How I got started with learning shakuhachi (Part 2)

Being hooked on the instrument now brought me back to Ebay a number of times to try to find other shakuhachi to explore. Keep in mind that at this point just getting the basic notes to sound was an accomplishment and since each shakuhachi was so unique my playing consisted of improvisations that took direction on their own based on the characteristics of each particular shakuhachi . This was all good, but I was becoming unsatisfied with the fact that I was allowing the shakuhachi, and not myself, to control what music I created. So I arranged a lesson with Brian Ritchie when his travels brought him within driving distance of my home. The lesson went along for the most part without many surprises, and served mostly to affirm my belief that my previous experience with flute playing had me going in the right direction with learning shakuhachi. That was up until near the end of the lesson when Brian tried to teach me the "Tsu meri" note. I couldn't get the note to sound.

Since the lesson with Brian Ritchie could not be the first of many, I needed to think about how I'd like to continue learning. I was aware of some teachers giving instruction via Skype, but my computer wasn't set up with a web cam and I felt that I wanted to explore tone production more than repertoire. So I decided to purchase a book, Tokuyama Takashi's "Take-no-Michi The Path of Bamboo - A Beginner's Guide to Learning Shakuhachi Honkyoku". In order to match pitches with the CD that came with the book I also needed a 1.8 length shakuhachi, I used Perry Yung's trade-in program for that.

Tokuyama Takashi's book was perfect. It first taught the 5 notes of the pentatonic scale, then the notes of a Western C scale, and then progressed on to the "in between" notes to make the full chromatic scale accessible to a beginner. Tokuyama Takashi's book also covered how to read traditional shakuhachi music notation enabling me to purchase other books with traditional folk songs to learn.
The Tokuyama Takashi book took about 6 months to get through. I now knew how to get almost all the notes of a chromatic scale on the shakuhachi, even if I couldn't get them to sound as immediately or as fully as I wanted all the time.

After that I took Skype jazz shakuhachi lessons for several months from Geni Skendo. Those were very good lessons but fast paced and I was feeling more of a desire to learn some traditional honkyoku. To slow down the learning process a little and to redirect my efforts towards Japanese traditional music I took video lessons from Perry Yung for about a year. While I learned Kyorie and Chosi from Perry Yung, I used some of the skills I learned from Geni Skendo to adapt some tango and cabaret songs so I could play them on shakuhachi. That brings me to where I am now, Tsu meri is still a tough note and likely to not sound often, but I can get most notes to sing clearly and I look forward to learning more traditional shakuhachi repertoire so that I can explore some of the techniques that are specific to shakuhachi. r />

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