Evaluation

Price List of Shakuhachi Flutes

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Precision Bore Shakuhachi
Jinashi - Natural Bore Shakuhachi
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