Friday, April 13, 2007

Tips for aspiring jinashi shakuhachi makers

Occasionally, an aspiring shakuhachi maker asks for advice. These are some ideas which have proved important to me.

* Develop an understanding of the physics of wind instruments. Put it to practice. Realize what happens and why when any action is taken.

* Work with the idea of taking the path of least resistance. Since everything is connected, take action that will solve multiple problems. Juggle efficiently. Apply the least amount of action to make the best possible flute.

* Think big. Imagine the impossible. If one note plays particularly well. Imagine a flute where everything plays as well.

* Understand that there is no one ideal flute design. There are many different kinds of sounds that are satisfying.

* Realize that shakuhachi making is a matter of life and death.

* Play a lot. Find people who play better than you. Your flute making will improve dramatically.

* Work with responsibility. (This can not be overemphasized) You are representing an honorable profession. Understand your duty.

* Don't pose or misrepresent yourself. You'll disgrace yourself as well as other makers. You'll let down the bamboo. Allow yourself to develop honestly.

* Develop thick skin. Serious shakuhachi making will shatter your confidence. Persevere. You'll become stronger.

* Work with the bamboo and not at it.

* Approach each flute as a beginner, without pretense.

* With time and effort you'll develop your own sound. Use it to take the shakuhachi further.

Shakuhachi advice in video.

Taimu CD Now Available



Mujitsu Taimu shakuhachi are featured exclusively on a new album "Taimu" by Brian Tairaku Ritchie and Shakuhachi Club Milwaukee. Joining SCM is John Sparrow on percussion and Dave Gelting on upright bass. Together, they create a cohesive blend of jazz, blues, traditional Japanese Honkyoku and improvisation.

Standard 1.8 (for comparison), Taimu 2.3, 2.45, 2.7, 2.7, 3.0.

About the flutes on this recording:

The shakuhachi flutes used on this recording are a unique style of long, wide flute called Taimu. They are the current result of my longtime maker/player collaboration with Brian Tairaku Ritchie. The name was formed by combining Brian's professional name Tairaku with my shakuhachi making name Mujitsu. Translated, Taimu means The Big Nothing.

From the beginning of this collaboration, it has been evident to both Brian and me that there is something special about wide bore shakuhachi. The complex, expressively raw tone possible with these flutes is very different than the focused, pure tone of modern, thinner bore shakuhachi. Much of the development of Taimu Shakuhachi centers on expanding this complex tone while maintaining a musically sound instrument. This recording is an effort to introduce the many possibilities of this unique style of shakuhachi.

-Ken Mujitsu LaCosse

Tracks on "Taimu"

1 tairaku no cho
2 mujitsu blues
3 space coconut
4 evidence
5 change has come
6 john the revelator
7 "L" dance
8 echigomeianji hachikaeshi
9 banshiki
10 horagai
11 sogei no kyoku
12 reibo

Taimu - The Expressionist Painting of Shakuhachi


I thought I'd write a little about what I'm trying to do with Taimu Shakuhachi. 'Taimu' (The Big Nothing) refers to very wide bore shakuhachi

One way to think of shakuhachi, in a design sense, is that it has a window of bore/length possibilities. (some refer to this as aspect ratio) A thinner bore to length ratio usually results in a focused, cleaner tone. A wider bore to length ratio usually results in a breathier tone. Going too far in any direction results in poor tuning and tone. A bore/length ratio in the middle results in better odds for good octave tuning without extensive bore work.

With Taimu Shakuhachi, I'm trying to push the bore width/length ratio as far as possible. I'm looking for an expressive, breathy foghorn tone as well as good tuning. In a sense, this is like shooting oneself in the foot from the start. To find the tone color desired, the widest bore/length ratio possible has to be used. Therefore, the tuning in the second register often requires quite a bit of bore work to bring into tune.

Concerning tone, while working the bore, I'm looking for the point where the tone suddenly improves dramatically into a glowing, vibrating foghorn. This is achieved by the right combination of adjustments of nodes, choke point, blowing end and rootend diameter as well as hole size and undercutting.

The challenge is trying to get as close as possible to these ideals of tuning and tone color.

Taimu Shakuhachi design differs from many of the 'Hocchiku' Shakuhachi currently in vogue. First, the Taimu bore/length ratio is slightly wider. The bottom end of the bore is opened up to increase tone projection. The holes are also much larger and severely undercut.

These design differences often make this style of flute difficult to make. However, if it can be pulled off, the results can be very powerful.