Friday, April 22, 2011


I had another lesson with Michael Gould this week.  He did not introduce any new material in terms of songs, we just worked on tone.  It proved to be a very important lesson in terms of developing my consistency in kan.

One of the most important things that Michael has been emphasizing is that there are many variables that affect tone and pitch.  Many of these are subtle, if not imperceptible. Mechanics such as the angle of the head, position of the jaw, the position of the flute on the chin, and posture take a long time to become "automatic" in terms of muscle memory.  Ultimately, they are not automatic.  Rather, the musician learns to feel their way around and through these variables.  Beyond the mechanical variables, tone can be affected by temperature, time of day, even what you had for supper.  Although there is a mechanical process to learn, it is not a matter of doing X, Y, and Z each time to make sure you get the sound you want.  You set out, knowing the variables (as best you can) and then you work with whatever the moment gives you.

Aikido is very much the same way.  It is a useful martial art for self defence, but if you practice shihonage and then think "okay, when I get attacked, I will do A and B, then C will happen", well you will disappointed.  When dealing with the subtle, we begin to get a sense of the light dusting of chaos that each moment is covered it.  Much can happen, so knowing with certainty what will happen is not possible.  But I digress.  (I always wanted to say that)

We played with some special notes in the higher register like U no San, and getting Ro kan to sound without the 4th hole.  Things like these gave an opportunity to feel the tones and overtones and work in the upper octave.  It was like Dad taking me for a drive around the neighbourhood before letting me go for a bike ride on my own.  Expand the edges to help make the inner parts more familiar.

Over the next 2 weeks I am going to be working a lot more on Etenraku.  I have not played the 1st shakuhachi part all of the way through sections 1 and 2 yet, but the tsu chu meri in the first section is providing a fun challenge.

The best beginner points that I had reinforced in this lesson are...

1.  Learning to follow the rhythm marks by slapping your knees (when not playing) or tapping your feet (when playing) is invaluable.  If you are a player who works with music with this type of notation, you need to know this.

2.  Practice with a tuner / metronome device is important.  

Although there were no new pieces added this week, I am tweaking my practice routine to focus better on what is in front of me right now.

I'll leave off with a video of my teacher playing my favourite pieces...

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