Riley In Lawai

My thoughts on learning the Shakuhachi

Think of each note as an individual. You have to get to know each note like you get to know a person who you want to know as a friend. Each note is special, in part because of what comes before and what comes after it. In playing honkyoku or while improvising, notes are sometimes held an indeterminate length.

Determine if any of the notes are the really ‘important’ ones. Why are they more important than others? Possible reasons: highest, lowest, longest, shortest, ro or re (the two ‘tonics’ of most shakuhachi pieces).

If a particular pitch is important, how will you play them so that they sound ‘important’? Think about the notes before and after these notes. How are they best played?

How long should each note be held? One rule of thumb is this: only hold a note because is it so beautiful that you can’t let it go just yet. If you have to think how long or short a note should be held, then you haven’t got it yet.