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I'm about to purchase my first shakuhachi and from everything I've read, it seems I can't go wrong with getting a Yuu. Given that, I'm still curious as to what the Yuu's weaknesses or shortcomings are. Thanks!
I own two YUU; musically they are a great buy for the money. They are rugged; a good travel flute. Perhaps the only shortcomming is they are a little heavier then a wood or bamboo 1.8, but this is a minor drawback. I might part with one of these; if you are interested contact me offline: firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm not a pro, but here goes anyway:
The yuu is a fantastic shakuhachi for the price. Please focus your eyes for a moment on the second and not on the first part of the previous sentance.
Considering a truly-solid in-tune shakuhachi bamboo flute will usually cost around $2,000 - the yuu is amazing that it provides the opportunity to play an in-tune instrument at a fraction of the cost.
So why not just stick to a yuu forever?
Firstly, the tone color of a real bamboo flute is far richer than anything the yuu could ever produce. Real bamboo just sounds far more beautiful and robust, especially in the hands of a seasoned performer.
Secondly, to my ears, I can hear the plastic of the yuu. The yuu can hit all the notes, but there is something about the tone color that does have a canned plastic quality. I don't think this is readily apparent to many people, but if you have spent a lot of time listening to shaku music this become very noticeable.
Another shortcoming of the yuu that many westerners may not appreciate: For good reason Japanese place a high value on finely made goods that are the product of the hands of a talented craftsman. Shakuhachi are not just seen as musical instruments but also as works of fine craft in and of themselves. A really beautiful shakuhachi is not just pleasing to the ears but also to the eyes and hands. And each shakuhachi is a unique experience in both sound, appearance and feel. Many players derive tremendous pleasure from learning the unique aspects of a different shakuhachi whose sound is the product of a different maker's approach to crafting shakuhachi. In this sense shakuhachi music is not only a product of the performer but also of the instrument's maker.
The yuu, on the other hand, is a mass produced peice of plastic. It has zero craftsmanship or uniqueness. Every yuu sounds like another yuu.
But, despite all of the above, unless you don't know what to do with your $, the Yuu is a great option for starting out. I do need to say. however, that for a bit more $ you can get a Monty student flute, which I think is worth the extra investment.
Very well said, Seth.
I regularly advise my beginning students to get a Yuu because it's a good beginner's flute and once you graduate to bamboo it's good as a spare or travel flute.
The only thing I might add to what Seth said is that bamboo has healing qualities you can't get from other materials. This might seem metaphysical but I believe it to be true.
I am a beginning student who because of the generosity of a friend is able to play on an excellent Monty Levenson instrument. Taking the advice I have received from my benefactor and also from the forum, I am spending a few minutes each day in breathing and blowing otsu ro's . .. and so it is with certain tongue in cheek I call this flute my ... ' bamboo lover'.
Beyond the mechanical applications of my novice techniques and even outside the limitations of my physical abilities of this 'relationship' .. I am beginning to sense the outlines of a shared landscape. I sense this to be the entry way (tao) ... of a journey that is filling my heart with joy .. a most humble and unexpected joy for sure .. because at 61 years of age the enchantments of falling in love are ... becoming more rare.
I would be grateful if those of you who have experienced the ' healing ' or ' metaphysical ' qualities of their practice might share them. It is a little like the old French 'voyageurs' .. who would alone .. paddle their bark canoes into the wild ... and who would return in the spring to gather with their comrades around the fire sharing their stories and sketching out maps with a stick in the dirt of what may lie beyond.
I very much appreciate the tales I hear here ... and this community of explorers.
What has been said here about the Yuu is specific for the Yuu and is true. Likewise, what is true for the Yuu is true for many starter shakuhachi. Crafting methods which endorse differences instead of standardization goes against western musical theory of the present age. Not so when the shakuhachi was being made by monks in a different time and age with a different way of thinking. The yuu is a good starter flute if you don't mind plastic. Whether bamboo or plastic, once you're beyond that point, seek out advise from a qualified teacher/player WHO HAS AN OBJECTIVE VIEWPOINT and much experience. Not a friend or craftsman.
Michael Chikuzen Gould
Thank you to everyone that took the time to reply to my question.
I just received my Yuu today and I notice that there is a very, very tiny nick on the utaguchi edge. It almost appears that it is a result of the texturing of the material. I'm wondering if this is okay or if I should contact Naljor? Thanks.
Does it affect the sound?
As a absolute beginner starting out on my own, I don't know if the tiny nick affects the sound. I can play sounds on the Yuu.
It will not affect the sound quality.
I was able to take a few close up pics that shows the nick. They aren't the best photos but I think they are sufficient to give you idea what I'm taking about.
See the pics here:
http://picasaweb.google.com/lching59/Yu … Ymspm-Jl2Q
(Click on the pics to make them larger.)
I vote for an exchange. Just for your own peace of mind, get one without a nick. You owe it to yourself.
Again, from your photos; this will not affect the sound. But, I have to agree w/ PSTL; if it bothers you, call Neil at Nailjor; I'm sure he'll replace it......
I contacted Neil. He was very helpful and more than happy to replace the Yuu.
Again, thanks to everyone that responded.
Don't forget there is also "mokkan", wooden shakuhachi that are also very affordable and are fine instruments for the beginner and have been around much longer then the Yuu. Most of my students start on these and keep them as travel flutes for later. As they are wood, they have a warm, organic sound unlike the plastic sound of the Yuu. I have "Mon" maple wood shakuhachi for sale on my site: www.bamboo-in.com/shop/mapleshak.htm if you are interested.
We recently started taking lessons and went with the yuu for Kat based on our teachers recomendation and the wait and expense of bamboo.
We will never part with our yuu because we love to play it in the bathtub, which is not only fun but also helps with learning relaxation and tone.
When the weather warms up, we will be enjoying the yuu on canoe and sailing trips while the bamboo is safe at home.
Looks like my Yuu came out of the same mould as yours. It doesn't seem to be affecting my ability to make a sound.
First, I am not a pro, but rather a novice player. However, I do have the advantage of taking lessons from one of the best players/teachers around, and feel I can comment on your question.
First, the Yuu has strong volume, vs. some other "budget" approaches to starter flutes. It doesn't have quite the same tone or subtlety of a really good bamboo flute, but it probably plays better then many bamboo starter flutes.
It will not likely crack, which is a rather significant benefit.
It does have great value, at the price, when you consider the cost of a good bamboo flute.
I have the Yuu, a maple Zen-On (tweaked by Perry Yung), which is also a good playing flute, but with a little different tone than bamboo. Again, this isn't likley to crack. (So, now I have two flutes that I can likely continue to play, for many years, without fear of cracking.)
I now have 2-1.8 root-end bamboo flutes, both bought used, at a price. One is in excellent condition, and plays well, although softer in voice. The other was not well in tune, had surface crack, and other deficiencies. Perry Yung was able to re-work the flute, and bind it, into a decent playing flute, at a price I could live with. Still, I have about $800. in these 2 flutes, and consider I got bargains at that, but if I hadn't gotten decent prices on these, I would not have them at all. So....you have to consider your budget, and go with what you can afford to invest. Not all shakuhachi players can afford top quality flutes. (At times, I wonder how anyone does!)
I also have a used Monty student flute, that was gifted to me, which is a decent bamboo flute, but I personally don't relate well to it, and it is my least favorite flute to play. It did serve me well for the first year, as a lesson flute however, and I do play it better now, than a few months ago.
I have another 1.9 jinashi flute, which plays nicely, and which feels very good to me, in my hands, that was also gifted to me. I like it very much, but it doesn't work for lessons, so I play it less.
Now I am done with shakuhachi flute buying, until my playing improves to the point where I can justify investing in other lengths. All of my flutes are now decent players, as instruments, and await the improvement of my own playing skills, to make them sound as they should. When I reach that point, then I will consider adding a couple of other lengths, if and when I can find a decent flute at an affordable price.
In the meantime, I enjoy my other types of flutes very much, and if I never master the shakuhachi, then so be it. At least I am making the effort to learn.
I do play my Yuu, on a regular basis, and enjoy it as much as my bamboo flutes, as it is still perhaps the strongest voiced shakuhachi I have.
I am not a pro. I have several very good bamboo flutes, and also I have a wooden Shakuhachi and Yuu.
I have Yuu always in my car no matter where I go, so I can play any time.
The joint crack though when I dropped it on the floor. I was just not careful thinking that nothing could hurt the resin. I was wrong.
However, I used nylon cord and epoxy to wrap around the joint like I would do on a bamboo flute and it seems to be working fine for a couple of years. I keep it in the care disassembled though just in case there is some heat expansion that can hurt the repair.
I am not a pro. I have been learning on my own for several years with a few face-to-face lessons.
I have a Tai Hei root end 1.8 by Monty Levenson, an enchaced (also by Monty) Yuu and several jinashi shakuhachi by Perry Yung and Ken LaCosse in the 1.8-2.2 range.
When I try to learn from CDs, I use the enhanced Yuu or the Tai Hei root end 1.8. Then I know if it is me or the shakuhachi when I match/am unable to match the CD. They are both dead on perfect. I am not.
When I play for myself, I much prefer the jinashi shakuhachi. Their sound is more complex and they vibrate more in my soul.
I played Kyorei for more than 3 hours today on a recently acquired Ken LaCosse Chinese root end 1.8 (somewhere between D and C# but very well in tune with itself) in the courtyard betwen the courthouse and the jail while I waited to testfy in a trial. I love it much more now than when I started. Each jinashi seems like an individual waiting to become a better friend.
I started my studies on a yuu and have been very happy with it, not having to worry about cracking etc and being able to take it on the beach, by the river on a rainy mountain-side without worry.
I now have a bamboo shakuhachi too and, yes, the sound is superior. I also got hold of the enhanced yuu - this is much better than the standard yuu, having been through the workshop of Monty Levenson for work on the bore, improved tuning, lacquer and brass and rattan joint (so it looks nicer too!). It has a much fuller sound than the standard yuu. Look on shakuhachiyuu.com for details.
I take the yuu everywhere with no worries about damage.
I took my Yuu out to the edge of the sea this afternoon. Standing on flat rocks just offshore, I played as the small waves lapped at my feet. Sea turtles swam offshore. The sound of the surf breaking over rocks was nice accompaniment to the sound of the Yuu.
Yes, the Yuu is plastic... but it seems similar to bone. I named my Yuu "Dawa Chü Shel," which is Tibetan, meaning "Moon Water Crystal." This means that I actually relate to it as something divine from another world. Yeah, that's weird, but that's the life of a tantrika!
I bought a Yuu and blew my first notes on a Shakuhachi just forty-three days ago; so my comments are as the most amateur beginner.
I've recently bit the bullet and bought two bamboo flutes (inexpensive, relatively), a 2.3 Bb 'Daily Zen' from Perry Yung, and a Jon Kypros 2.2 Bb root end... I LOVE both of those flutes. The feel and Zen qualities of bamboo are palpable, to me, and make a wonderful difference. That said, the Yuu is soooooo superior in so far as what I can do with it. I think if people knew how well made, and beautiful (to me), the Yuu is, they would certainly start with one, and have one in their car at all times regardless of their ability.
If one is wealthy, great, buy a bunch of bamboo Shakuhachi until you find one that fits you just right and 'feels' right when you play it. If not, the Yuu should be resoundingly recommended (and it does seem to be when reading the testimonials from professionals on the Yuu website).
So, beginners... GET A YUU. I doubt that you would ever want to sell it, regardless of how well you advance in your playing.
Bamboo: expensive, delicate, tuning issues unless VERY expensive, but WONDERFUL for its bamboo qualities (which just might be priceless)..
P.S. I find it interesting, and enlightening, that Perry Yung often mentions this Zen quality of a bamboo flute when selling his less expensive flutes on ebay... I think it is so true though, that they are well worth the price even if you were to just hold them and not play them.
(I love practicing on the bamboo flutes I have, and appreciate what they are, but I am learning the most about how to play the Shakuhachi from the Yuu, since it can take me places the other two flutes can't go (although the bamboo have taught me a lot as well)
That's my two cents on the Yuu.
Bamboo: ...tuning issues unless VERY expensive...
Not so: Perry makes, by any standard, inexpensive flutes which are in tune, so does Mujitsu, so does Monty Levenson. Those I can attest to from personal experience, and I'm sure there are others (Peter Ross is another who comes to mind).