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Hello shakuhachi enthusiast,
I guess that all of you may have instruments which are perfect in tune over all registers. My shakuhachi, however, is quite flat in the otsu, but fits quite nice in the kan register. If the administration of this forum allows, I would like to post from time to time my experiences and progress reports in fine tuning the otsu register by shaping/filling the pressure points in the bore. If this topic would be less interesting or if flute makers fear that their secrets are published and their business will suffer, I dont mind to stop immediately posting things on this topic.
Thanks for your post Andre. I have a few thoughts:
First, the subject you raise fits this forum perfectly. The idea of the flutemaking forum is to discuss, appreciate and learn about flutemaking. So, you're in the right place. I hope you continue to post your progress. There are a number of flutemakers in this forum. All have a unique approach to their craft. You're in a good place to find well rounded information.
Second, there are no secrets or tricks to flutemaking. Rather than secrets, I think good flutemaking is a result of developing a heightened intuitiveness of experience. So, there is nothing to be "lost" by discussing it publicly.
Depending on your experience, the following may or may not apply to you:
I feel a good way to learn is to work with as many pieces of bamboo as possible. This way, your flutes and skills slowly improve. Flutemaking (like baseball) is all about failure. Unless you have some experience, it's not easy to pull off a good flute by focusing on just one.
Octave tuning problems are often the result of 1/2 the bore length having too much or too little volume (space). One way to check this is by filling half the bore with a long piece of folded wet newspaper. If it makes the problem worse, take it out and try filling the other half. Sometimes this works!
In any event, thanks again for your post. Please feel free to post your progress. I hope you find the forum helpful.
Yes please let us know how it goes. Don't worry about secrets. I have heard from folks about secrets passed from teacher to student but looking at the names on the group here I think you will find some great and helpful people that are interested in what you are doing and helpful.
Ken is right about working on as many pieces as possible. I have worked on these things for over 20 years and I lost focus. I got into selling on e-bay a year and a half ago and started to be concerned with turning out a piece or two every week. At one point a Japanese maker I respected asked to see what kind of work I was doing so I sent him a piece. I felt that I should send him an average piece that I sold two of weekly to see what he thought. He was very diplomatic in telling me that it was a toy compared to a fine traditional piece. He didn't tell me anything I didn't know but it brought me back around to focus on the art. I found another teacher since then since my original one isn't available any more and I am turning out flutes now that make me proud once again.
Long story short Have fun and don't lose your love for the art but practice practice and then do it again. That goes for playing and making.
This is a great forum for carrying on an art from the old world to the new one.
Ken and Greg,
thanks a lot for your comments on working on more than just one shakuhachi. Fortunately I do have more than one instrument. Years ago I started crafting shakuhachi by myself. Not those kind having the root end because root ends are extremely difficult to get, especially here in Germany. But my simple bamboo shakus have a lot in common with a proper instrument. I will start with tryal and error methods using this instruments before I work on the 7 node root end from Hiroshima.
Here is a link to a basic shakuhachi making tutorial. There are some notes about fine tuning the bore, should you be interested. (You'll need Acrobat Reader to open the link)
Shakuhachi Making Tutorial
I followed your recommendations with the wet paper filling down the upper half and then down the lower half of the bore. The result was, that in the case of the paper being in the upper half, the pitch comes closer to where it should be. In the opposite case, the pitch drifted further down to Csharp while fingering Ro. Measuring the shape of the bore it seems, that the bore of my flute is too much tapered. The bottom hole for example has a diameter of 16.5 mm, the choke point measures approx 13,4 mm but it is far from beiing round in shape. It looks more like a football stadium. At the utaguchi I measured 21mm internal diameter. My feeling says: Take a rasp or similar grinding tool and remove material inside the bottom region. What do you think?
My feeling says: Take a rasp or similar grinding tool and remove material inside the bottom region. What do you think?
To make sure we're on the same page here, I am assuming that the otsu register notes are uniformly flat? If this is the case, then it looks like you've picked up some clues.
I suppose there are many ways to go from here. The next step depends on how invasive you'd like to be, as well as the desired pitch and tone color.
One possibility would be to fill the holes, adjust the bore, then redrill the holes. The thinking here is that if the bore is way off, the original hole locations will be in the wrong place once the bore is adjusted.
Another possibility would be to leave the holes as is, then open up the bottom half of the bore (as you deduced). If the adjustment is minor, the holes might need only minor adjustment. With a larger bore, the overall pitch of the flute will be lower. The tone color might be wider and less focused. It might also play with less resistance.
Another possibility would be to fill the upper half of the bore. Theoretically, this resolves the octave pitch balance problem as well. The result will be a smaller bore witch will raise the overall pitch of the flute. Chances are it will play with more focus. Again, later hole adjustment will depend on the degree of bore change.
As you know, there are many variables that need to be juggled when making shakuhachi. Although flutes follow physical laws, each one is different. It takes a lot of failure to begin to make some of these concepts work. (I promise that will be my last warning!)
I hope this is helpful. Good luck!
I really like this forum, since it prevents my flute from beiing destroyed. The problem with my flute is not only the flat pitch (-40ct) of Ro, Tsu and Re, it was also Chi being sharp but I followed recommendations of Shiku Yano-san, I was filling some transparent glue in the Chi hole and now it fits. The biggest difference from the proper pichtch, however, is Ri. Instead of sounding C, B is emitted. This looks consequent compared with the three low notes of otsu which are closely half a note deeper as well. But if I jump from Ri to Ro kan it simply sounds wrong. I can produce the note C with an alternative fingering: hole 1,2 and 5 open gives a brilliant C.
I would also appreciate your hints on how to proceed with Ri hole, undershaping or simply leaving as it is and using alternative fingering?
Concerning the octave balance, I thank you very much for your warning. The rasp is back in the tool box and I re- think the whole strategy.
Last edited by Andre (2005-10-17 17:11:27)
Here are some thoughts to complicate matters further!
In order to fix ri, you'll probably need to fill the hole and re-drill it to the proper pitch. Since ri is a half step off at B, it's unlikely undercutting will bring the pitch up that far. Unfortunately, that might be premature because there is still the balance problem between registers. So, in order to fix everything, it might mean filling the holes, adjusting the bore, then re-drilling the holes. This is invasive and will completely change the flute. This may or may not be desired.
Another possibility is to respect the integrity of the flute and leave it as is. Some shakuhachi have equidistant measurements between holes #1 through #4 (which I suspect this flute does). Within modern ideas of tuning, this leaves chi sharp and ri flat. It's easy to become overzealous with flute repair. How much you are willing to alter the original intent of the flute is a subjective decision.
Isn't this fun?
From What I gather reading you Ri is at a point that is proprotionally larger in the bore than it should be.
You might think of testing again with those measurements in mind. Try the newspaper fill in the upper part of the bore and then see if ri is that far off. If you are going to do these changes I would work on the bore and balance first and then the tuning like Ken said.
...it seems to me that not only shakuhachi playing has something to do with Zen, but also shakuhachi making...
Ken and Greg,
thanks a lot for your recommendations. I do have now a lot of informations to think about. For not to mess around with my shakuhachi I will do the less invasive steps (wet paper tests) at first and in any case I will do all things in small steps and listen intermediately. The tuner from the web (syaku8) has already done a good job.
I keep you informed on the progress...
totally agree with you - if you can focus on the thing and put all your awareness into it, that's the point - no matter what you do, but specially shakuhachi crafting