Q9: Which playing guides and books do you recommend?


A: The shakuhachi instructional guides I recommend for beginners are one of each from the following options:

1. Playing Guides
• Yoshinobu Taniguchi, HOW TO PLAY THE SHAKUHACHI: A Guide to the Japanese Bamboo Flute
• Takashi Tokuyama (with Barry Nyosui Weiss), TAKE-NO-MICHI: THE PATH OF BAMBOO: A Beginner's Guide to Learning Shakuhachi Honkyoku

2. DVD Video Lessons
• Bruce Huebner, KINKO SHAKUHACHI FOR BEGINNERS: A Video Lesson in English (Vol. 1)
• Bruce Huebner, KINKO SHAKUHACHI AND JIUTA ENSEMBLE: A Video Lesson in English (Vol. 2)
• Bruce Huebner & Gunnar Jinmei Linder, KINKO SHAKUHACHI HONKYOKU: A Video Lesson in English (Vol. 3)

3. Practice Exercises for Shakuhachi
• James Nyoraku Schlefer, SHAKUHACHI WORKBOOK: Daily Practice Exercises for Technical Development
• James Nyoraku Schlefer, THE PRACTICAL SHAKUHACHI: Etudes for Technical Development

4. Kinko and Tozan Ryu
• John Kaizan Neptune, SHAKUHACHI: A Tozan Playing Guide
The only volume devoted toTozan Ryu notation. All of the others cover with Kinko Ryu notation.

Why these instructional guides?

I have worked very closely with Yoshinobu Taniguchi for nearly four decades and find him to be an exceptional shakuhachi player and teacher. The depth and emotion that comes through his blowing is unparalleled and very special in every respect.

Soon after my initial contact with Yoshinobu Taniguchi-sensei in Kyoto, I had the opportunity to hear him play on a taped recording of honkyoku pieces he sent to my wife and I. I vividly recall this first experience of listening to his blowing. In spite of having heard many great players and performances over the years, Kayo and I were literally stopped in our tracks. The intensity of feeling and raw human emotion conveyed by this extraordinary music was riveting. As the tape played on, the depth and profundity of Taniguchi’s blowing built upon itself. By the time Tamuke rang forth with its reverent tones, we found ourselves sitting in silence, unable to stem the emotion that welled inside of us. In all my years of involvement with shakuhachi, I have never experienced such a powerful yet intimate expression linking heart-to-heart across generations and cultures.

Taniguchi-sensei’s blowing afforded me a deeper understanding of the oft-repeated observation that many players do not regard honkyoku as "music" nor the shakuhachi as a "musical" instrument. These are, rather, gifts handed down from unknown sources and places in the cosmos to provide us with a direct personal experience of our common humanity.

The guide by Takashi Tokuyama is a suitable alternative to Taniguchi's. Not as extensive in background information, but very basic step-by-step instructions on how to read and interpret Japanpanese cursive notation for the shakuhachi. The edition is nicely laid out and accompanied as well by a CD recording of the music notation in the book.

Likewise, I have known and worked with Bruce Huebner for many years. Originally from southern California, Bruce has lived in Japan for the better part of his life. He is the first foreigner to graduate from Gaidai, Tokyo University of the Fine Arts, with a degree in shakuhachi. He studied with three of the six great shakuhachi masters of the post-WWII generation in Japan, including Living National Treasure Yamaguchi Goro, Kawase Jensuke, and Yokoyama Katsuya.

Producing a shakuhachi instructional video in English was an idea I suggested to Bruce. The resulting set of four videos (now on DVD) was a vast undertaking taking a long period of time to complete. The end result was enormously successful and there is nothing else like it. Used in tandem with the Taniguchi book and CD, these videos are a complement that allows the student to view and listen to the instructional process. They are the next best thing to having a teacher to work with.

4. Overview of Shakuhachi

• Bob Berlin Grous & Monty H. Levenson, THE SOUND OF BAMBOO: Blowing Zen & the Spirit of Shakuhachi
The Sound of Bamboo is more than just a book. I is an interactive edition that connects directly to the Internet via directly from the printed page via a groundbreaking new technology developed in Japan. A free "Clickable Paper' app turns this print edition into the equivalent of a web browser with video and sound while you read. Encyclopedic in scope, The Sound of Bamboo includes over 100 photos, illustrations, and artwork as well as 400 hyperlinks connecting the reader from the printed page directly to the world of shakuhachi via the Internet. Read Reviews of the book by many prominent shakuhachi teachers and players around the world.

The International Shakuhachi Society serves as a world forum for those interested in this unique instrument. It enables the various Japanese schools, leading players, composers and ethnomusicologists to disseminate their views to a wide and sympathetic audience.The Society is not partisan, but respects the unique relationship with the instrument which each player enjoys. The Society promotes and encourages the exchange and dissemination of information related to shakuhachi, its music and traditions. Membership is open to all interested individuals.
The Annals of the International Shakuhachi Society address the interests of its members under the following broad headings:
-The history of the shakuhachi and the komuso movement.
-The shakuhachi in its relation to the philosophy of zen.
-The notation and playing techniques of the various schools.
-The craft of shakuhachi making and a description of important historical and modern instruments.
- An international registry of traditional music teachers.

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