6 good reasons to learn shakuhachi
1. It’s a very special instrument: its sounds is unique and will open a new world for you. Playing it makes you feel special.
2. It’s a deep breathing training: breathing is relaxing and essential for your health. It will help you find a quiet moment in your day to breath.
3. It’s a challenging instrument:
- physically: to get a sound, to keep it, to get the proper pitch.
- mentally: to go on and don’t give up because it’s more difficult than what you thought. You can do it.
- energetically: it’s a mirror of your energy level, and it will help you to improve it.
- spiritually: you’ll have to let go of your self and accept what is given by the flute. Playing the old traditional music is a spiritual act.
4. It’s a very old tradition, which reaches people deeply.
5. It will improve your concentration in your daily life.
6. It will bring peace in your life. And you’ll be able to share this peace with the people around you by playing it for them.
Whether I’m practicing for myself of for a performance, I always start my practice session with a warming-up. I have different routines and I always start with one of them. I think it’s very important to have a routine to start your practice, something you don’t need to think about, but also something you do regularly and gets you into the concentration needed for your practice. Like a sporter, you need to warm up your muscles and breathing with easy exercises. My students know how much I love long tones and playing long tones with them. Long tones offer a wide range of variations such as dynamics, attacks and sound colours ; you can focus as well on your muscles tensions, body posture and breathing ; you can listen to the silence between the tones and the relationship between tones and silence ; you can also play them to meditate. Like any meditation, it can be short or long. I sometimes spend an hour playing long tones!
When I’m preparing for a performance, I’m more inclined to focus on technical skills that when I’m practicing for myself or for a meditation concert. Here is my routine. Continue reading Warm-up Routines
Since October, I have been playing shakuhachi three times at the Bosweg. I must confess I was a bit nervous the first time after October: would it be so hectic again? But actually, during these three sessions in February, March and May, the patients were very quiet. February was particularly nice, because the nurses were also very enthusiastic. Which was not entirely the case when I went again this week. What happened? Continue reading Playing again at the Bosweg
In January 2018, the new CD of Fukuda Teruhisa has been released. I was waiting for this CD to come out since I heard his concert in November 2015 in Genève (Switzerland) and was totally mesmerised by it. So, of course, this post is not an objective review, but just some personal impressions I’d like to share.
Fukuda Teruhisa is well known for his interpretations of contemporary music. He recorded several CD of it. As for the traditional repertoire, his discography features a solo CD of “Kinko-ryū pieces” and a Sankyoku CD “Music of the Edo period” (trio with koto and shamisen). But this is the first CD where he only plays Koten honkyoku, meaning very old traditional music. Continue reading CD “Japan: Musical Offering” – Fukuda Teruhisa
It took 7 years between the day I first heard shakuhachi on a CD and my first shakuhachi lesson. And then another 8 years before I could make enough space in my life to consistently practice shakuhachi daily. As a flutist, I was of course already practicing regularly my Western flute, but didn’t have much time left for the shakuhachi. And I can assure you that from the moment I eventually had time to practice shakuhachi (almost) daily, it made a huge difference. I know this is quite obvious, but it really works. It’s true for every single music instrument, but it’s really critical for sound quality and intonation for the shakuhachi. In order to make progress, you need to practice regularly, even for short sessions. The shakuhachi is a flute asking you to make your own mouthpiece with your lips and mouth muscles. This is very subtle work, and if you don’t train regularly, you can’t build up properly the strength and endurance needed, neither the right balance between tension and relaxation. Playing shakuhachi is physical and should engage your entire body, like sport.
Maybe this sounds quite demanding, but I’ve seen many people getting disappointed (or even very frustrated) to discover that the shakuhachi was not “a kind of recorder” with which you can immediately and easily get a sound (don’t get me wrong, playing the recorder properly is also not easy, although the sound production is much more easier).
But sometimes, as shakuhachi is a particularly challenging instrument, you can have the feeling you’re not making much progress and it can be difficult to find motivation to carry on practicing. So here are some tips to help you hopefully to establish a daily routine and stick to it.
Continue reading Practicing daily
After the Christmas holidays, when I went back to the dementia care house where I monthly play shakuhachi for the patients, A. told me that the departments had been closed for almost a month because of the Norovirus. Most of the patients were still weak and laid in bed. We had a relatively short session, nice though. I especially remember playing for P., a cheerful man who used to play piano and loves listening to music. He couldn’t get enough of it. One of the women was also very happy we came. It was as if she remembered me from the previous visit in November because she was immediately more receptive to the music. I find it so touching when the patients, although weak, strengthless or having trouble to control their movements, do their best to express their pleasure with giving me an applaus. I love to see a smile on their faces or in their eyes.
Continue reading Light and shadow
I wish you a healthy, peaceful, musical and happy New Year!
A new year has started, with new challenges and new resolutions. Last year, my good resolutions were to follow 12 zen rules and apply them to shakuhachi. I kept this in mind throughout the year, and started gradually a more consistent practice of meditation. This leads me to my good resolution of this year: be a better person. I believe that everyone can contribute to make this world better starting with oneself, and I’m trying to improve my share. I have been learning a lot since I’m meditating on a daily basis and it has been deepening my shakuhachi practice. Although I’m still a beginner, I’d like to share with you how meditation helps me to become a better shakuhachi player.
Continue reading Shakuhachi & Meditation
I can’t believe it’s already one year I’ve been writing this blog. When I started it, I had no idea I would like it so much. I didn’t have much expectations, just wanted to try and see. One year later, I’d like to thank all my readers for their support, nice comments, reading, listening. If you like my music and stories, please don’t hesitate to follow me by entering your e-mail address on the website. You’ll receive my posts as soon as they are published. Please also check regularly the pages, I post new music there from time to time.
Keep on reading, I have a little surprise for you today…
Continue reading One year!
In most of my visits to the dementia care house, I notice how the condition of the patients has deteriorated. Their illness can’t be cured and it can only go worse and worse. As I play in less departments since last year, I see the same patients more often. And I notice that writing this blog helps me to better remember them and what happened during my visits. After my last visit last week, I was very happy but couldn’t say why. Wait a minute, it’s because something very special happened: improvement!
Continue reading Great feelings
It has been some time since my last visit to the old people with dementia, which was on the 17th of October. I didn’t think it would take me so long to write a post about this particular day. In the morning, I had just posted my previous post about Practicing Kokū and was planning to write this one quite rapidly afterwards. But life had other plans. Continue reading Beyond Borders
Kokū is considered one of the oldest compositions for shakuhachi, one of the three fundamental pieces together with Kyorei and Mukaiji.
Koku means “Empty Space,” or “Empty Sky,” (“Ko,” “empty”, and “Ku” “space”, or “sky”.)
There are many legends about this piece, and many different versions. Some versions are based on the story of the “Bell Ringing in an Empty Sky”. It refers to the death of the monk Fuke and his disappearance from his coffin. Only remains the sound of his bell coming from the empty sky. Other legends say that this piece has been composed in the 12th century by the monk Kyochiku, who heard this melody in a mystical dream. With the mist blocking the moon, it looked like the sound of the flute was coming from an empty sky.
Koku has a flavor of infinite mist and echoes. It is said that playing this piece helps one explore the boundaries of “mu” or nothingness, transcending reifications, the artificial cognitive boxes into which we place objects, situations and emotions.
Source: The International Shakuhachi Society
Continue reading Practicing Kokū 虚空