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I am a bit concern about something and I thougt I'd better ask.
See, when I practice Shakuhachi I get a mark on my lips which I guess shows that the Shakuhachi is not "resting as a feather" on my chin, as I have read it should. I try to place it more gently but when I try to blow it proves imposible to obtain a consistent note, either it fainst very quickly or more often than not jumps to the higher octave. When I play in my "normal" way, i.e. pressing the Shakuhachi a bit more against my mouth (hence the mark) I have no problem getting the notes and moving, almost always, at will between one octave and the other (I can even get a third one lately on certain notes!).
My question is, should I forget about my progress so far and try to place the Shakuhcahi more gently even it if it means to go back to struggling to get consistent notes? Is this something that is going to help my future playing? I wonder if making the Shakuhachi "rest as a feather" is something you should start thinking about once you have reached a certain level (and you have develop more strong blowing capacity for example) or is something you should always try even being a begginer. I guess making the Shakuhcachi rest more gently must affect the way it resonates and hence it must affect the tone, the colour, everything, but is it something I have to be worrying about now (I've been playing a bit less than a year now) or is better to forget about it, keep playing and wait to be a bit more proficient on other fronts?
Thanks to all for your time
I press the flute into my chine when I get too into it, but it's pretty rare these days. I had a goatee last year, and it was getting in the way of playing: I realized later that it was because of how hard I'd been pressing. I saw pics of all kinds of bearded players, so I thought that I might just be pressing too hard. I started working on it, and it only took me a day or so to figure it out. It can be frustrating at first, because it seems like you're losing pressure from all the air that "must be" escaping from the chin area, but you've just got to learn that the mouth piece doens't require that tight of a seal. On my flutes, the ikegashi (the back part of the blowhole) is left intact, and it seems to make it easier to go lightly on the chin without worrying about blocking it so much. It kind of does the work for you.
So now, I rarely press into my chin that hard, and I have more "room" to play around with, now that the flute isn't pressing so deep. It just took me a little while, and I also upgraded from my old crappy handmades, and that made a difference. The fact that the flutes I use now are thicker-walled, PLUS the ikegashi, also helps with chin comfort. I can press a little from time to time without it digging in.
What kind of flute are you using? Does it have an Ikegashi?
I'm in no way a pro, but I thought I might offer this sudjestion.You might have seen this site before but I thought I'd offer it anyway.
This site has helped me many times,it offers great sudjestions for aiding in problems like the one you're asking about.There are alot of tips for beginers and for more advanced players.The one thing I found that was easy for me to do,was to get to far ahead of myself and try sertain things that were beyond where I was at.But takin in stride this site is incredably helpful.
Last edited by jeff jones (2006-02-28 21:34:21)
Ed, I'm not sure about the ikegashi in my flute. I have a student flute that is not even bamboo but thanks for sharing your experience with me. I guess I have to try harder to not press the flute so much against me. I think the problem so far is that when I try to reduce the presure the difference in sound and control is so great that I thought it was going to take me ages to get used to it (I pistured myself going back to those hours blowing and not getting a sound! - a bit dramatic on my side!), but now I know someone has gone through the same experience and it was not that dificult so it really encourages me to be a bit more persistent. Thanks a lot for your reply.
Jeff, I did know about that site and I agree is wonderful. It has helped me a lot with my development from the very start, it really is a wonderful source of knowledge. But something I had almost forgot and that your reminded me is that in order to progress I have to push the limits, or as you say, try things that are beyond our reach. I experienced that when I went to lessons for a couple of months; many times while I was playing I thought "this guy is crazy, I cannot keep up with that pace" but then I realised that after a class struggling to keep up with things I thought were to advanced for me I could go back to more easy things (what I considered my level) and discover that I could play them better, with less mistakes and problems. So I guess it's really important to look ahead, thanks for reminding me!
Thanks again to you both
Regarding the pressure of the flute against the chin, consider this:
When you increase the pressure of the flute into the meaty area under your lip, the utaguchi (blowing edge) becomes closer to the airstream that's emerging from your lips (embouchure). If you are still developing your embouchure, it will naturally be less focused--getting the blowing edge closer in will make it easier to control your sound production. Please note that I am NOT advocating this practice, just pointing out the mechanics; to get control of things and also have the power and flexibility in the shakuhachi, you DO need to develop your embouchure--there's no shortcut to this.
Also: When you push the flute into your chin, you are DEcreasing the size of the opening between your embouchure and the blowing edge (ie, decreasing the size of that 'sixth hole'...), and the pitch will go flat. This effect can be very useful in producing subtle pitch changes, and becomes automatic with experience and practice. Try it.
Edosan, you're right, I forgot about how the sound's focus changes with pressure. Sometimes I'll press harder to close off the sixth hole to get a kind of "Shinai" sound, a little, squeaky, "indian" type of sound. It's not terribly useful, just fun.
So, yeah...pulling back would be helpful in getting a better sound in that way. Good call, Edosan.
Thanks for the tip Ed, I guess that's exactly my problem, as I'm still developing a good embrochure I need to have the flute closer in order to make a consistent sound, it makes all the sense in the world. Hence, that's why I get such an airy sound when I rest the flute more gently on my chin, as the air is scaping in every direction; losing pressure as Ed before mentioned. I sure have to take that into consideration when I try to correct that and try to develop a stronger and more focused airstream. Mechanics..., sometimes I forget that to get a sound in a Shakuhachi is about directing an airstream towards the utaguchi..., the stronger and the more focused the airstream, the bigger the sound would be, isn't it?
Thanks so much
I just wanted to clarify what I meant by saying " I found that it was easy for me to do,was to get too far ahead of myself and try certain things that were beyond where I was at." I meant, by going too far ahead of myself and trying some things I was not ready for, actually slowed me down and confused matters. It was easy to get caught up in that.There is a section on flute placement and also one on lip function that I was actualy thinking of when I wrote that.I guess I should have specified that.But if it works for you,more power.
The more I think about it I'll stay out of this section and leave it to the qualified individuals.
Last edited by jeff jones (2006-03-02 03:44:13)
I guess it's my fault that I tend to understand what suits me best! (well, I supose many people do). Actually I don't try to rush things if that's what you men by getting "far ahead" but I think is important to push them a little but more in terms of physics than on technique. For example, I only practice two pieces, Sakura and Chidorri no Kyoku and I play them as basic as I can, just focusing on pitch and sound production (I don't even try vibrato or other fancy stuff as I think they would just distract me from the basics). But what I do is try hard to blow through demanding phrases, that I really have to struggle with so I develop more strength and control. That's what I meant by pushing things.
Thanks for your input even you don't consider yourself a pro, it really helps. Anyway, I think the pros might be too busy blowing!
Salud para todos!
Re: holding the shakuhachi:
The whole idea is that the body is relaxed -- no gripping, no pushing. When confronted with something difficult, we all tend to tighten up in our own particular ways. Some grip the flute tightly, some push it hard against the chin, etc. Learning shakuhachi is a process of releasing tensions, and yes, I think the flute should feel very light against the chin.
It is of course easier to get a defined sound with the flute pressed hard against the chin and/or the head in a somewhat meri position, but to what purpose? The pitch will be flat, you will have less room to meri notes effectively, and the tone color will lack the shakuhachi's distinctive beauty that only comes from a relaxed body and a kari position. "Good" sound should follow or proceed from kata, not the other way around.
If you are working on these issues without having a teacher in person, I would recommend checking your pitch very carefully to make sure it's high enough -- even if the sound is a bit airy and hairy at first.
Posture and how you hold the flute to your body is everything. All other techniques come out of this. If you grip too hard with your hands or place the flute too hard into your chin, it is virtually impossible to get a good sound and to have other techniques develop. I am contantly stressing this point to my beginner students! At all times, if you find yourself holding too tightly or pushing too hard against your chin, stop for a moment, regroup, perhaps stretch a bit and then come back to it refreshed. Always consider your posture and how you connect yourself to the instrument. This is absolutely necessary to develop findamental basic tecniques on this instrument.
Any decent teacher should be working and stressing this to their students from day one...
I still have red marks on my chin when I have played - although I have played for 16 years and play daily 3-4 hours. I don't think I grip on the flute nor do I think I press it against my chin in particular. I think I have a tendency to mark very quickly... So, I am not so worried about it. Just be conscious about your posture and all the good advices you have already got here and notice whether you do press the flute against your chin or not. Perhaps you, like me, get marks easily. I do notice, though, if I am practicing a very difficult contemporary piece, I tend to press aginst my chin and I just try to think about it and relax. So, it surely is a 'normal' reaction to tense when you do something new. I also get more marks when I play the big flutes I rest on the floor as I - kind of - rest my chin on the utaguchi. : )
Concerning pressing the shakuhachi into your lips too hard; if you do this unconsciuosly then you will limit yourself tecnique-wise later. To understand this, try pulling the flute slowly away from your lips as you blow and you'll hear the pitch go up. Pull it in tight and you hear the pitch go down. When you're in the regular position you can only pull it into the bone so much. But as you heads nods down to do meri notes, you can begin to pull the flute into your mouth more over the upper lip. This should make the pitch come down drastically and even more so the more the head nods down to do Dai meris. You should be able to get a Dai Meri pitch by pulling the shakuhachi into your lips more when still only in the meri position (chinwise). If you have the flute crambed into your lips already, you won't be able to utilize this technique.