How I got started with learning shakuhachi

As I mentioned in the description of this blog, I was introduced to shakuhachi sometime around 1980. At that time, although I found it interesting, I had my hands full being a student of the more common Western silver concert flute. That short introduction and the talk among other flute students attending SUNY at Buffalo about the work Robert Dick was doing with shakuhachi was something that I wouldn’t think about often until about 1990 when I found some shakuhachi for sale at a bamboo flute maker’s booth at the Albany NY Tulip Festival.

The shakuhachi for sale at the booth were made and being sold by Zacciah Blackburn, a Vermont-based flute maker and sound healer. The shakuhachi were very affordable and the one I selected for purchase was tuned with the lowest note being the equivalent of a Western “C”. This instrument produced some very nice soothing tones and kept me occupied in my spare time for a few months, but it did not play in tune very well in tune past about 1 and 1/2 octaves. After finding and listening to a shakuhachi recording by Ralph Samuelson I realized that the shakuhachi I purchased, save for the tone it produced, wasn’t the same kind of instrument as on the recording. It wasn’t long after that I met a student of Ralph Samuelson’s who mentioned how much a shakuhachi suitable for lessons would cost. Due to the high cost, I decided that I would pursue other avenues for my interest in exotic instruments, namely Turkish ney, Irish flute, didgeridoo and baroque flute.

In 2006, I found myself in a situation where I wanted an instrument that I could walk some distance with and then play. The shakuhachi I had purchased in 1990 was a perfect choice, so I took it out of storage and brought it with me. Upon playing it, I was astounded. The tone was so full, beautiful and satisfying! The limitations of the octave and 1/2 range were still obvious, but unlike in the early ’90′s, the search for an authentic Japanese shakuhachi was just a few computer keystrokes away on Ebay. A few clicks and a couple hundred dollars later I had a broken, but authentic, Japanese made jiari shakuhachi to restore and begin learning with.

I’m hesitant to suggest that Ebay is the place to turn for shakuhachi. I made a number of less than worthwhile purchases on Ebay, however there are a few very reputable sellers there that have got many individuals who are interested in shakuhachi started off on the right foot. The most prominent that I’m familiar with is Perry Yung ( Another source of shakuhachi I’ve found that I highly recommend is Jeff Cairns (

For future posts to this blog I plan to cover topics as they come to mind. In the meantime, if you haven’t already visited it, a website I put together a few months ago,, is a great place to start to learning about the instrument.

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