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Tube of delight!

#1 2009-10-28 13:49:01

FtCollins
Member
Registered: 2009-10-24
Posts: 6

Stop and make some tea

So I dusted off the yuu and began playing shakuhachi again this week.  After getting the embouchre back, I was surprised at how much I retained.  I started playing a few phrases from Kyorei and Choshi and It started coming back to me.  After a couple days I was blowing the high notes as if they were blowing themselves.  I would come out of my practice, open my eyes, and realize I was sitting in my living room in the same way that you put down a good fiction novel and "come out of it."

Then I go back to my flute 20 minutes later and couldn't  make a sound.  The notes that I put no effort into playing now require me to blow my brains out.  I'd break the thing over my knee but it's a yuu flute.

Then I realize something.  More so than any other instrument I've ever played (mainly classical/jazz piano and Irish flute/whistle) shakuhachi requires a mindset.  The moment I start to judge the sound, my hands tense up. Then everything goes down the drain.  If I can't get the note to come out just hold tighter and blow harder right?

I stopped, made some sencha tea, lit some incense and decided I was not going to play to get better, but play to play. 

A teacher back in NJ told me that the sounds of the shakuhachi should be imperfect, like the white in a  brush stroke.  Just listen to the "sound" of it as "sound." 

This is how I get into the best mindset to practice.  I'm having a hard time today, so I stopped to say hello to you guys and share my thoughts. 

How do you guys get into the mood?

Last edited by FtCollins (2009-10-28 13:51:41)

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#2 2009-10-28 13:59:21

purehappiness
Member
From: Connecticut USA
Registered: 2009-01-13
Posts: 528

Re: Stop and make some tea

It is so true. The harder you try the harder it gets. It is like meditating. Don't think about what you have to do just be there in the moment. I know what you mean about not making a sound sometimes and like you say getting frustrated does not help at all. It is like having tea; you need to relax and enjoy the moment. I could go for some nice gyokuro right now, myself. smile


I was not conscious whether I was riding on the wind or the wind was riding on me.

Lieh-tzu

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#3 2009-10-28 14:07:24

FtCollins
Member
Registered: 2009-10-24
Posts: 6

Re: Stop and make some tea

purehappiness wrote:

It is so true. The harder you try the harder it gets. It is like meditating. Don't think about what you have to do just be there in the moment. I know what you mean about not making a sound sometimes and like you say getting frustrated does not help at all. It is like having tea; you need to relax and enjoy the moment. I could go for some nice gyokuro right now, myself. smile

A new tea house just opened up downtown!  They actually have real matcha.  I'm bringing my flute there one of these days wink

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#4 2009-10-28 14:11:01

purehappiness
Member
From: Connecticut USA
Registered: 2009-01-13
Posts: 528

Re: Stop and make some tea

There is nothing like some nice fresh japanese tea. smile


I was not conscious whether I was riding on the wind or the wind was riding on me.

Lieh-tzu

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#5 2009-10-28 14:35:07

Karmajampa
Member
From: Aotearoa (NZ)
Registered: 2006-02-12
Posts: 574
Website

Re: Stop and make some tea

Which is more important ? To make a comfortable sound or to engage with the reason for the arising of your frustration.
Your shakuhachi practice is showing you something, going off to drink tea is simply avoiding the results and submitting to distraction.


Kia Kaha !

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#6 2009-10-28 16:56:13

airin
Member
From: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Registered: 2008-10-17
Posts: 303
Website

Re: Stop and make some tea

I lke the idea of stopping to have a cup of tea when things are tensing up and our attachment to a result is leading us down the road to frustration. I don't think there's anything wrong with intentional, purposeful distraction.  Used this way, distraction can serve as a useful method of shifting the perspective on an activity.  For this reason, I think, if used skillfully, distraction, or in this context, a change of activity, has its place.

I too have found that when 'trying too hard' the shakuhachi feels not so friendly and the sounds not so warm.  I often take purposeful breaks when practicing, sometimes for as little as a minute, just to regroup and chill out. The shakuhachi will not be forced into creating the sounds we want, it is an instrument that requires respect and a gentle friendship.

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#7 2009-10-28 17:53:36

edosan
Edomologist
From: Salt Lake City
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 2185

Re: Stop and make some tea

FtCollins wrote:

Then I go back to my flute 20 minutes later and couldn't  make a sound.  The notes that I put no effort into playing now require me to blow my brains out.  I'd break the thing over my knee but it's a yuu flute.

This is not at all uncommon–proper 'mindset' or not–when you're either just starting out or coming back to the instrument after a lapse. I think it may have as much to do with development of a consistent embouchure, which doesn't happen all that quickly, whether you've played before or not, than with where your head happens to be 'at'.

At the beginning the embouchure just gets tired fairly quickly, and has a longer recovery time.


Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?
Bupkes.

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#8 2009-10-28 18:17:19

Kouu
Member
Registered: 2009-07-21
Posts: 25

Re: Stop and make some tea

As a beginner who is still trying to develop a reliable embouchure, it sometimes seems like my mouth already knows how to blow properly but I just haven't yet learned to trust it. For instance, when I pick up the shakuhachi to begin practicing I'll blow a few warm up notes, going easily up and down the scale. Then I'll think, Okay, time to start practicing, concentrate now...and not a sound will come out! Just a frustrating whoosh.

And another thing: Sometimes I'll be grooving along just fine and I'll think, I'm starting to sound good enough to play in front of my friends. Whoosh! No sound anymore.

There's this idea growing on me that one doesn't 'play' the shakuhachi so much as one has a relationship with it. And like with any relationship if you try to rush it the other party backs off. Then you have to coax them back. Nor can one say in the beginning what the nature of the relationship will eventually be or how deep and lasting it will be. I do think that with the shakuhachi as in life one falls in love in the spaces, that is, when one spends time away from the object of desire the feeling for it grows, or there never was any genuine feeling there at all.

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#9 2009-10-28 19:00:10

FtCollins
Member
Registered: 2009-10-24
Posts: 6

Re: Stop and make some tea

Karmajampa wrote:

Which is more important ? To make a comfortable sound or to engage with the reason for the arising of your frustration.
Your shakuhachi practice is showing you something, going off to drink tea is simply avoiding the results and submitting to distraction.

Kind of a soap box answer.

I understand what you're saying.  I've played some of the hardest piano literature ever written in college.  Even then, I needed to stop and have a cup of coffee or tea to get away.  Then when I got back to the piano, I was refreshed and relaxed.



There is nothing wrong with taking a break from hard practice to chill out.  All Zen stuff aside, the shakuhachi is an instrument with a technique and a method.  One can only go for so long before he/she tenses up.  Having a break to reflect on things is vital.

I think you've missed the point here.  We're not ascetics who need to avoid submitting to "distractions."


So you tell me what is more important.  I side with making "comfortable sounds"

If you're not having fun, nothing productive is going to happen.  At least not for me.  Otherwise what is the point??  And yes, Zen means fun too.  To quote Alan Watts, we all have an "element of irreducible rascality."   It's natural for humans to want to have fun.  When things aren't fun anymore, we need a break.

Last edited by FtCollins (2009-10-28 19:24:39)

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#10 2009-10-28 19:57:42

airin
Member
From: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Registered: 2008-10-17
Posts: 303
Website

Re: Stop and make some tea

Well said, FtCollins.

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#11 2009-10-28 21:13:17

nyokai
shihan
From: Portland, ME
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 613
Website

Re: Stop and make some tea

But what Karmajampa said is also true, I think.
As we get to know ourselves, we need to learn what our "avoidance tricks" are as well as our real needs. Sometimes struggle is good, sometimes tea is good. It's all contextual and ever-changing.

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#12 2009-10-28 21:21:01

Jam
Member
From: Oxford, England
Registered: 2009-10-02
Posts: 257

Re: Stop and make some tea

I've found both methods work for me. When I'm playing and it's not as good as I'd like it gets frustrating, so I find myself making a conscious effort to play better, which just makes it worse. Sometimes it's good to just put the flute down, cool off and relax, rather than making it worse. I find that once I'm relaxed again and I go back to playing it's much more rewarding.

However, there have been times when I've played badly (have there ever been times I've played well??) and I've just pushed through it, and doing so my playing greatly improves. I've especially found this for sankyoku, sometimes I start off a bit wobbly and then as the piece goes on I get into my stride.

What's important is what works for you.

Last edited by Jam (2009-10-28 21:23:09)

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#13 2009-10-29 14:11:24

radi0gnome
Member
From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
Website

Re: Stop and make some tea

FtCollins wrote:

How do you guys get into the mood?

Usually what happens is I start out going for one of the most advanced things I've been working on. Then I remember when the results aren't very good that the best idea is to go back to something simpler, for me that would be some of the easier exercises from the beginners book that I've been playing daily for about 9 months now. Sometimes I have to go back even further to just getting a good tone or even just getting a tone at all, but spending some good quality time at the beginning of the practice assuring myself that I am a capable musician by playing something that sounds good and growing out of that is the best way I've found to not get discouraged by results early in the practice session.


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

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#14 2009-10-29 15:20:45

Glenn Swann
Member
From: Central New Jersey
Registered: 2008-03-01
Posts: 151
Website

Re: Stop and make some tea

nyokai wrote:

But what Karmajampa said is also true, I think.
As we get to know ourselves, we need to learn what our "avoidance tricks" are as well as our real needs. Sometimes struggle is good, sometimes tea is good. It's all contextual and ever-changing.

as usual, wonderfully put.

can't help myself:
"Once two traveling monks visited Joshu. He asked both of them, "Have you ever been here before?" One monk said yes. Joshu said, "Go and have some tea". The other monk answered no. Joshu said, "Go and have some tea". Joshu's attendant monk wondered about his master's answer and asked him,"Why do you say, 'Go and have some tea', to a spiritual highly advanced monk and then say, 'Go and have some tea', to a monk who has still not seen the truth?" Joshu said, "Go and have some tea!"."

when you are practicing, practice. drink tea when you're having tea. it's all good.

ft. collins, nice to hear you are blowing again. have a cup of sencha for me as well.


I followed rivers, I followed orders,I followed prophets, I followed leaders
I followed rivers, I followed highways,I followed conscience,
I followed dreamers... And I'm back here,
and I'm back here... At the edge of the sky       (New Model Army)

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#15 2009-10-29 15:49:02

purehappiness
Member
From: Connecticut USA
Registered: 2009-01-13
Posts: 528

Re: Stop and make some tea

Ya, don't think about it. Just blow. And have some tea. smile


I was not conscious whether I was riding on the wind or the wind was riding on me.

Lieh-tzu

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#16 2009-10-29 18:59:25

Karmajampa
Member
From: Aotearoa (NZ)
Registered: 2006-02-12
Posts: 574
Website

Re: Stop and make some tea

I was discussing this topic of 'distraction' with a friend this morning, how we spend so much of our time getting to where we want to be, he wants to sharpen a blade, but needs a bench to attach a vice to, then needs a shed to cover the bench, and needs to insulate the shed from the elements, needs to line the walls to hold the insulation, but first has to get the electric wiring in place befor the lining can go up...........contact an electrician, agree to a price, dig a trench to connect the shed wiring to his house.

And it feels like this kind of situation goes on all through life one way or another, and it isn't until we are 'Old Folks' till we really appreciate not being distracted by these entanglements.

Ho Hum.


Kia Kaha !

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#17 2009-10-29 19:29:42

Yooper
Member
From: Michigan, on the WI border
Registered: 2007-11-26
Posts: 57

Re: Stop and make some tea

The Old Sailor
by A.A. Milne

There was once an old sailor my grandfather knew
Who had so many things which he wanted to do
That, whenever he thought it was time to begin,
He couldn't because of the state he was in.

He was shipwrecked, and lived on a island for weeks,
And he wanted a hat, and he wanted some breeks;
And he wanted some nets, or a line and some hooks
For the turtles and things which you read of in books.

And, thinking of this, he remembered a thing
Which he wanted (for water) and that was a spring;
And he thought that to talk to he'd look for, and keep
(If he found it) a goat, or some chickens and sheep.

Then, because of the weather, he wanted a hut
With a door (to come in by) which opened and shut
(With a jerk, which was useful if snakes were about),
And a very strong lock to keep savages out.

He began on the fish-hooks, and when he'd begun
He decided he couldn't because of the sun.
So he knew what he ought to begin with, and that
Was to find, or to make, a large sun-stopping hat.

He was making the hat with some leaves from a tree,
When he thought, "I'm as hot as a body can be,
And I've nothing to take for my terrible thirst;
So I'll look for a spring, and I'll look for it first."
Then he thought as he started, "Oh, dear and oh, dear!
I'll be lonely tomorrow with nobody here!"
So he made in his note-book a couple of notes:
"I must first find some chickens" and "No, I mean goats."

He had just seen a goat (which he knew by the shape)
When he thought, "But I must have boat for escape.
But a boat means a sail, which means needles and thread;
So I'd better sit down and make needles instead."

He began on a needle, but thought as he worked,
That, if this was an island where savages lurked,
Sitting safe in his hut he'd have nothing to fear,
Whereas now they might suddenly breathe in his ear!

So he thought of his hut ... and he thought of his boat,
And his hat and his breeks, and his chickens and goat,
And the hooks (for his food) and the spring (for his thirst) ...
But he never could think which he ought to do first.

And so in the end he did nothing at all,
But basked on the shingle wrapped up in a shawl.
And I think it was dreadful the way he behaved -
He did nothing but bask until he was saved!


"Simple and artless."

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#18 2009-10-29 21:20:12

baian
Member
Registered: 2006-03-28
Posts: 83

Re: Stop and make some tea

“one sip, you wake forever from your worldly sleep.”

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#19 2009-10-30 06:27:22

purehappiness
Member
From: Connecticut USA
Registered: 2009-01-13
Posts: 528

Re: Stop and make some tea

How do you guys get into the mood?This is what I have been doing.

I listen to some good player. lately, I have been listening to uttara kuru. Especially, the album east wind. The second song , I believe, really gets me going. Does anyone know this song or can figure out its score?I wish I could figure out the score then I would practice that too.The album prayer is real good too.

Last edited by purehappiness (2009-10-30 06:57:24)


I was not conscious whether I was riding on the wind or the wind was riding on me.

Lieh-tzu

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#20 2009-10-30 07:44:52

Glenn Swann
Member
From: Central New Jersey
Registered: 2008-03-01
Posts: 151
Website

Re: Stop and make some tea

for me, it's pick up shakuhachi, remove utaguchi cap- instant "in the mood". must be a pavlovian thing.

but, fortcollins' tea and incense seems great to me. you basically want a relaxed but alert state to practice effectively- tea has the perfect mix of yang caffeine and yin l-theanine(stress-reducing amino acid) to promote that.
if it's good quality incense with sandalwood base or, optimally(albeit more expensively), aloeswood, that also will promote such a mindset (if you have ever tried kohdo, incense cermony, you know how powerfully that can affect consciousness).
both incense and tea have a long pedigree of relationship to meditation, for good reason.

ten virtues of tea
# Tea has the blessing of all the Deities
# Tea promotes filial piety
# Tea drives devils
# Tea banishes drowsiness
# Tea keeps the Five Viscera (organs) in harmony
# Tea wards off disease
# Tea strengthens friendships
# Tea disciplines body and mind
# Tea destroys the passions
# Tea gives a peaceful death

ten virtues of incense
1. Incense brings communication and the transcendent.
2. It purifies mind and body.
3. It removes uncleanliness.
4. It brings alertness.
5. It is a companion to solitude.
6. In the midst of activity, it brings a moment of peace.
7. When there is plenty, one never tires of it.
8. When there is little, still one is satisfied.
9. Age does not change its efficacy.
10. Used every day, it does no harm.


I followed rivers, I followed orders,I followed prophets, I followed leaders
I followed rivers, I followed highways,I followed conscience,
I followed dreamers... And I'm back here,
and I'm back here... At the edge of the sky       (New Model Army)

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#21 2009-10-30 20:51:57

edosan
Edomologist
From: Salt Lake City
Registered: 2005-10-09
Posts: 2185

Re: Stop and make some tea

purehappiness wrote:

How do you guys get into the mood?This is what I have been doing.

I listen to some good player. lately, I have been listening to uttara kuru. Especially, the album east wind. The second song , I believe, really gets me going. Does anyone know this song or can figure out its score?I wish I could figure out the score then I would practice that too.The album prayer is real good too.

The shakuhachi player on that is SATO Eiji, and he's playing a 2.1 flute. If you can up the pitch of the recording 3 semitones, you can play along with it on a 1.8 and work it out yourself. Very good practice, although it can be daunting. Just take it line by line, and write it down as best you can. Even if you can't exactly copy what he's doing, you will learn a lot.

He's got a very facile muraiki, and uses a few non-traditional techniques, but it's pretty straightforward; doesn't even have that many meri notes in it smile

Trickiest parts are where he goes up to Re dai-kan a couple of times. Shakuhachi stratosphere....

[BTW: On track one, he plays a 1.8, then switches to a shinobue.
          On track five, he's on a 2.1
          On track six, a 1.8
          On track eight, also 1.8
          On track twelve, 1.8]

Last edited by edosan (2009-10-30 21:15:25)


Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?
Bupkes.

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#22 2009-10-31 05:34:09

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3222
Website

Re: Stop and make some tea

edosan wrote:

, and he's playing a 2.1 flute. If you can up the pitch of the recording 3 semitones,

I am too lazy to use the search function, can you post a link to this?


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#23 2009-10-31 05:37:23

Tairaku 太楽
Administrator/Performer
From: Tasmania
Registered: 2005-10-07
Posts: 3222
Website

Re: Stop and make some tea

Glenn Swann wrote:

for me, it's pick up shakuhachi, remove utaguchi cap- instant "in the mood". must be a pavlovian thing.

but, fortcollins' tea and incense seems great to me. you basically want a relaxed but alert state to practice effectively- tea has the perfect mix of yang caffeine and yin l-theanine(stress-reducing amino acid) to promote that.
if it's good quality incense with sandalwood base or, optimally(albeit more expensively), aloeswood, that also will promote such a mindset (if you have ever tried kohdo, incense cermony, you know how powerfully that can affect consciousness).
both incense and tea have a long pedigree of relationship to meditation, for good reason.

ten virtues of tea
# Tea has the blessing of all the Deities
# Tea promotes filial piety
# Tea drives devils
# Tea banishes drowsiness
# Tea keeps the Five Viscera (organs) in harmony
# Tea wards off disease
# Tea strengthens friendships
# Tea disciplines body and mind
# Tea destroys the passions
# Tea gives a peaceful death

ten virtues of incense
1. Incense brings communication and the transcendent.
2. It purifies mind and body.
3. It removes uncleanliness.
4. It brings alertness.
5. It is a companion to solitude.
6. In the midst of activity, it brings a moment of peace.
7. When there is plenty, one never tires of it.
8. When there is little, still one is satisfied.
9. Age does not change its efficacy.
10. Used every day, it does no harm.

Thanks Glenn,

90% of my practice involves blowing shakuhachi at a tea house while inhaling good incense smoke. So this sounds good to me!

If anybody would like to follow the activities at Chado check out:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Hobart-Au … 532?ref=mf


'Progress means simplifying, not complicating' : Bruno Munari

http://www.myspace.com/tairakubrianritchie

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#24 2009-10-31 06:42:21

purehappiness
Member
From: Connecticut USA
Registered: 2009-01-13
Posts: 528

Re: Stop and make some tea

Edosan. What are the first two notes on track 2? I think the song name is flight of the eagle. I can't figure it out at all. I am thinking HA RO?It doesn't sound right. I have a 2.0 so hopefully I am close.

Last edited by purehappiness (2009-10-31 06:53:43)


I was not conscious whether I was riding on the wind or the wind was riding on me.

Lieh-tzu

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#25 2009-10-31 11:20:05

radi0gnome
Member
From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
Website

Re: Stop and make some tea

purehappiness wrote:

Edosan. What are the first two notes on track 2? I think the song name is flight of the eagle. I can't figure it out at all. I am thinking HA RO?It doesn't sound right. I have a 2.0 so hopefully I am close.

I don't know the song but in general the best way to learn something by ear is to learn to sing, or at least hum, the melody first. This is harder than it sounds, especially with more complicated pieces. Unless it's a song you know intimately (which probably means you sing or hum it often already), you'll probably find that there are some sections that come to you a bit easier. Learn those sections first, then it's easier to put them together.

  Also, if you're brand new to learning songs by ear, maybe try something simple that you already can sing. Around this time of year Christmas carols are good ones in that category. That way you can isolate the step of learning to play it on the instrument from the more daunting task of learning the song. That will serve several purposes. Firstly, it will probably be relatively easy and drive home the importance of learning the song well enough to sing it first, giving you a clear idea as to why so many people recommend learning to sing the song first. Second, it's good practice getting melodies in your head into your instrument.

  Methods for learning to sing the song can vary from taking sections and repeating each one until you get it to just playing and listening to the song so much that you know it. For simpler songs I find it easier and more fun just to listen to the song enough that I know it and can sing along with it. Then try it acappella, without the recording. If you crash and burn, spend some more time listening and try again.       

  There's a chance that after you play around with this some you'll find, particularly if you have a pretty good mastery of the technicalities of the instrument, that learning to sing the song is just as time consuming as playing the recording and noodling along with it on the instrument until you learn the melody. However, one of the the beauties of learning to sing the song first is that you can put on the music while you're doing some mundane task like driving. That's a really good thing, because it takes a lot of time to learn a song and would likely eat into your practice time severely otherwise.


"Now birds record new harmonie, And trees do whistle melodies;
Now everything that nature breeds, Doth clad itself in pleasant weeds."
~ Thomas Watson - England's Helicon ca 1580

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