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Flute sizes in Japanese

 
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Wolf
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PostPosted: 2013-12-10, 13:37    Post subject: Flute sizes in Japanese Reply with quote

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Hello,

I’m not completely sure whether this would be the right forum for a linguistic question, but here goes anyway.
It is my understanding, based on reading and my rudimentary knowledge of the Japanese language, that shakuhachi literally refers to the 1.8 shakuhachi. Somewhere, can’t remember where they gave other names referring to other lengths of shakuhachi.
How do Japanese musicians themselves refer to the specific sizes of shakuhachi? Is a 2.4 a nishakuyon? Or a 3.1 a sanshakuichi? or is every flute just a shakuhachi, with the same 2.6 or whatever length it happens to be that we use?
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Kiku Day
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PostPosted: 2013-12-10, 14:00    Post subject: Flute sizes in Japanese Reply with quote

A 2.4 shakuhachi would be called ni shaku yon sun
Sun is 1/10th of a shaku.
So 3.1 is san jyaku (to write the pronunciation in case the world shaku comes after the figure 3) issun
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knowshit
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PostPosted: 2013-12-10, 14:51    Post subject: Flute sizes in Japanese Reply with quote

The generic term 'shakuhachi' refers to all shakuhachi regardless of length or pitch.

The shaku/sun system doesn't transpose sun-for-semitone linearly, becoming progressively less accurate with length. The convention is not that accurate to begin with, due to other factors that affect pitch, such as internal diameter of the instrument. It's given rise to some confusion, for example, some people call a '2.4' a '2.3', though they are usually both referring to a shakuhachi on which ro=A, regardless of the actual length.

To remove this ambiguity, a lot of Japanese players call a 2.4 an 'a kan' using the German pronunciation for pitches ('kan' means pipe, or flute). Thus, a shakuhachi on which ro=G would be called a 'ge kan'. This standard of naming is really common. In my experience, even more common than using 'nishakuyonsun' or 'nishakusanzun' for A pitched shakuhachi. Other lengths are often called by their shaku/sun length for some reason, probably because there is less ambiguity about the pitch when it comes to shorter shakuhachi, and generally speaking, there are more shorter shakuhachi in use than longer shakuhachi. Shakuhachi less than two shaku often have the shaku dropped as well. Rokusun, nanasun, hassun, kyuusun.

Nonetheless, nishakuissun, nishakuni, nishakusanzun, etc. is generally considered a valid naming convention as long as you are not, strictly speaking, trying do indicate discrete pitches of the Western scale.

Just don't call a rokusun a shakuroku.
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Wolf
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PostPosted: 2013-12-10, 16:49    Post subject: Flute sizes in Japanese Reply with quote

Thank you for some interesting information there. I was aware that the sizes are only a guideline as there are more factors involved, and then rounded up or down to just one decimal to avoid long strings of numbers.
I quite like the idea of using "a kan" etc. This method makes more sense to me, though I'm not really familiar with the German system of note names, which I believe includes using B for Bb and H for B. I don't know how to say any other flats or sharps as I'm only aware of the Dutch and English systems.
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Kiku Day
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PostPosted: 2013-12-10, 20:31    Post subject: Flute sizes in Japanese Reply with quote

I have certainly experienced more players using the traditional length name... but also A kan etc IF it is important to indicate exact pitch. For discussions among honkyoku players I experience mostly ni shaku yon sun etc and I am not only talking about Zensabo (which is the school I am trained in). Perhaps because the exact pitch is not a 100% necessity in honkyoku. But of course in some schools it is important because people to day play shakuhachi tuned to Western pitch.

But surely both systems are used.

Personally I prefer to say 2.4 or 1.6 or 3.2 instead of the pitches as many of my honkyoku shakuhachi does not fit perfectly into Western pitch system. Naming all shakuhachi like that will also remind me too much of the Western pitch dominance. Anyway, that is me! Smile

But Wolf, remember that in Japanese traditional music - except gagaku (which came from China anyway) - the notion of exact pitch did not exist. They operated with relative pitch until the arrival of Western music after 1868. Today, the Japanese certainly have a pitch relation close to the norm in any European country...
But which ever system you use, most shakuhachi players in Japan will understand both. So no problem!
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Wolf
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PostPosted: 2013-12-10, 21:17    Post subject: Flute sizes in Japanese Reply with quote

Good points there, Kiku. However it does seem to be the case that most modern-made instruments are pitched perfectly or near enough. I've seen references to A440-444.
Your comments about western pitch standards remind me of a conversation I had with my Ney teacher a few weeks ago. In Turkish music, ensemble playing in particular pitch is important, but in solo playing it's not important if you play sharp or flat, as long as you hold to the relative pitches in the Makam you're playing in at that point. Seems rather similar to how you'd deal with sankyoku and honkyoku respectively. Having dealt with only the western tempered system until not that long ago I find myself reevaluating the terminology for pitch the more I learn about Turkish music, as well as reading up and asking questions here about Japanese music.
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PostPosted: 2013-12-11, 04:12    Post subject: Flute sizes in Japanese Reply with quote

Kiku Day wrote:
I have certainly experienced more players using the traditional length name... but also A kan etc IF it is important to indicate exact pitch. For discussions among honkyoku players I experience mostly ni shaku yon sun etc and I am not only talking about Zensabo (which is the school I am trained in). Perhaps because the exact pitch is not a 100% necessity in honkyoku. But of course in some schools it is important because people to day play shakuhachi tuned to Western pitch.

I also prefer saying 'nishakuyonsun' or 'two point four', simply for the sake of expedience. Most honkyoku players do use 'nishakuyonsun'. Almost all foreign players say two point four. However, the question is about what Japanese players call it. Since the Japanese shakuhachi playing population mostly comprises Tozan players, and a large number of Kinkoryu players also do modern music and ensemble playing etc., referring to an instrument by its pitch makes more sense for long instruments.

I visited a maker way back in the day and said 'nishakunanasun' in reference to an instrument that was being repaired, and was abruptly scolded. He said, "Its a G pitched instrument, and you've probably never even checked how long it actually is, and there is a distinct difference between referring to an instrument by its pitch or its length," etc etc.

In a word, context.

One thing I've occasionally wondered about is if a honkyoku player doesn't care about the pitch, and playing with other instruments is of no concern, then why would one concern themselves with the physical length of one's instrument? I can't see how referring to the length is any more practical than referring to one shakuhachi as 'the dark brown one', or another as 'the one with spots at the top that is longer than the dark brown one'. Food for thought lol
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Brian Tairaku Ritchie
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PostPosted: 2013-12-11, 04:43    Post subject: Flute sizes in Japanese Reply with quote

For me it depends upon the kind of music I'm playing. I'll say 1.6, 2.7 etc. for honkyoku. If I'm playing western I'll be thinking "D", "A" or whatever.
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Perry Yung
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PostPosted: 2013-12-11, 16:07    Post subject: Flute sizes in Japanese Reply with quote

As I understand it, there are two ways to categorize shakuhachi flutes according to pitch - Seisun for length and Seiritsu for Western pitch. The pitch is dictated by both the length and diameter of the bamboo. A 2.4 with a more standard sized bore will usually be pitch around A at Western 440 hz but the same length with a wider bore will be flatter: a 2.3 with a wider bore can also be in A.

There's a posting from Tom Deaver about this on Bruce Jones list:

http://shikan.org/bjones/shaku/Shakumail.2002/0291.html

Kiku Day wrote:
Naming all shakuhachi like that will also remind me too much of the Western pitch dominance....

You're not alone Kiku! Wink
Quote:
Anyway, that is me!...remember that in Japanese traditional music - except gagaku (which came from China anyway) - the notion of exact pitch did not exist. They operated with relative pitch until the arrival of Western music after 1868.


When I visited Tom in 2002, he asked if I tuned my flutes to Western Equal Temperament or Relative Tuning. It was great to hear his approach to meeting the needs of the different kinds of shakuhachi players. But essentially, there are two main camps like Brian mentions.
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Kiku Day
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PostPosted: 2013-12-11, 23:12    Post subject: Flute sizes in Japanese Reply with quote

Indeed, two camps.
Isn't it wonderful? This started of with a language question and it develops into a a thread on how to name your flute size.
It is very cool to hear the different everybody's different experience. Smile
Thanks for sharing and thanks for starting, Wolf!
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Wolf
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PostPosted: 2013-12-12, 18:05    Post subject: Flute sizes in Japanese Reply with quote

Your replies have definitely given me food for thought.
Specifically aimed at Perry who mentioned using relative tuning rather than western equal temperament when making a shakuhachi: does this mean that from a western point of view some of the standard pitches ()as in fully open or closed finger holes produced by the shakuhachi are naturally flat or sharp, even if the root note is in perfect pitch? I know this really doesn't have any practical application in playing whatsoever, but I'm just curious.
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PostPosted: 2013-12-13, 00:30    Post subject: Flute sizes in Japanese Reply with quote

Wolf wrote:
Your replies have definitely given me food for thought.
Specifically aimed at Perry who mentioned using relative tuning rather than western equal temperament when making a shakuhachi: does this mean that from a western point of view some of the standard pitches ()as in fully open or closed finger holes produced by the shakuhachi are naturally flat or sharp, even if the root note is in perfect pitch?


Hi Wolf,
As you know, playing the shakuhachi is much like playing the violin or singing. The player must first develop the skills to produce the sound and then be able to handle the pitch. On well-tuned instruments, the sweet spot for each tone hole should be in the ball park for both Just and Equal Temperament since the frequency differences between the two systems are relatively close, the experienced player with good ears can "dial in" the exact frequency and tone color they want.


Quote:
I know this really doesn't have any practical application in playing whatsoever, but I'm just curious.


Well, some musicians are aware of playing within these two systems. When playing with fixed-pitch instruments, it's important to play to those instruments. It's not a give and take relationship. But when playing in situations such as with other flautists, violins, cellos or singers, all the musicians will gravitate communally towards Just tuning frequencies as they are natural intervals that sound better to the ears.

Hope this makes cents! ;)
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Brian Tairaku Ritchie
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PostPosted: 2013-12-14, 02:18    Post subject: Flute sizes in Japanese Reply with quote

I have solved most of these problems by always playing out of tune.

Mort de Rire
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Perry Yung
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PostPosted: 2013-12-14, 17:02    Post subject: Flute sizes in Japanese Reply with quote

Brian Tairaku Ritchie wrote:
I have solved most of these problems by always playing out of tune.

Mort de Rire


Okay

I once overheard someone asking at a show, "What tuning do punk rockers use?" The guy next to him said, "Have you ever seen any punk bands tuning up on stage?!" Twisted Evil !

Sorry to digress from the original topic!
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