The shakuhachi is a Japanese end-blown flute held vertically just like a recorder. It is traditionally made of bamboo, but it can now be made of wood and plastic. Shakuhachi literally translates to “one foot eight,” which is the standard length of the instrument. It is also available in different sizes--from 1.3 shaku up to 3.3 shaku--but its name remains the same. The longer it is, the lower the tone it creates.
The shakuhachi was widely used by the monks in the Fuke sect of Zen Buddhism to practice the blowing meditation called suizen. It produces a soulful sound that made it popular in Western pop music of the 1980s. The shakuhachi is commonly used in ensemble music along with the biwa, koto, and shamisen, jazz, folk, and types of modern music.
Types of Shakuhachis
Kinds of Shakuhachis include the following:
The bamboo shakuhachi is the traditional shakuhachi.
It is made from the root end of a bamboo clum.
It is a very versatile instrument.
It can change its pitch by partially covering the holes or varying the blowing angle.
It takes a lot of time, skill, and quality materials to produce a bamboo shakuhachi.
It cannot be mass-produced because the craftsman needs to find the correct bore shape for each flute to correct the overall pitch of the notes.
A plastic shakuhachi can be mass produced.
It is affordable and durable.
It is usually made from a PVC material.
It is almost impervious to cold and heat.
A wood shakuhachi costs less than a bamboo but more than a plastic shakuhachi.
Choosing Shakuhachis (Buying tips)
Custom made: Choose a custom made shakuhachi to suit your individual playing style, especially if you want a long flute with offset finger holes.
Materials used: Choose a bamboo shakuhachi to get the best tonal quality and aesthetics.