Mujitsu and Tairaku's Shakuhachi BBQ

World Shakuhachi Discussion / Go to Live Shakuhachi Chat

You are not logged in.


Tube of delight!

#1 2006-09-28 16:35:37

thegreenman
Member
Registered: 2006-09-24
Posts: 6

question on length of sustained breath.

As I am only a few days practicing, I wonder, how long I should be able to sustain a breath/note? 

I think I am using too much wind to sound my Shaku. My sustained notes/breaths are only a few seconds long, and it seems they should be much longer and I should be using less air to play.

Offline

 

#2 2006-09-28 22:26:18

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

Re: question on length of sustained breath.

Do not expect too much, too soon.

I recommend concentrating your efforts on getting as good a sound as you can; the breath control takes awhile and will follow in due time.

As your sound improves, so does the efficiency of your embouchure--then you'll be able to blow longer tones.

First things first...

eB


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

Offline

 

#3 2006-09-28 23:35:27

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

Re: question on length of sustained breath.

A professional shakuhachi player should be able to play ha for about 60 seconds. A note like otsu ro for about 35-40 seconds is pretty good. This also depends somewhat on the flute. But as Edo san said, this takes time and will take care of itself in the end. This is one of the best reasons to study and practice shakuhachi, lengthening the outbreath is a very healthy thing. In fact Watazumi thought it was the most important thing in life.


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

Offline

 

#4 2006-09-29 03:42:17

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

Re: question on length of sustained breath.

Hell! 35 to 40 seconds otsu ro! That's a challenge!

Then I guess a good way to measure your progress would be to keep a track on how long you can sustain that ro (keeping pitch and volume even, right?).

Well, good tip, but it's funny how sometimes the more you know about something the more ignorant you feel


"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

Offline

 

#5 2006-09-29 15:49:41

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

Re: question on length of sustained breath.

If you make your practice session thirty minutes, you may find that you are blowing longer as the session progresses, this can be encouraging. Then after a few months you may notice that your overall breathing has changed and longer breaths come more easily.
However, I always find that I need to 'warm up' my body by blowing for five to ten minutes. Regular practice, that is 'every day', and even twice a day morning and evening, will enable you to progress.

But don't just pay attention to the 'out-breath', also pay attention to the 'in-breath'.

Kel.     


Kia Kaha !

Offline

 

#6 2006-09-30 22:12:55

thegreenman
Member
Registered: 2006-09-24
Posts: 6

Re: question on length of sustained breath.

Thanks for all the information everyone.  I don't expect to be able to do much soon, just want to have some kind of future target to aim for.

Offline

 

#7 2006-12-09 13:23:08

talleyrand06
Member
Registered: 2006-12-09
Posts: 3

Re: question on length of sustained breath.

I started 2 or 3 days ago and I too can hold a note for 3, maybe four seconds.  Sometimes, I can hit the note perfectly and play for 7 or 8 seconds.  But then I listen to recordings and each note seems to be about 10 seconds in length, which I certainly cannot do yet.  I guess it's all about breathing control and precision in your embouchure.

Offline

 

#8 2006-12-09 21:21:53

amokrun
Member
From: Finland
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 413

Re: question on length of sustained breath.

talleyrand06 wrote:

I started 2 or 3 days ago and I too can hold a note for 3, maybe four seconds.  Sometimes, I can hit the note perfectly and play for 7 or 8 seconds.  But then I listen to recordings and each note seems to be about 10 seconds in length, which I certainly cannot do yet.  I guess it's all about breathing control and precision in your embouchure.

In the case of beginners, the common mistake is having your lips too wide open. As a result, you blow out more air than you need. The lip opening is very narrow and seems to always surprise people when they try it. You can try to narrow it by first closing your lips completely and then gently blowing out. Only open your lips enough that the air actually flows out. That is much closer to the opening you want to develop.

Although I have only been playing for a year, I can tell you that the development you'll see during the first months is amazing. At first you can't really play at all. You blow a note, typically use a lot of strength to push the air and then run out of air instantly. Soon enough you'll learn to blow gently instead of trying to force the air. For me the difference was that once I was no longer afraid that the sound would not come out, I learned to blow more softly. Early on you always worry that nothing will happen and thus you tend to blow like crazy with no real gains.

If you feel like asking beginner questions from another beginner, drop me an e-mail.

Offline

 

#9 2006-12-10 14:23:27

talleyrand06
Member
Registered: 2006-12-09
Posts: 3

Re: question on length of sustained breath.

great advice amok, i'll try that.  I've watched my embouchure in the mirror and i definitely have a lot of air moving, probably too much.

Offline

 

#10 2006-12-10 18:40:57

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

Re: question on length of sustained breath.

A good rule of thumb, for starters:

   The opening should be the size of a cooked grain of Orzo--like an oversize, slightly elongated grain of rice.

[Although I have seen great players with embouchure openings vastly different from this. Hatama-sensei, in Yokoyama's outfit,
Kokusai Shakuhachi Kenshukan, has quite a large, asymetrical shape to his embouchure. Wonderful player.]

Last edited by edosan (2006-12-10 18:45:04)


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

Offline

 

#11 2006-12-10 22:04:51

Yungflutes
Flutemaker/Performer
From: New York City
Registered: 2005-10-08
Posts: 1061
Website

Re: question on length of sustained breath.

thegreenman wrote:

As I am only a few days practicing, I wonder, how long I should be able to sustain a breath/note? 

I think I am using too much wind to sound my Shaku. My sustained notes/breaths are only a few seconds long, and it seems they should be much longer and I should be using less air to play.

Hi, welcome to the wonderful world of the shakuhachi.
A good embouchure will solve most of your problem. But as we all know, that comes with lots of practice. One thing to know is that it doesn't take much effort to produce a nice sound. You almost just have to exhale and it'll come. With that in mind, the more air you can hold in your lungs, the longer you'll be able to exhale. I try to fill my stomach, chest and throat with air during the inhalations.
Enjoy the deep breathing.
Namaste, Perry


"A hot dog is not an animal." - Jet Yung

My Blog/Website on the art of shakuhachi...and parenting.
How to make an Urban Shakuhachi (PVC)

Offline

 

#12 2006-12-11 01:48:35

amokrun
Member
From: Finland
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 413

Re: question on length of sustained breath.

talleyrand06 wrote:

great advice amok, i'll try that.  I've watched my embouchure in the mirror and i definitely have a lot of air moving, probably too much.

My lip opening is still perhaps too wide compared to "optimal", whatever that is. I found it to be a good idea to work on it one step at a time. Even if your lip opening isn't perfect, you can always improve it slightly after you play for a while more. At least for me it didn't work out so well to just jump to the "right" way instantly and play like that. In fact, I could not play at all! Then again, now I'm almost back to that shape through constant practice. It seems that you tend to automatically correct the lip position over time as your muscles develop. In my case, I live with some flaws until they start to slow my progress down. Don't expect to hear the "right" solution and go with that right away. Unfortunately it doesn't work like that.

There is another issue that I'd like to mention. I've been dealing with this one for a while now and I think I now have a good idea of what is going on. I play two flutes, one normal size and one a bit larger. With the small flute, I find that I need to "push" harder to get a sound. The large flute responds to very gentle blowing almost immediately. Because of this, I almost automatically blow a bit harder than I need to when playing with the small flute because I'm afraid that less strength would not produce a sound.

Some testing gave me the impression that a smaller flute is more picky about things. Say, if you hold it in a wrong angle, you end up having to blow considerably harder. In the optimal position things get much easier and you don't need to use any force to get anything done. As a beginner, though, it's pretty hard to find the optimal position - let alone any position at all that works!

How this all translates to your case (sorry, I'm a long-winded writer)? Chances are that you are holding the flute somewhat incorrectly. This means that you need to blow harder than is really necessary. When you go for it and blow strongly, you end up using all your air almost instantly. It's usually very hard to even pull out more air from your lungs because the muscles that push the air forward are blocking the way and not responding. The difference is easy to try without a flute. Just blow as hard as you can with your mouth open. You'll end up choking almost instantly and can't breath more unless you stop blowing. On the other hand, if you just gently let the air move out of your mouth, you should be able to easily keep doing it for a long time.

See if you can adjust the angle and position of the flute. I found it helpful to move the blowing edge closer to your lip opening at first. That way you can play more easily and correctly. Once you get the hang of it, you can start to move the flute further away from the lips.

Offline

 

#13 2006-12-11 03:27:25

JF Lagrost
Shihan/Tozan Ryu
From: Paris (France)
Registered: 2006-10-19
Posts: 73
Website

Re: question on length of sustained breath.

talleyrand06 wrote:

I started 2 or 3 days ago and I too can hold a note for 3, maybe four seconds.  Sometimes, I can hit the note perfectly and play for 7 or 8 seconds.  But then I listen to recordings and each note seems to be about 10 seconds in length, which I certainly cannot do yet.  I guess it's all about breathing control and precision in your embouchure.

Holding a note for 4 seconds after only 3 days of practice, if your note is well tuned, it's very good ! A good embouchure comes with a long practice. It might help you to play long notes, both in ostsu and kan registers, and try to diminish while keeping the note well tuned (and in the good register if you play kan). This is a very efficacious exercise for the embouchure and the breath, but quite difficult for a beginner.

Offline

 

#14 2006-12-30 09:04:28

radi0gnome
Member
From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
Website

Re: question on length of sustained breath.

Tairaku wrote:

A professional shakuhachi player should be able to play ha for about 60 seconds. A note like otsu ro for about 35-40 seconds is pretty good.

Ummm... is that 60 seconds just a straight breath or circular breathing? I only found one reference online to a shakuhachi player using circular breathing, but next to didjeridoo shakuhachi is the easiest instrument I found so far to circular breath into. Keeping the tone the same throughout is a challenge, but it can be done. I'm not suggesting that it's trick, I can see 60 seconds for some of the higher notes and 40 seconds for the lowest note being possible with straight breath for a very good player. But it's just so darn easy to circular breath into these things I'm surprised I haven't read more about it.

In case anyone is wondering about my background, I'm 50, started playing regular silver flute when I was 16, played some sax along the way, was introduced to shakuhachi by Robert Dick in 1980 but  didn't start playing around with them until about '93 or so, and that was with what the people on this forum call a shakuhachi-like instrument made by Zachiah Blackburn for his Sunreed Instruments business. Also along the way I learned baroque flute for English Country dance music, tried my hand at Irish stuff on a keyless flute and whistles, played a lot with didjeridoos (learn some with these and you'll be trying to circular breath into everything, and no, you don't have to puff your cheeks), fooled around with both Turkish and Persian neys, and took 4 years of voice lessons with a lot of practice afterward. I recently picked up the Sunreed shakuhachi again and decided to get a real Japanese model complete with cracks. That's how I got to this forum.

BTW, to the beginner who started this thread, 3 to 4 seconds after only 3 days of playing with any flute is really good.         

Charlie


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

Offline

 

#15 2006-12-30 11:34:25

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

Re: question on length of sustained breath.

radi0gnome wrote:

Tairaku wrote:

A professional shakuhachi player should be able to play ha for about 60 seconds. A note like otsu ro for about 35-40 seconds is pretty good.

Ummm... is that 60 seconds just a straight breath or circular breathing? I only found one reference online to a shakuhachi player using circular breathing, but next to didjeridoo shakuhachi is the easiest instrument I found so far to circular breath into. Keeping the tone the same throughout is a challenge, but it can be done. I'm not suggesting that it's trick, I can see 60 seconds for some of the higher notes and 40 seconds for the lowest note being possible with straight breath for a very good player. But it's just so darn easy to circular breath into these things I'm surprised I haven't read more about it.

Straight breath. I'm surprised to hear you say how easy it is to circular breathe on shakuhachi. I played didgeridoo before shakuhachi, so I can circular breathe, but I think shakuhachi is more difficult (to get a musically useful sound) than sax, trombone, oboe, or other similar instruments because there is no back pressure.

One of the best reasons to circular breathe is to annoy people. An ice cream truck parked in front of my apartment in Brooklyn and played the same stupid song repeatedly. I asked him to move on but he refused. So I said, "You like to blast music, so do I". I got my soprano sax and did demented circular breathing until he realized he wasn't going to sell much ice cream with a lunatic doing that next to his truck. After that he never parked there.


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

Offline

 

#16 2006-12-30 14:31:58

amokrun
Member
From: Finland
Registered: 2006-08-08
Posts: 413

Re: question on length of sustained breath.

radi0gnome wrote:

But it's just so darn easy to circular breath into these things I'm surprised I haven't read more about it.

Since I'm rather curious, could you give a short and simple explanation on how circular breathing works in general, especially as far as shakuhachi is concerned? I have always been somewhat curious but never really talked to anyone who could do it. I'm not really planning on actually learning to do it, at least not for useful playing. Given, it could be a nice trick to show to someone. Still, I would like to know what the "trick" is, even if just to understand a little bit more. Please take into account that I have no experience (well, almost none anyway) with instruments other than shakuhachi. Thus, you may explain it as if you were talking to an idiot. :-)

Thank you for bringing this topic up. I've been planning to bring it up at some point but you beat me to it.

Offline

 

#17 2006-12-30 17:07:11

JF Lagrost
Shihan/Tozan Ryu
From: Paris (France)
Registered: 2006-10-19
Posts: 73
Website

Re: question on length of sustained breath.

Tairaku wrote:

but I think shakuhachi is more difficult (to get a musically useful sound) than sax, trombone, oboe, or other similar instruments because there is no back pressure.

I agree with this.

amokrun wrote:

could you give a short and simple explanation on how circular breathing works in general

The technique consists of inhaling through the nose while expelling the air contained in the mouth by pressure of the tongue or contraction of the cheeks. One must put enough pressure behind the air thus expelled so as to avoid firstly, any tone change and secondly any interruption of the sound when blowing normally again after having filled the lungs. It's funny to practice, can be useful for contemporary music, but I never do it in traditional shakuhachi pieces (I mean it cannot substitute for a good breathing method).

Offline

 

#18 2006-12-30 20:32:51

radi0gnome
Member
From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
Website

Re: question on length of sustained breath.

Tairaku wrote:

Straight breath. I'm surprised to hear you say how easy it is to circular breathe on shakuhachi. I played didgeridoo before shakuhachi, so I can circular breathe, but I think shakuhachi is more difficult (to get a musically useful sound) than sax, trombone, oboe, or other similar instruments because there is no back pressure.

Since I had stopped playing the sax before and during the years I learned circular breathing with the didgeridoo, I had thought sax should be easy to circular breath with because of backpressure too... until  tried it. At first I chalked it up to  my sax embouchure being out of shape, which it was, but even though it's in pretty decent shape now there are only a handful of notes that I can get it working halfway decently on. It's interesting that later on you mention soprano sax. Isn't that the kind Kenny G. got in the Guiness book of world records for circular breathing? Maybe it's easier on soprano sax. I've only tried on tenor.

I'm thinking that the reason circular breathing is relatively easy on shakuhachi is because it takes such little wind to get a sound, so the small amount of air that's shoved out with the tongue is enough to keep the sound going. When I said shakuhachi was the easiest instrument to circular breath with next to didjeridoo, I was forgetting Balinese suling. That's a flute type of instrument with very little back pressure too, is easy to circular breath with, and is traditionally played with circular breathing.       

Tairaku wrote:

One of the best reasons to circular breathe is to annoy people.

If you didn't say "one" of the reasons, I'd blatently disagree on this point. Sometimes it can be very desirable to keep a sound going indefinitely. However, I think some clarification is needed here. I'm not circular breathing with the shakuhachi to keep the sound going indefinitely. I'm using it to tack another 5, 10, or maybe even 20 seconds onto an improvised phrase. The breath isn't always seamless, but I don't find that a drawback. If I do find myself not liking the little glitch noise from the breath because of carrying the phrase too long and getting too many of them, it's not too difficult to coordinate moving to a new note on the breath and making it sound like an articulation.


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

Offline

 

Board footer

Powered by PunBB
© Copyright 2002–2005 Rickard Andersson

Google