Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Struggles

Sorry but my work has kept me away from posting over the past month or so.

I want to discuss the struggles that I face as someone who has been playing Shakuhachi for about fifteen months. I've noticed that I made some really nice gains from about six to twelve months then I started to ride a plateau.  I'm struggling with my embouchure as regards to the higher register (kan) with the higher notes like chi, hi, etc.... some days I have it and all sounds well; other days it is a total mess. Well, I've decided to really enjoy this plateau instead of being frustrated. I know that it is in there somewhere so it makes it that much more frustrating at times. Here's what I've been doing. I started to play really small segments of music where I'm having the trouble in the hope that lots of repetition will help, and it does to some degree. However, I have also realized that each person, better yet, each body learns at its' own pace and you can only push through so far. You'll notice that you will hit these plateaus and stay there for awhile. You may understand what you need to do intellectually but you can't quite get your body to do it. I understand that this is all part of the learning process but it still is frustrating at times.

So my theory is this: add one piece of rice paper to the pile everyday and one day that pile will be heavy enough to drop through to the next level. So when you are frustrated with your practice in general or if you are having difficulty with a certain piece it's all very simple............play, play, play your shakuhachi daily adding that one piece of rice paper to the pile.

Be well and Happy Holidays to all!

7 comments:

  1. I know this plateau well! Good advice Tom.

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  2. Thanks Erin, we all know that there are more struggles to come. Stay tuned.

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  3. I realize that playing the Shakuhachi carries a mystic of Zen meditation and the ethereal mysteries from the far east, and, with that in mind, I share your frustration with learning to blow this beastie. I solved the problem by switching to a Native American Flute, which requires no special embouchure, and purchasing a fipple mouthpiece for my Shakuhachi from the Yuu company. I realize that this isn't truly authentic but I don't want to spend 30 years learning to blow a good Ro note or learning Japanese musical notation. Now I can enjoy actually playing a bamboo/wood flute rather than exercising my lip muscles and I can still enjoy the visual beauty of the instrument. I'm serious. BTW I enjoy your blog. Blessings, Toadosan

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  4. Thanks for your comments Todd. I haven't quite gotten to that point yet but I can understand fully why you made the move. I'm a bit of a purist myself and a bit head strong so I imagine that I will be at this for long time to come.

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  5. Tom...glad you didn't take my comments in a negative way. In fact, I was working on notes with my Shakuhachi last night, but it is a challenge. I have three, all made by James Sinkule in Plano, Texas...one is a 1.9, and a 2.0 C, and a longer 28" flute he gave me that was defective but it plays very deep notes. They're fun but difficult. I have a cedar Native American and a bamboo "Easy Kiowa Love Flute" (I need easy!) made by Erik Sampson www.eriktheflutemaker.com. Shakuhachi has a wonderful sound, and are beautiful, but very difficult for me. Best to you with your playing. Todd

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  6. Todd I recently tried a flute made by James as well. He is on his way to learning to craft flutes but I do find his instrument harder to play than ones I have that were made by more experienced makers. The easier to play shakuhachi need not be overly expensive but just well chosen, I think. The 1.8 that my teacher selected for me and the 2.6 that Perry Yung made for me are both quite effortless to play and were relatively inexpensive.

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  7. That's so true Erin. I bought a 2.8 from Perry Yung and it is extremely easy to play especially for a long flute. I have a couple of big bores from Ken LaCosse that are quite a challenge but I love the challenge and the deep sound as well.

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