Ups and downs

Ups and downs

That’s life, isn’t it?

My last weeks were quite hilly, in matter of ups and downs, and so was my shakuhachi practice as well.

Last Thursday, I was very excited because I did a big step forward. At least, it’s how it felt at the moment. Since last summer, I’m trying to broaden my range of tone colours and increase the resonance of my sound. I started this practice in the hills of the Plateau de Langres in France (which is not flat by the way), listening to the echo, and then everywhere, over and over again. And last Thursday, I found the right tone quality to make the radiator resonating. That was great (I had the feeling it was a matter of more harmonics in the sound, but I’m not quite sure). On Friday however, although the radiator was singing again on each Tsu I played  (while still heating the room properly), I felt I was in a down day. My energy was low, my sound was not as good as the day before… you have those days… I asked myself what could have changed: I actually spent more physical energy before starting my shakuhachi practice on Friday than on Thursday. Could be an explanation.

Bad days

We all know that life is made of ups and downs, so it seems quite logical that the practice of shakuhachi (of any other practice) follows the same pattern. However, we have the tendency to become frustrated when it happens, as if progresses had to follow a straight line going up. I enjoy the good days for what they bring of possibilities to improvement. I take a bad day as a good day to become aware of what is working whatever happens, what my strong points are.

I generally notice that a bad day for me is a day of tiredness. One shouldn’t underestimate the physical part of playing music. It’s pretty much like sport. If you push it too much the wrong way, you can even get injured. The best thing to do would be to rest and recover energy, but most of the time, it’s not possible. So I try to find ways to optimise my practice anyhow. Here are some tips to go through those days without becoming frustrated or discouraged.

  • Start your practice with easy things: what is easy for you at the moment. It’s not the day to start working on a new piece or on a new challenge. See how it goes and how far you can go.
  • Accept what’s happening. You can’t do better at the moment, just work on what is possible at the moment.
  • Work on your breathing, find strength in it.
  • Relax. At a moment of my life, I performed in a show with lots of travels and technicals issues. Every time we had to perform, we were already busy for hours from early in the morning with building up decors, lights and sound check, etc. So when it was time to perform, I was exhausted. What saved me then was to relax as much as I could while playing, especially for the shakuhachi. It really works. Tensions work against you and cause even more tensions. So relax, take more breaks, or have a shorter practice if necessary.
  • Be aware of your personal rhythm, and if you have the choice, choose the best time of the day for your practice.
  • If you have difficulties to concentrate, go back to your breath and practice deep breathing.
  • In a few words: listen to yourself, get to know yourself. Don’t push too much, use the good days for that.

Good days

Ah, those days when everything is possible… why are they so good? Thanks to all the efforts you put in the previous days, and especially during the bad ones…!

With time, your ups will be higher, and your downs will be higher as well…

Go with the flow and enjoy your journey 🙂

Is it going the same for you?

2 thoughts on “Ups and downs”

  1. I find what works best for me is to practice early (by 6 a.m.) and play for 15-20 minutes, then take a break: I arm-lift 8 lb weights for 50 reps, followed by 50 leaning pushups against the door jamb, then a few minutes of walking/playing meditation. I repeat this 3 times during the hour.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, awesome John! Nice combination of shakuhachi playing, physical exercises and meditation, sounds very healthy. Keep it up!
      I prefer to practice in the morning as well, but not as early as you, as I start with one hour of yoga and meditation. And I live in an apartment so I am respectful to my neighbours 😉


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