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#1 2006-07-09 11:53:24

Teaman
Member
From: Canada
Registered: 2006-03-16
Posts: 25

Kan technique

Hello all-

I was wondering if a few people wouldn't mind sharing their thoughts on kan technique. It seems that everyone I talk to (teachers included) has a different way of playing in the kan octave. Some say it's a tounge position, some say it's a tightening or a closing of the lips to refine the airstream. At the same time, I always hear that a player should always have only one embouchre, and that relaxation of a facial muscles is the key to playing well in general. While the tight lips do seem to work, I notice the hardness of the tone color and flattening of the notes.

I've read the other threads about kan, and I practice each note going from otsu to kan. "Hi" and all notes above it only seem to work with extremely high air pressure and "vicegrip" lips, so I just thought I'd try and get some ideas as to what other people are practicing. Has anyone had success in just raising their tounge a little to reach kan? Thanks in advance for reading and responding, I know that this is a quite frequently asked topic from beginners.

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#2 2006-07-10 05:27:23

Alex
Member
From: Barcelona - Spain
Registered: 2005-10-17
Posts: 138

Re: Kan technique

Hello Teaman,

I'm no pro (falling more on the begginer category) but as I have little problems with kan I thought I could have a say here.

For me it was very useful what Kaory Kakizakai said somewhere at http://www.kotodama.net/shakuhachi/tips.html

He says " [...] for those who have trouble with the higher octave. One way to produce a high octave note is to increase the speed of the air coming out of your mouth. If you do this by tightening up the muscles around your mouth to decrease the size of your lip opening (particularly the vertical space between your lips), you will end up with a lot of white noise in your sound. To get a smoother sound, try using the image of “blowing lots of air farther, just like trying to blow out a candle beyond arm’s reach".

Hope that helps


"An artist has got to be careful never really to arrive at a place where he thinks he's "at" somewhere. You always have to realise that you are constantly in the state of becoming. And as long as you can stay in that realm, you'll sort of be all right"
Bob Dylan

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#3 2006-07-10 23:26:40

Teaman
Member
From: Canada
Registered: 2006-03-16
Posts: 25

Re: Kan technique

Hi Alex,

Thanks for your reply. I frequent the kotodama.net site quite often.  I've been thinking alot about the analagy you mentioned. I guess I'm trying to reach the mechanic of the technique, trying to figure out what the pros are doing, how they learned, what their senseis told them.

To be perfectly honest, I've asked this question before (outside of this forum), and I was quite hesitant about asking it here due to the flippancy/nonchalance of the replies I get. I just want to practice the basics well and properly. Thanks for your reply, it is most appreciated.

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#4 2006-07-11 01:50:28

edosan
Edomologist
From: Salt Lake City
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 2185

Re: Kan technique

It's an old, old saw; has even become a cliché, but the way you're going to get there is by taking the time, daily, to blow Ro, and here I mean Ro-otsu. This is where the foundation is built for developing your embouchure, your breathing, your consciousness of what you are doing, as well as strength in the upper registers.

Although I enjoy, respect and use Kakizakai-sensei's playing/practicing tips, there are really no little special tricks and techniques to use to get the facility with the Kan register. The tricky thing about shakuhachi, is that, compared to flutes that have a fipple, you are challenged with developing many different elements at the same time, and it's not easy to juggle them all simultaneously. Your mouth IS the fipple, and those embouchure muscles need stamina and tone. You only get that by daily work with Ro-buki, for at least part of your training session. Five minutes is good, ten minutes is better. I've mentioned this elsewhere: If you get the opportunity to touch the embouchure muscles of a developed player, say Riley Lee, it is remarkable how impressive those muscles are--like little ropes.

It's quite analogous to weight-lifting: You won't get there if you don't lift daily, at least a few light 'sets'; other days, some heavy lifting.

If you develop the discipline to do this, it's amazing how well things move along, including power and subtlety in the Kan register.

It's likely that this is what their senseis most often told them...

Last edited by edosan (2006-07-11 01:53:44)


Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?
Bupkes.

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#5 2006-07-11 07:46:41

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3225
Website

Re: Kan technique

edosan wrote:

It's an old, old saw; has even become a cliché, but the way you're going to get there is by taking the time, daily, to blow Ro, and here I mean Ro-otsu. This is where the foundation is built for developing your embouchure, your breathing, your consciousness of what you are doing, as well as strength in the upper registers.

Excellent point Ed. It may seem counterintuitive to develop kan by practicing otsu but that is an important building block of all shakuhachi sound. I spoke with one of Michael Chikuzen Gould's students recently and he said one of Michael's prerequisites for a shihan license is to demonstrate the ability to blow ro continuously for one hour!

Even when practicing kan, long tones are the best way to develop stamina and tone quality.


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#6 2006-07-11 09:15:05

KenC
Member
From: Western Massachusetts
Registered: 2006-01-05
Posts: 75

Re: Kan technique

As a beginner and working on Kan i can attest to Edosan and Triaku's comments.  I've ben playing about 6 months and part of my daily practice is Ro, long tones, buki's.  I definately have noticed that as my longer tones and endurance have improved, my ability to reach higher into Kan has likewise.  Not long ago kan seemed almost a pipedream.  Today on a good night i'll manage to reach Hi, albiet a bit weak.  Part of the fascination of shakuhachi i guess.


Regards,

KenC

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#7 2006-07-12 00:14:01

Teaman
Member
From: Canada
Registered: 2006-03-16
Posts: 25

Re: Kan technique

Thanks guys, for all your comments. It's good to have some reinforcement for my robuki practices. I didn't know that it would have a major effect on kan.

As the notes go up higher and higher, I know that they become harder and harder to sound clearly; what causes this? Is this a pressure or embouchre thing? A flute limitation?

thanks again

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#8 2006-07-12 01:08:38

edosan
Edomologist
From: Salt Lake City
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 2185

Re: Kan technique

It's a pressure/embouchure/experience thing. I don't know your particular flute, but I doubt it's the culprit.

Here's what happens when you perform daily Ro-buki (and this is certainly not all that happens):

• When you hold a sustained note, and keep the pitch constant, as well as the volume, and pay attention to what's happening, you:

   Strengthen the diaphragm and intercostal muscles (essential for proper breathing)

   You can learn to breath from the bottom of the trunk rather than from lifting the upper rib cage

   You create muscle memory for what it takes to sustain a smooth even note (no vibrato, no variation in pitch)--this is no small thing...

   You can attend to proper pitch

   You can attend to proper posture and relaxation of the upper body

   You can pay attention to the effects of varying the inner volume of the mouth

   You develop increased stamina

   You fatigue the many muscles of the embouchure

• Now, there are many other ways to sustain the note: with variation in pitch/vibrato, variation in volume (what Perry calls Sasa-Buki); with Muraiki or with movement to the second octave. But I think the greatest foundation comes from no vibrato, no pitch variation, no variation in volume, as this is the most challenging practice to get right.

This is full plate of things which need to become second-nature.


Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?
Bupkes.

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#9 2006-07-12 09:08:11

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3225
Website

Re: Kan technique

edosan wrote:

But I think the greatest foundation comes from no vibrato, no pitch variation, no variation in volume, as this is the most challenging practice to get right.

Thanks Ed! It's well said.

Indeed one of the biggest problems some players have is an uncontrolled vibrato. My teacher used to call it a "push button vibrato" like on an electronic organ from the 60's. Usually it's a western diaphragm vibrato, especially if they started out on silver flute or some other wind instrument. Another problem is players whose tone swells and emotes uncontrollably during playing. Usually they say its their "passion" or "I can't help myself" when you ask them what's going on. And again a lot of these are habits developed by people before they study with a teacher and then it's hard to lose.

As Ed says it's very important to learn how to blow a straight tone with no variation because that's the starting point. The other techniques need to be brought in judiciously and when notated. Shakuhachi is about breath control and the more control we have the more we are doing shakuhachi.


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#10 2006-07-13 16:03:10

Teaman
Member
From: Canada
Registered: 2006-03-16
Posts: 25

Re: Kan technique

Good points guys.  Ed, I like your use of the "old saw" image. The saw may be old, but it is, after all, the mainstay of a woodworker's shop. It's good to have discussions like this; it's like getting that saw all nice and sharp again.

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#11 2006-09-24 06:17:01

philthefluter
Member
From: Dublin, Ireland
Registered: 2006-06-02
Posts: 190
Website

Re: Kan technique

As a western flute teacher, I use the following method to teach high note technique.

Try to sing ro-otsu to ro-kan change with the syllables oooh- aaaa (long 'a' like alphabeth).  Put your hand on abdomen and feel the change in the muscles around the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. You should feel this same change when changing octave.

Try blowing this change without shakuhachi but against your hand.  You should feel the same 'kick' when you jump up. There should be no increased tension in the throat.

Try to extend this to the shauhachi.  The important thing is not to worry about getting a good high note at first. Your aim is just to recreate the feeling of the previous two exercises.  If the top note cracks, it's actually a good sign as this means you are really close to the ideal sound. Better to crack a note than force it with too much tension in the lips. (there will be a natural change in lip shape due to the increased pressure)

PLEASE NOTE: it is going down that is actually the more difficult!!  Reverse the sound to aaaa-oohhh.  In the long term this needs constant practice.

My teacher's teacher, John Francis advocated this 'relaxed embouchure' technique that uses the diaphragm rather than too much tension in the lips.  This technique is used by many leading flutists, in particular John Francis' most famous pupil, James Galway.  There is more to it than this . Let me know how you get on.


"The bamboo and Zen are One!" Kurosawa Kinko
http://www.shakuhachizen.com/
http://www.myspace.com/shakuhachizen

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#12 2006-09-24 14:53:00

Karmajampa
Member
From: Aotearoa (NZ)
Registered: 2006-02-12
Posts: 574
Website

Re: Kan technique

Edosan wrote......"Now, there are many other ways to sustain the note: with variation in pitch/vibrato, variation in volume (what Perry calls Sasa-Buki); with Muraiki or with movement to the second octave. But I think the greatest foundation comes from no vibrato, no pitch variation, no variation in volume, as this is the most challenging practice to get right."

Interestingly when I play gently a long clean note, there is a pulse in the note that is generated by the pressure effect of my heartbeat.

Kel.    §


Kia Kaha !

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#13 2006-10-02 13:19:35

Kamesan
Member
Registered: 2006-09-28
Posts: 14

Re: Kan technique

edosan wrote:

The tricky thing about shakuhachi, is that, compared to flutes that have a fipple, you are challenged with developing many different elements at the same time, and it's not easy to juggle them all simultaneously. Your mouth IS the fipple, and those embouchure muscles need stamina and tone. You only get that by daily work with Ro-buki, for at least part of your training session.

I'm also an Irish flute and whistle player.  I have so much respect for a great shakuhachi player.  There's just no way around the work.  You have to blow and blow and eventually it starts to happen, and even then it happens here and there.

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#14 2006-10-05 11:29:13

dstone
Member
From: Vancouver, Canada
Registered: 2006-01-11
Posts: 552
Website

Re: Kan technique

Karmajampa wrote:

Interestingly when I play gently a long clean note, there is a pulse in the note that is generated by the pressure effect of my heartbeat.

I've found this, also.  Almost sounds like komi-buki...  so maybe I should go for a brisk run before playing Shingetsu...  wink

-Darren.


When it is rainy, I am in the rain. When it is windy, I am in the wind.  - Mitsuo Aida

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#15 2007-02-02 02:35:35

Ryuzen
Dokyoku (Daishihan); Zensabo
From: Maderia Park, BC, Canada
Registered: 2005-10-08
Posts: 104
Website

Re: Kan technique

At least 10 minutes of RO buki in OTSU is great practice for the beginner or any level of player. The longer the better for sure. It's important that you play as loud as you can, in particular for the jiari flute. (For hocchiku it's not as important to blow big and loud. Quiet and controlled is more fitting.) Developing a strong, expansive OTSU RO will increase your dynamic range considerably. Needless to say it takes quite a long time to develop this sound and requires one to blow in a "kari" sharp fashion where the air is focused more upward and outward rather than downward and into the flute.

As far as reaching the kan register, I also suggest a more focused embouchure and more air pressure, as Alex suggested. For the third octave, it helps to push the flute more into your mouth, closing the gap between the utaguchi and your emboucher, with a more focused airstream. You should be in a slightly meri (flat) position when producing the third octave RO (go no ha-Kinko; PI-Tozan). And less air pressure.

Hope this helps.

Alcvin
www.bamboo-in.com


I live a shakuhachi life.

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#16 2007-02-02 21:23:26

geni
Performer & Teacher
From: Boston MA
Registered: 2005-12-21
Posts: 830
Website

Re: Kan technique

You got all the advice man.

A good thing to practise is overtones. I do that originaly for my western flute, and they help A LOT.

So, I started to do them with the shakuhachi.

First play the root D, and then go up , play all of them. Do some arpegios.

But, the root is the most importand note, its the foundation.
Try to relax the embouchure, practising overtones for a long period tires the lip muscles.

This is what I am practising a lot this days 30-60 min. My piano player noticed a big diference in my sound..i
You dont have to to do it 30 min..start with 5 min. Added to you practise.

Peace
Geni

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