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Teeth and tongue in relation to precise air stream

 
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Rongoteus
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PostPosted: 2020-05-21, 09:58    Post subject: Teeth and tongue in relation to precise air stream Reply with quote

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Hello,

I am a beginner taking first (or maybe second?) steps into playing the shakuhachi, contemplating on getting online video lessons at some point in the near future, but for now just enjoying playing as a meditative musical improvisation while getting more and more immersed in the history and culture of the instrument. I have gotten to the point where playing otsu is now more easier and after warming up for a while I can play it confidently and get the instrument to really resonate without using too much breath.

I have a question regarding the upper octave and position of teeth and tongue. Yesterday I managed for the first time to play the upper octave relatively effortless and could sustain the tone and play melodies for a few minutes. However I did it by sort of pushing the tongue to the edge of my lower teeth and closing the gap between my teeth (of course also while trying to form a smaller opening between the lips). A slightly more intense feeling than what I need to play the normal octave, but not uncomfortably so.

A book I have, "Shakuhachi - Japanese bamboo flute, by Masayuki Koga" suggests that the position of teeth and tongue do indeed change, while most youtube tutorials only concentrate on forming a small opening between your lips. I am also a bit concerned about how much my crooked lower teeth might impede my playing, but after being able to play the kan register for a while yesterday, it feels like it's possible at least! I suppose not all shakuhachi players in history could've had a perfect set of teeth?

So I guess my question is, should there be a conscious effort to use the tongue and the teeth when forming a faster and more precise air stream for kan register? I am mostly worried that I learn a "bad" way to play even if it feels like progress for me. Getting a (online) teacher feels like the right way to go, but there is still yet another hurdle to get over: getting a decent 1.8 student instrument. I play a 2.4 "meditation" flute that I found from ebay many years ago and only lately started to learn on, but I've yet to find an online store inside EU (to avoid the hassle and fees of customs) where I could purchase a suitable tried and true student model such as the YUU. I feel that the instrument I have is not bad and I can get it to resonate beautifully in the low register, but of course all the learning material I've found is for the standard size. But these questions are perhaps best left for another topic.

Thanks for any possible insight on the matter!
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Markus Guhe
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PostPosted: 2020-05-22, 11:03    Post subject: Teeth and tongue in relation to precise air stream Reply with quote

Hello,

The biggest advantage of getting a teacher is to get feedback on your playing; this speeds up the learning process a lot, especially in the beginning.

When you change from otsu to kan you embouchure will change, but generally speaking you should avoid using the muscles in your lips or tongue to do that – you will have less scope for moulding your sound this way. Pull your tongue back and keep your lips relaxed. Concentrate on the movement of your chin (maybe imagine a sticker at the tip of your chin) and move that up for playing higher notes and down for lower notes. In the sane manner this helps switching between otsu and kan. Keep everything relaxed; You will find that using lots of muscle will make it difficult to play kan for longer.

The shape of your teeth and lips will influence how you form your embouchure and what shape it will take – this is different for each individual; and this also makes it difficult to learn shakuhachi from a book. Direct feedback from a teacher is a much better source (real-life is better, of course, but online works too), and it will also help in not developing bad habits. But I have yet to hear of a teeth- or lip-shape that makes it impossible or even particularly difficult to play shakuhachi.

Concerning instrument: you can learn on any instrument, any length, no problem. However, instruments that are well-made instruments are also easier to play, and this particularly helps in the early stages, because you don't have to compensate any idiosyncrasies of the instrument, especially pitch. I always have a few YUU for students to buy, because there's no direct supplier in Europe. If that's useful to you, just get in touch. (I'm not making any money on this and I don't have a shop; it's just a service.)
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Rongoteus
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PostPosted: 2020-05-22, 18:36    Post subject: Teeth and tongue in relation to precise air stream Reply with quote

Thank you for the tips! Just now I tried again bearing your advice in mind and managed to play some notes in higher register with a lot more relaxed feeling. Feels like the biggest challenge is aiming the air stream, but it feels engouraging that little by little, more often than not, I can find the right spot!

I have so many questions on my mind, and more just keeps coming as I play more. You are absolutely right, having some lessons would be most helpful and would probably answer many of my questions. It would probably have to be online. If there are any teachers in Finland, they are not making much noise about themselves!

Thank you for the friendly offer on the YUU, I'll send you a message!
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Markus Guhe
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PostPosted: 2020-05-23, 09:47    Post subject: Teeth and tongue in relation to precise air stream Reply with quote

Good to hear you find those tips helpful! Yes, where to aim the airstream is important of course. Try adjusting the flute in all 4 dimensions – nothing magical, just up, down, front back and rotation of the tube. Let yourself be guided by the sound quality and go in the direction where it sounds better.

I don't know of any teachers in Finland either, I'm afraid. The closest that I know of are in Sweden or Denmark - at least that's Scandinavia. Smile

Happy to help with the YUU, just please just remember that in almost all cases getting tuition is more useful than a new instrument.
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Rongoteus
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PostPosted: 2020-05-23, 13:05    Post subject: Teeth and tongue in relation to precise air stream Reply with quote

Yes, new gear is rarely the answer even though it's always tempting to get new toys! I think I would be quite happy to play with this instrument if I can be sure it's suitable for beginners. I might later post some photos and maybe a video / sound samples if someone can make some judgements on the quality. There is what I presume to be a mark/signature of the maker but I can't read it since it is in Japanese.

EDIT. I took a couple of photos: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1lgjpZVyplYTZuEHxub-0mOsKAfXriIfJ

Atleast by the outwards appearance of the instrument it seems to be made with care (of course that's not all that matters).
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