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Buying a first shakuhachi or jinashi?
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MatthewVanitas
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PostPosted: 2011-07-04, 20:38    Post subject: Buying a first shakuhachi or jinashi? Reply with quote

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Greetings, new to the forum, and I currently own two jinashi I bought from eBay seller sizzorfite_studio. Though certainly new to shakuhachi, I'm pretty familiar with a wide range of instruments, and from my uninformed outsider perspective I'm pretty happy with the quality, ease of embrochure, and intonation, as well as the $50-70 price.

Though I'm set, I have some friends interested in trying out shakuhachi too; I could really use some advice on what the good starter options are for shakuhachi (or jinashi) that folks looking to get started on the instrument should consider. Clearly, if someone is very serious about it, has a formal instruction plan, etc. there are a lot of high-quality options, but for the bulk of people who are curious and want to try one out, it'd be great to have some recommendations for more inexpensive instruments to get a feel for the method, instruments that even a student can easily save up for, but decent enough that the basics can be learned, and upgrade to a nicer flute in the future.

Given that this is now one of the main shakuhachi forums, may I suggest, again as a noob and outsider, that it might help other noobs to have a thread about recommendations stickied at the top of The Playpen, as this is likely going to be a question that many casual readers are going to have?

Thanks for any recommendations as to makers, quality, prices, and ways that this info can be organised and made available for new folks like me who wander into this forum seeking knowledge.
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PostPosted: 2011-07-05, 01:28    Post subject: Buying a first shakuhachi or jinashi? Reply with quote

Hi Mathew,
I just wanted to give a few words that would likely be echoed by others here on buying a shakuhachi as someone new to the instrument.
Firstly, the $50-$70 price range is likely only on an auction site like eBay and it's really a crap shoot when it comes to playability and overall quality. My suggestion is to ask the advice of somebody who knows about shakuhachi before buying. There are some, including myself who would be willing to have a look for you.
Secondly, it's very difficult to 'check-out' the shakuhachi. Depending on your criteria for assessment, it could easily take years before you feel that you can actually play. If your limitation is money, then I would suggest that you go online and find instructions for making a PVC shakuhachi. That is an excellent way to tell what you can do right away and whether you might want to pursue the instrument more. Aside from that, you can make one for a few dollars.
Thirdly, ascertain your goals. If your interest is to speak the same language as most other shakuhachi players, you will need to study certain traditional aspects of the instrument, ie. notation and pieces. A trained teacher is usually necessary for this. There are plenty of self-help guides that can certainly steer you in the right direction, but nothing takes the place of a qualified teacher.
Fourthly, if you decide to go it on your own, don't be frustrated by the constantly heard answer 'get a teacher' when you ask questions. There is a reason for this.
I suppose that you are asking for more technical information with your question and I know that I didn't really address that here, but I feel that it is important for people new to the instrument to consider these things. There are some makers in the market of making good-quality, beginner level instruments that don't cost an arm and a leg. I think that Perry Yung is one of those. He's also happy to answer questions.
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Niklas Natt och Dag
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PostPosted: 2011-07-05, 11:11    Post subject: Buying a first shakuhachi or jinashi? Reply with quote

Hi Matthew (I'm not sure whether you're post is about making a sticky in the forum, or about asking for some tips about beginner flutes for your friends, but I'll try to offer some advice on the only one of those things I know something about).

Here's a fellow beginner's buyer's history: I'm quite the stereotypical western wannabe shakuhachi player, and my first flute was a Perry Yung Earth model, that is, a non-root end bamboo flute. Reasonably cheap (I believe around 200 dollars at the time), with a bamboo feel and functioning perfectly as an instrument in tune with itself. This was a great first move.

When I found a teacher, I needed a 1,8-length flute in order to play in desired pitch, and thus bought a used Mejiro maple flute for around 250 dollars. I was perfectly happy with the maple flute for around a year, and would be still if an opportunity to upgrade hadn't presented itself. My teacher got a selection of flutes from Japan, and I bought one of these. As Jeff says, I would not recommend investing a lot of money in something like this without the help of a teacher. I'd say its tricky as a beginner to judge the value of a flute – some notes probably won't be accessible yet, and it's not a nice feeling to offer a new flute up for approval to your venerable sensei, and receive it back with the words: "Not suitable for honkyoku". Trust me, I know: During my first year playing I also foolishly bought three cheap, "antique", good-looking shakuhachi over eBay from a seller in Japan.

There's a twofold paradox about flutes for beginners, as I see it: Most people want a flute that offers a "genuine" shakuhachi experience – a bamboo flute, preferably root-end and nice to look at. When you invite your friends over, back them into a corner and exclaim, "I'm a Zen god, bow before my mighty flute and tremble at my mastery of the lower octave!" (…as one does…) you don't want to hear them reply, "Hold on, is that plastic, man?" Good bamboo flutes are expensive, and the cheaper ones aren't usually up to scratch musically*. On the contrary, the cheaper flutes that actually works fine as instruments and are reasonably cheap don't fulfill the estethic needs: Many people cringe at the faux-bamboo-plastic of the Shakuhachi Yuu, and the maple flutes from Mejiro (mejiro-japan.com) are to recorder-ish and thus, well, not zen-like enough.

There's a quite interesting site (not least in the department "How not to organize a web site") called Navaching.com, which offers instructions about making PVC shakuhachi. Somewhere there's a nice koan paraphrase about flute esthetics: "Does PVC have Buddha nature?"

*Actually, if there ARE good, cheap bamboo shakuhachi makers out there – please share your recommendations!
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PostPosted: 2011-07-05, 22:48    Post subject: Buying a first shakuhachi or jinashi? Reply with quote

I started to play a year ago, and bought first one pvc shakuhachi, but when I started online classes with a teacher, I bought a shakuhachiyuu. My advice is to go for the Yuu. It looks and plays (almost) like a bamboo, and its very stable and durable, and usefully tuned. Good luck!
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PostPosted: 2011-07-06, 15:51    Post subject: Buying a first shakuhachi or jinashi? Reply with quote

I also recommend the Yuu as a decent flute to start off with; you can always coat it in black lacquer to disguise the plastic. Just don't let anyone else play it...
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Erin
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PostPosted: 2011-07-06, 18:42    Post subject: Buying a first shakuhachi or jinashi? Reply with quote

My two cents worth: as a beginner, I actually find the Yuu quite heavy and not so pleasant to play. I returned my Yuu and bought a well made and affordable Chinese bamboo shakuhachi from Ken LaCosse.
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J. Danza
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PostPosted: 2011-07-06, 20:31    Post subject: Buying a first shakuhachi or jinashi? Reply with quote

The Shakuhachi is a beautiful and exotic instrument, so it's very easy to get lost in externals... looks... makers.... prices... styles... the labyrinth can be endless. In that labyrinth I very often notice people totally losing track of the essential: this instrument offers so much more than just a musical experience. This is not the thread to go into that but I do hope everyone touches upon the depths that are possible when you dedicate enough time to studying the Shakuhachi.
I have a couple of Steve's flutes (sizzorfite_studio) and if a student came to me with one of those I wouldn't have any problem getting them started with it.
I started with a much cheaper and rougher flute and my first teacher was gracious enough to take me in. In about six months I went from a $40 flute to an $800 beautiful instrument from the late Tom Deaver. Truth be told... I've long ago let go of the Tom Deaver but I still have (and play) my $40 flute.
My advise then is:
Start with what you can afford and don't become a collector before you can play and understand the thing (Perry Yung, the Yuu, Chinese bamboo etc. are all good starters)
a) Blow Ro
b) Blow Ro
c) you get the drift Smile
d) Ideally get a teacher and... Blow Ro
After a, b, c, and d, have fun shopping for Shakuhachi... now you know what you're doing.
Another funny thing about my experience with a lot of instruments is that sometimes starting with a rough, or "bad" instrument, actually requires so much more effort and commitment that by the time you get a "good" one you find it so easy to play on!... In other words... good training ground.
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PostPosted: 2011-07-07, 16:41    Post subject: Buying a first shakuhachi or jinashi? Reply with quote

J. Danza wrote:

I have a couple of Steve's flutes (sizzorfite_studio) and if a student came to me with one of those I wouldn't have any problem getting them started with it.
I started with a much cheaper and rougher flute and my first teacher was gracious enough to take me in.


I'm curious how many teachers are OK with students coming to them with minimally worked inexpensive bamboo shakuhachi. The biggest reason I can see to avoid them is the disappointment that could result when a teacher says it's not good enough for lessons. My reluctance to play a plastic instrument that made a poor attempt to look like bamboo, ie. the Yuu, held me back from taking lessons for at least a year because I was having too much fun with the inexpensive instruments and I thought that a teacher would require a Yuu or good jiari. If the "most teachers require a good 1.8 jiari" belief that most individuals who do their research on the internet probably have arrived at is not true, it changes the arguments against purchasing the inexpensive shakuhachi dramatically.

My personal experience is that I enjoyed purchasing and exploring more inexpensive shakuhachi than I care to admit, but I now find those instruments have too many quirks for me to want to invest much time playing them.
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Jeff Cairns
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PostPosted: 2011-07-08, 01:04    Post subject: Buying a first shakuhachi or jinashi? Reply with quote

I teach kinko hougaku. As such, my first requirement is that the student wants to learn that style. Beyond that, the student must have a functional 1.8. I sometimes start students off with wood models if they can't afford bamboo, but the requirement is that it plays in tune with a standard 1.8 tuning in kinko. If they can't afford a wooden instrument but they have a passion to learn, I'll lend them one of mine until they can.
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Brian Tairaku Ritchie
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PostPosted: 2011-07-08, 15:24    Post subject: Buying a first shakuhachi or jinashi? Reply with quote

Beginners should sell their computers and buy good flutes. Then go to the library or an internet cafe and post on the forum. Embarassed Razz Shocked Okay Bannir Arrow Idea Evil or Very Mad Cool Very Happy Smile
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PostPosted: 2011-09-28, 02:03    Post subject: Buying a first shakuhachi or jinashi? Reply with quote

I was writing a long detailed answer for the topic for 20 minutes, and then stupid browser decided to refresh on me and got it all erased...so i will have to make it shorter (still long) and write it all again...

Im playing and making the shakuhachi for around 2 years now, 1.5 of the time with a Qualified (and recommended) teacher Michael Gould.
I begun making with random bamboo i found around and now days i do flutes from chinese madake, root end, inlays, cast bore, spot tuning and all that stuff and still struggle with it.


Best inexpensive option to start off or try out Shakuhachi would be to make your own first flute or borrow a flute from someone and try it out for a week.

If all you want is trying the instrument and fiddle around with it then the 1-100$ flute range is fine.
But most of the times "there are no free meals" and you get what you pay for.
musical instruments are expensive due to the simple reason that they require a lot of exprince, time, effort and so on making them. Smile

If you want a good and cheap instrument to start with serious study then yuu can be an option the same way people starting to play a recorder would get a plastic recorder.
High quality wooden flutes are almost always "hand made" and tweaked and are expensive, and bamboo shakuhachi are no different.

After 2 years of perspective (still a beginner Wink ) i can tell you that although i highly love the first flutes i made, they are incomparable to the professional Jiari i have now, but i can only feel & tell the difference now after i advanced in my technique. Back then I thought they are awesome (hint...)

All flutes are fine and fun!

but a good (standard) one would be able to take on powerful blowing, have a good and equal quality of sound on all the notes, would go up to dai kan, and play in tune at 440hz on all octaves and notes.

SOOOO i agree with most of the things said above me. Jeff and Brian - way to go!!!

Conclusions:
1-100$
basic flute - play around and see if it fits you, meditate and improvise. and even start taking few lessons, but you might grow out of it fairly quick.

100-200$
you can find fair used flutes for those prices some times but other then that if you wana get to know shakuhachi up and personal, you would need a Plastic Yuu and a teacher or a really good find.
200$+ there is all kinda stuff, and you can ask for advice specifically, but generally you can get great used flutes for fair prices (250-1000$).

I think I should just mention this last point: if you would like to begin playing a saxophone, clarinet, silver flute, piano??? would an entry level instrument cost you less then 500$ minimum?

Hope i helped and was not offensive in any way to anyone.
just my 2 cents.

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PostPosted: 2011-09-28, 16:04    Post subject: Buying a first shakuhachi or jinashi? Reply with quote

Itamar Foguel wrote:
I think I should just mention this last point: if you would like to begin playing a saxophone, clarinet, silver flute, piano??? would an entry level instrument cost you less then 500$ minimum?


The silver plated student flutes aren't bad, many pro's even use them for knock-around flutes (not for classical music though), and are less than $500: http://www.wwbw.com/Flutes-Flutes---Piccolos.wwbw

I haven't gone much over the $500 price point for shakuhachi, and I wonder if I'd sound much better or enjoy playing more above that, but I'm pretty satisfied with what I've got for now.
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Itamar Foguel
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PostPosted: 2011-09-28, 21:50    Post subject: Buying a first shakuhachi or jinashi? Reply with quote

I have an entry level Gemeinhardt silver plated flute that I love for 15 years. It cost around 2000ILS which is more then 500$ and its regarded as beginner/crappy flute in the flute world.
Besides there is a major difference between - factory made instruments and handmade ones.
As a young maker I can tell that I don’t really see how you can make a good jiari or jinashi, with spot tuning, and sell for less then few hundreds ( or more) dollars and still make it profitable or at list worth your time and effort as a maker(if, lets say its just a hobby).

On my silver flute I was happy with my flute all those years, but with the shakuhachi, there is stuff that you just cant do with an amateur jinashi. You need a modern fully capable jiari for that. If you are not interested in mastering traditional techniques you can go in a different route and then other things may fit you…

500$ is a fair price for a fine flute. many options used or new.

p.s. when i just started i was very frustrated about not being able to buy a good instrument, but you have to manage with what you can and save up, even just a bit... for a better flute when you can afford it
(and um still a broke student by the way) Mr. Green
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PostPosted: 2011-12-07, 17:33    Post subject: Buying a first shakuhachi or jinashi? Reply with quote

This post will doubtless sound negative, but it really is not intended to be taken that way...

Itmar, I agree with your point about the Yuu; and also that you get what you pay for. I would respectfully suggest that for a very good shakuhachi, well made, by a master level maker, you will be looking at 2,000 USD, or more. Do you want to fork out that kind of cash? Hell no, nobody does. But if you want to, you will find a way to save up for one.

To Charles, I would have to disagree that $500 is a fair price for a fine shakuhachi (used or otherwise). I do of course mean a bamboo, jiari flute. Show me a single maker of high reputation that would sell a finely crafted 1.8 jiari for $500. Typically $500 would just cover the cost of getting proper rattan bindings (and bindings are a good idea, believe me).

This advice is nothing new to anyone from the old forum. Indeed, it is something that has been flogged to death. As Itmar said, you get what you pay for.

I would, however, throw out a word of caution. It seems that everyone new to shakuhachi fancies themselves a fair hand at making shakuhachi. I can see how making a flute would deepen your understanding of the instrument, but on the other hand, when you are new, the chances are highly likely that you will make something riddled with flaws. If that same flaw addled piece of bamboo is used as a regular source of practice, you will begin to adapt your playing style accordingly and it may suffer as a result. This advice is mainly for those who think they can avoid getting a "real" shakuhachi, and simply make one themselves. Again, as Charles mentioned, you can always start on somethintg humble (like a Yuu), play on it, practice, take lessons, and save up for something in the process. It is all very possible, even on a budget (which we are all sadly on to some degree).
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PostPosted: 2011-12-07, 20:16    Post subject: Buying a first shakuhachi or jinashi? Reply with quote

Lorka wrote:

To Charles, I would have to disagree that $500 is a fair price for a fine shakuhachi (used or otherwise). I do of course mean a bamboo, jiari flute. Show me a single maker of high reputation that would sell a finely crafted 1.8 jiari for $500. Typically $500 would just cover the cost of getting proper rattan bindings (and bindings are a good idea, believe me).


Hi Lorka, I think you got the attributions mixed up, I fully agree that it would be difficult for a craftsman to come up with a good playing jiari for $500 or less. But I have found used jiari around that price that I think are OK, at least for someone at my level of playing ability, which I'd say is advanced-beginner.

Lorka wrote:

Again, as Charles mentioned, you can always start on somethintg humble (like a Yuu), play on it, practice, take lessons, and save up for something in the process. It is all very possible, even on a budget (which we are all sadly on to some degree).


I totally agree, but I never said that either.
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