Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Playing a New Flute

Naturally, if you get used to playing one flute and another is quite different, then it'll take a while to get used to it.
"Getting used to" implies the element of time passing. Time spent with the flute up to your lips means you and the flute will bond up better.
Some ideas:
  1. If all your flutes are by the same maker, it'll be easier to go from one flute to the other even thought there are differences in flutes made by one person.
  2. If the flute you play is "easy" to play you may have trouble when you meet up with one that is not easy to play.And vice versa. I've had both situations. I had a flute that most people thought was very difficult to play. During that time I found all other flutes to be easier to play then mine. Now it's the opposite: mine is easy to play and I don't want to play other people's (ha ha).
  3. Like Eddy said, going from long to short, ji ari to ji nashi, concrete to glass, usually, the bigger the difference the longer it takes to get used to another. Think "naturally" is the key.
This is very important when you are pressed to switch and play a different flute "on demand". In other words, in concert. Maybe two different flutes during the same song. Or 5 different flutes on one stage. You have to practice switching and playing them back to back.

It's also very common to NOT play the new flute as well as or be as consistent with as the old one , since you are more used to the old one.

Muscle memory is amazing. So is soul memory. It's good to stick to one flute at the beginning to develop your playing abilities. You need to limit what you concentrate on for a while so your body and mind are not so confused. But after you get to a point, maybe after a year or 18 mo., start trying other flutes. You'll be more prepared then and it should be a positive experience. I think after playing a long time some people forget how hard this aspect is for most of us. Like my very talented good friend and colleague Brian Tairaku Ritchie. Brian's way here is not the norm to be found in Japan but probably is the new norm outside of Japan. Of course, nobody ever accused Tairaku of being just normal(complement). Brian has the advantage of having such a variety of different and wonderful flutes that he has learned to play many different flutes well. He also plays a lot of variety music and has..... many skills! The points he shared were right on too.

However, my point in my previous post was not about just PLAYING different flutes. After playing many years, of course I can play many different flutes one after the other. But I still mainly have to stick to 3 flutes. Even though I'm very conscious in my practice of adapting to them. What I was talking about is bringing out the differences inherent in the flutes in a very EXTREME sense. Having songs that demand something very different helps you bring this out and having extremely different flutes helps bring this out. One of my teachers was very very good at this. It was as much about the song and the flute as it was him. He knew how much we depend on the song and the flute to bring out the differences. My other teacher sounded like himself pretty much no matter what he played. Which was very wonderful! Actually though, like Tairaku said, just two different personalities. The first teacher was more difficult for me to learn from and the second one easier because of the consistency. Personally, I haven't heard, in Japan, hardly anyone that can do this(bring out the extreme differences) well. But that's ok too. Traditionally the aesthetic is different. There are people, for example, like Aoki Reibo-san and previously Yamaguchi Goro-san, to name just two players, who play(ed) their 1.8 about 99% of the time. They use one flute for most of their lives and build their sound up to a very high level and present that to the public. That's the traditional way in Japan. And we are all happy they did or do. There are many players in Japan specializing in different types of music and play it at an amazingly high level. So there is still quite a variety.

This may be too much of an answer for a beginner. I do hope that it's not too confusing and just gives you a peek into your shakuhachi future. If it is, bury it deep in your archives. However, I sometimes wish I had all this info when I started shakuhachi instead of swimming in the dark for a long time.

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