6 Shakuhachi Practice Tips for Busy People

When you have little time to practice shakuhachi, what should you do to make progress and be happy with your practice?

Here are some tips to help you. Let me know which one you find the most useful!

1. Enter your practice properly

Imagine that you’re coming back home from work. What do you do when you enter your house? Taking off your jacket and shoes, putting your bag and keys somewhere you can find them back easily, I guess. We all have our own little routine, even unconscious.

Imagine now that you enter your shakuhachi practice time. What do you do? Do you have any routine?

If you don’t, I suggest that you set up one. To give you time to settle into your practice, clear your mind, warm up your flute and body. It doesn’t need to be long. But if you don’t do it, it’s like you are walking around in your house with your coat and shoes still on, your keys in your hand, holding your bag or backpack on your shoulder.

Put them aside.

Come from the outer world to your inner world, to a moment for yourself.

Start your practice time with a short ritual. For example, play 10 times RO otsu. Can you focus on the counting, on your breathing? How are you listening to yourself?

How much are you present to your practice? Counting RO will give you the answer!

For more examples and tips to set up a routine, read here.

2. Turn on your Shakuhachi GPS

We wouldn’t go anywhere nowadays without a GPS, so turn on your shakuhachi GPS before starting your first step of the day.

Being clear about your direction is important. What do you want to achieve? Where are you heading to?

If you have a teacher, follow his/her instructions. By the way, it’s always handy to write down your teacher’s comments and instructions during the lessons. You can find them back anytime.

If you don’t have a teacher, make a plan for yourself and work on it.

What are you going to do today? Will you work on a piece or on a technique, or both?

3. Set up a Small Goal

If you don’t have a lot of time to practice, set up a small goal before you start, something reachable. Because like it is written in the Chinese Tao Te Ching (Chapter 64)

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

A small goal can be working on one specific thing, and repeat it in a series of sessions until you’re happy with the result. For example: working on a specific technique, learning a short piece by heart, learning new notes and fingerings, etc.

But it can also be a series of different steps to reach a bigger goal, like a long piece.
If you have little time and yet want to have a consistent practice, you’ll have to make choices and establish priorities.

For example, you can decide today to work on phrases 1-2-3-4, and the next time, phrases 5-6-7-8, and the next time review phrases1 to 8, etc.

Or see how you can cut the piece in fragments which make sense. It’s actually a very good exercise to bring out the structure of the piece.

In other words:
– Don’t try to cover immediately a long piece in one session.
– Don’t always start from the beginning.

Commit to take your small step today, and another one tomorrow… or the next time you can practice. One little step is always better than no step at all.

Keep in mind to still go in the same direction the next time you practice.

For this, it can be really helpful to keep track of your practice with a practice notebook.

4. Journal your Practice in a Notebook

Each time you practice, write a few lines about what you did, how it went, in which direction you would like to go, your questions to your teacher, anything.

And set your goal for your next session (even if it is the same as today).

If you cannot practice regularly, this will help you to get started more easily the next time you take your flute, without the feeling of “starting from scratch again”. This can be an unconscious thought blocking you from practicing. Is it your case?

Important: Writing how your practice went means: what went wrong AND what went well. Never forget the “went well” part!!

5. Put on a timer

Your time is limited? Let’s limit it!

Put on a timer to the time limit you want to practice, so that you won’t need to look at your watch to check the time. This way, you can devote your full attention to your practice.

A short and focused session is more fulfilling than a longer and distracted session.

When time’s up, you can always decide to continue if you feel like it.

If not, you’ve reached your goal anyway. Happy?

6. Enjoy Small Steps

Be realistic and don’t expect miracles if you have little or irregular time to practice. But you can definitively make progresses. Especially if you allow yourself to be happy with small steps.

“Think small things can make a difference. […] Start small, encourage progress, and celebrate small wins.”
(Greg McKeown)

Even without expecting big achievements quickly, do celebrate the small ones. And who knows, you might surprise yourself!

More Tips

I hope that these tips will help you to practice and make progress even if you have only little time with your shakuhachi.

Which tip is the most helpful for you? Please let me know in the comments section below.

For more practice tips, have a look to my other posts in the “Practice & Tips” category.

If you would like to practice with me at your own tempo, check my tutorial videos in my Virtual Shakuhachi Dojo (Tier CHIKU or KAN). If you have any questions, read this post first or contact me. If you subscribe now, you’ll get access to close to 25 tutorials videos, including music notations.

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Happy blowing!

6 thoughts on “6 Shakuhachi Practice Tips for Busy People”

  1. Excellent advice! I will start a journal, and use it to set long term goals and log my daily steps towards attaining the,.
    I already have a fairly consistent practice routine, begging with 10 minutes of RO, using Insight Timer ( as a meditative practice),then some simple folk pieces, followed by Honte Choshi. After that, I work on areas that need improvement, and end with Honte Choshi again and a few more Ro.

    Liked by 1 person

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