In a previous post, Music recordings, I wrote about the benefits of recording yourself during your practice. Have you tried it so far? How is it working for you? For me, it has really become part of my daily practice. Not that I record myself every day (!) but it has become one of the tools I like to use to practice. Like I use a tuner to control the pitch, a metronome to control the tempo and rhythm, I record myself to check how I sound. Or just to do a run-through.
In addition to my previous post, I’d like to add here a few tips to go further.
Continue reading Recording yourself
Good resolutions… 5 months later…
How are you doing with the good resolutions you decided to take in January? Did you manage to implement them in your life, are you still trying to do so of did you give up and postpone them for next year? My good resolutions were inspired by 12 zen rules. I can apply some of them regularly in my shakuhachi practice (see post) but for others, I’m still trying to find ways to apply them in my daily life too. Since I’m back from Japan, I’m particularly working on “#4 – Do less“, with the help of “#11 – Think about what is necessary“. Shakuhachi speaking, they are also very interesting. Continue reading Do less
Shakuhachi is often unpredictable in the beginning. Some days are better than others. In the same practice session, you have good moments and a few minutes later, you cannot make any sound anymore. It can be frustrating. Although there is no chance involved there, but a combination of subtle factors you will learn to master better and better with your practice. Concentrating on the mouth, lips, head position is necessary, but not sufficient. When you play shakuhachi, your entire body gets involved. The flute should become a part of your body. The sound you make comes from deep under in your belly, not only from your mouth and lips. It starts with your inhalation. So a good body posture is an important factor one shouldn’t underestimate, especially in the beginning. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you practice:
Continue reading Basic body posture
Last weekend, I gave two workshops about blowing together, which is an important part of our practice in the Hijiri-ryū.
Blowing together means learning to listen to yourself and to the others at the same time. It isn’t always easy to hear your own sound among all the other sounds, but you’ll notice that the sensation of your own vibration will increase, and a new “internal ear” will be activated. It’s a matter of letting go of yourself to join the breath and sound of the others, and find your own voice inside the group.
The shakuhachi is very challenging on this aspect because it is mainly played solo, or with strings instruments (koto / shamisen) which have a more stable intonation. The fluctuations of the shakuhachi and the stability of the strings complement one another. In a group of shakuhachi, the first difficulty when you play with others is the stability of your own sound, and then, your capacity of embouchure control and adaptation to the “common pitch”. The common point of all players is the breath. Blowing together, even if the lengths of breath are different, becomes a way of supporting each other. It asks concentration to find the right balance in the group, but gives so much energy back. And the best reward is the music you can share.
Continue reading Blowing together
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.
Continue reading Ups and downs
A quick post in addition to my previous one, Music recordings.
I’ve been quite busy this week recording myself and listening back… and you? What I notice, and noticed already before, is that the more you record yourself, the less you have surprises when you listen back. Sounds logical. I like to see the shakuhachi as a mirror of yourself, of your inner self. How you are doing, feeling: stressed, tired, excited, quiet, happy… But also on an external aspect, listening back to yourself is like looking at your image in a mirror. If you are really concentrated and listening to yourself when you record, you shouldn’t be too much surprised of the outcome. How carefully are you listening to yourself when you play? How carefully are you listening to your breathing and your silences, which are also part of your music?
Learning is listening. Teaching is listening.
This is what I recorded yesterday. Just for sharing, I’m still working on this piece (Ifu-Saji). Recording myself (and learning by heart) helps me a great deal to go deeper in the piece. Feel free to give constructive feedback.
A blog about shakuhachi without music wouldn’t be complete. As I haven’t recorded any shakuhachi cd yet (I did record with other flutes in some cd for children though), the recordings I put on this blog/ website are my own amateur practice recordings, my apologies for the quality. You will find them in the Music section, or in the Repertoire. These are the same pages, only the classification differs: alphabetic order in Music, style order in Repertoire. I’ll be adding new music and updating these pages regularly in the coming months, but they are no posts. That means that the updates won’t appear on the blog page. So check them out regularly!
Continue reading Music recordings
In my post “Good resolutions“, I said I was applying some of these zen-rules to my shakuhachi practice. Here is how I (try to) do it.
Continue reading Zen rules applied to shakuhachi
“If you have only five minutes in your day to practice your shakuhachi, play RO” (Fukuda Teruhisa).
Otsu-no-RO is the lowest note on the shakuhachi, all holes are closed. Practicing RO is very good your for your breath and embouchure control, and also to concentrate on the way you hold your flute. It’s a good exercise to be aware of the tensions of your body and try to remove them, and find the just balance between relaxation and keeping the proper shape of the sound. It is recommended to blow RO at least 5 minutes, up to 10 minutes. Longer is of course possible, as long as you stay concentrated and don’t cramp. Blowing Kan-no-RO is also an interesting alternative I’ll develop later.
I found a few months ago on the website of Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos some very interesting variations to the practice of RO-buki. They give the possibility to train a large range of sounds while practicing only one tone… a shakuhachi achievement… Here are his tips, combining blowing and dynamics training: Continue reading Ro-buki
Meditation with shakuhachi is different than practicing or performing. There is no artistic goal. It is full concentration and full acceptation, without judgement. I have a few standard exercises to get started, and, depending on the days, I like to experiment and try new things. I generally put on a timer and decide how long I’m going to practice.
Continue reading Daily meditation with the shakuhachi