Shakuhachi: The Sound of Nature

Shakuhachi Sumi-e

The shakuhachi is a testament to the elegance of traditional Japanese culture. Made from the root of the bamboo, its aesthetic is organic and simple. Hidden inside this rustic form, however, is a bore that is carefully crafted with the utmost precision. This instrument produces a sound that is said to replicate the full range of natural life on earth.

The shakuhachi is an end-blown flute tuned to a pentatonic (5-note) scale. By various fingerings -- half- and quarter-holings -- and by controlling the angle of mouthpiece against the lip, all twelve tones of the western chromatic scale can be produced. The mouthpiece consists of an oblique blowing edge whose design is unique in that it enables the player to control the pitch produced by changing the angle at which the flute is being blown. This, in turn, produces a delicate change of intonation -- a swelling or bending of notes characteristic of the traditional music. Alterations in embouchure, intensity of blowing and cross fingerings allow the player to create a wide variety of subtle and incredible sounds. The timbre of the instrument is mellow in its low tones, although it is equally capable of producing loud, penetrating and breathy tones in its middle and upper registers. Little can be said of the sound of the shakuhachi without first hearing its hauntingly beautiful ring. With this in mind, noted ethnomusicologist Fumio Koizumi concluded: "Because of the religious origin of its music, the sound of the bamboo flute leads the mind directly into spiritual thought. Thus a single tone of the shakuhachi can sometimes bring one to the world of Nirvana."

Traditional Japanese music played on this instrument reflects the many voices of nature. Gentle and warm, the summer rain. Frayed and gusty, the autumn breeze through the bamboos. Shrill and honking, the cry of a wild duck, winter on its tail. Quiet and sweet, a mountain lake fed by early spring runoff. 

Sumi-e by Kay Stratman

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
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