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#1 2011-02-09 06:08:45

Christopher B.
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From: Berlin, Germany
Registered: 2009-03-17
Posts: 235
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What affect pitch

Hello all,

I recently discovered that there are several more things that affect pitch while playing shakuhachi and you can work with a few of them to get the wanted pitch. I still have problems and practice alot but I wanted to share this for the other beginners here smile

1. Chin position (Meri/Kari) and side chin movement
2. Blowing Speed
3. Air stream (Tight/loose)
4. Hole opening
5. Embouchure

Anything else that can be add?

Best,

Last edited by Christopher B. (2011-02-09 06:11:43)


In reality it is Ha,Ro,Ha,Ro... ~Sensei~
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#2 2011-02-09 20:56:34

dstone
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From: Vancouver, Canada
Registered: 2006-01-11
Posts: 552
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Re: What affect pitch

Temperature.

When the vibrating column of air in our flutes changes in temperature, so does the speed of sound in it and, thus, pitch.  The temperature of the column will be a blend of ambient air temperature and your breath temperature (weighted toward your breath, I would think).  If that column was to drop by, say 10 degrees C because of hot/cool breath or inside/outside... it will drop your pitch by 30 cents if all other factors are held constant.  That would turn a 440 Hz "A" into a 433 Hz tone.  That's significant.  But easily (and maybe subconsciously) compensated for.  Anyways, add it to your shakuhachi minutiae.  smile


When it is rainy, I am in the rain. When it is windy, I am in the wind.  - Mitsuo Aida

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#3 2011-02-11 12:34:36

radi0gnome
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From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
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Re: What affect pitch

I found this old thread where Chikuzen said there are 6 ways to flatten a note : http://www.shakuhachiforum.com/viewtopi … 82&p=2

The dialogue went something like this:

radi0gnome wrote:

chikuzen wrote:

There are at least 6 ways to get the pitch down (meri) if you want. It has to be a combination of those. That means, there are at least 6 ways to get the pitch up too.

Let me guess:
1) just getting the finger near the hole
2) covering half of the hole
3) holding back the breath some
4) dropping the jaw
5) nodding the head forward
6) wishing really hard

It gets kind of complicated, doesn't it? I got a really strong dai meri on Ro once but then I woke up. smile

and:

chikuzen wrote:

http://img24.imageshack.us/img24/5382/img3160p.jpg

   Radiognome, #1 & #2 are the same. Whack..Whack!

   #3 is ok.

   #4 & #5 are the same. Whack..Whack!     3 out of 6 deserves a substantial beating but #6  bought you some slack.


    Get your meris down or you'll incur the wrath of the Packer laddle!!

One of the 6 that I was missing was how hard you have the shakuhachi pressed into your chin. It's a good one to know, and can help with the Dai Ro meri's a lot.

P.S. click on Chikuzen's pic, I think he was ahead of his time with that post. smile

Last edited by radi0gnome (2011-02-11 12:36:13)


"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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#4 2011-02-11 19:18:51

Moran from Planet X
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Re: What affect pitch

radi0gnome wrote:

One of the 6 that I was missing was how hard you have the shakuhachi pressed into your chin. It's a good one to know, and can help with the Dai Ro meri's a lot.

But in order to make a real and consistent difference with this, you have to learn to hold the shakuhachi very lightly on your chin and lower lip. As my teacher says, the lower lip has to be free to actually vibrate, that's part of the clear pure shakuhachi sound that you need to contrast with the deep dark Ro-meri and dai-meri. You can hear the volume gain pretty significantly when you allow the lower lip to vibrate.

The pitch will change too. It should get higher along with the fuller sound, which for all of us "flat players" will give us second thoughts on the idea that our flutes are pitched too low.

The hardest part for me is to maintain so much relaxation in the arms, hands and fingers that you only press the shakuhachi into your lower lip when you want to.

So my teacher says that when you are playing a familiar piece, one that you don't have to think about too much: Check the tension in your entire body. Part by part. Start with the lower lip/chin, fingers/hands, arms, shoulders, neck. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your neck un-crimped.

Have your teacher check the way you hold the shakuhachi. Always back to basics.


"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass...and I am all out of bubblegum." —Rowdy Piper, They Live!

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#5 2011-02-11 21:04:07

radi0gnome
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From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
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Re: What affect pitch

Moran from Planet X wrote:

radi0gnome wrote:

One of the 6 that I was missing was how hard you have the shakuhachi pressed into your chin. It's a good one to know, and can help with the Dai Ro meri's a lot.

But in order to make a real and consistent difference with this, you have to learn to hold the shakuhachi very lightly on your chin and lower lip. As my teacher says, the lower lip has to be free to actually vibrate,

Lips vibrating? Do we need to call Toby to put out any fires here?  smile

Moran from Planet X wrote:

that's part of the clear pure shakuhachi sound that you need to contrast with the deep dark Ro-meri and dai-meri. You can hear the volume gain pretty significantly when you allow the lower lip to vibrate.

Interesting, I've been reading this article that someone just posted to another thread. It's about transverse flute, but some of the physics and philosophies apply to shakuhachi. Particularly interesting to me is when Nicholson states:

"This resistance is in confining the embouchure [opening] of the lip to the exact size of the uncovered part of the mouth hole, and taking especial care that the upper lip is as close to the flute as seen in plate Fig. I, in order that the breath may have as short a distance to pass from the lips to the flute as possible.  Otherwise it will spread, and consequently diminish in power.   The under lip is made firm by the pressure of the flute, and the upper one by its powerful bearing upon the under one.  In this state an embouchure [opening] is forced [by the pressure of the breath], and the breath ought to enter the mouth-hole in a vertical line [i.e. directly downwards], to produce the lower notes with fullness and precision."

Nicholson thought the proper way of producing a good clear tone was by pressing the flute to the lips and keeping the distance of the airstream short. He says that lips are to be kept relaxed, pressing the flute to the lip is necessary to make the lower lip firm. 

He say about loudness: "Quality and purity of tone should be the primary consideration of the pupil, and not loudness of sound, which is too frequently heard, and which may be termed roaring on the flute.  Discordant harshness will not be produced by forcing the wind into the flute; for harshness a­rises only from the breath passing over the sharp edge of the mouth-hole, by which the stream of breath is lacerated, and a hissing or whistling noise is the result."

So it seems he noticed the difference in volume too.

I'm not sure what my point is, because Nicholson's described technique is not good modern practice even for transverse flute, but I'm thinking the light touch to the chin might be sacrificing some clarity of tone by adding windiness. Not that windiness is bad or anything, especially for shakuhachi, but it could explain some of the tendency to play flat if the player is aiming for the easier to achieve, clear tone.   

Moran from Planet X wrote:

The pitch will change too. It should get higher along with the fuller sound, which for all of us "flat players" will give us second thoughts on the idea that our flutes are pitched too low.

I still have to wonder, does my flute have a sharp chi because it's the only note that plays up to pitch, or is it that the notes below it become more difficult to play and to squeak them out I resort to the easier achieve flat tone? The flatness almost always gets better (less flatness) later in the practice session.

Last edited by radi0gnome (2011-02-11 21:07:28)


"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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#6 2011-02-12 01:02:47

Moran from Planet X
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Registered: 2005-10-11
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Re: What affect pitch

radi0gnome wrote:

I'm not sure what my point is, because Nicholson's described technique is not good modern practice even for transverse flute, but I'm thinking the light touch to the chin might be sacrificing some clarity of tone by adding windiness. Not that windiness is bad or anything, especially for shakuhachi, but it could explain some of the tendency to play flat if the player is aiming for the easier to achieve, clear tone.

Yeah, it could get windy if you cross this hairline of pressure where the shakuhachi is then a little too light and too loose on the lower lip. It is something to work with every day for a lot of days. Again a teacher with his face in your face is the best answer.

You'll hear it and then it'll be gone. The you'll hear it again. What you hear is a glimpse of that full, subtle "effortless" sounding tone that you hear in the best of players of any modern school.

Something to ask more questions about when you talk to your teacher about what you specifically want to work on with your tone production.


"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass...and I am all out of bubblegum." —Rowdy Piper, They Live!

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#7 2011-02-12 10:05:33

radi0gnome
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From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
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Re: What affect pitch

Moran from Planet X wrote:

You'll hear it and then it'll be gone. The you'll hear it again.

This is true of almost any of the more difficult notes, or effects. Most of the time when I start a practice session my practicing long tones isn't about that I'm a good boy doing as instructed, but for a good half hour or more I cannot consistently blow a good Ro.

Moran from Planet X wrote:

What you hear is a glimpse of that full, subtle "effortless" sounding tone that you hear in the best of players of any modern school.

Usually it gets a lot better, but Ro is almost never effortless for me. Some of the very difficult notes like Ro Dai Kan, if I land it (solid on a C pitch) more than once in a practice session, I'm doing well. Never mind on demand at the end of Chosi or those occurrences in Kyorie.

To be honest, I'm not sure if its the flute or not, because all my other flutes get Ro easier (however it's still one of the more difficult and unreliable notes for me even on those). But since I can get the note to sound nice and clear occasionally, and more consistently after warm up, I'm thinking it's me, and that this flute just has a somewhat more difficult Ro. 

Moran from Planet X wrote:

Something to ask more questions about when you talk to your teacher about what you specifically want to work on with your tone production.

True, but don't you think most students should be most concerned with being able to play a nice smooth tone without breaks and getting it to sound at the moment it is attempted? After considerable time working with this instrument, it is still my primary concern. How loud or soft or windy or less windy I play comes secondary. I view not getting a Ro to sound as a much more serious mistake than whether I got the dynamics or windiness of a phrase right. Despite how important these characteristics of the tone are for traditional music, a flubbed Ro or an unintentional break in the tone is a lot more obvious of a mistake.       

I'd love to have a tone like Riley Lee gets on those Hawaiian music videos. It's hard to believe shakuhachi is such a difficult instrument listening to that, it sounds as responsive as a transverse flute. I guess that's the "effortless" sound you mentioned. Ie., I'd like all my notes to sound as effortless as my otsu Ha, Chi, and Re.

OTOH, I may need to be careful what I wish for. If the "problem" is the flute and other shakuahchi can play those notes easier (like the mass produced wood flutes I have), they might not be nearly as fun to play.

BTW, Mr. Moran, do you remember the six ways Chikuzen says pitch is affected? So far in this thread I think we've only got four. Head tilt, air speed, half-holing, and how tight you hold the flute to your chin. Christopher B. also mentioned embouchure, that I believe is the same as "hole opening", so maybe that's five. But I'm pretty sure the "wishing really hard" that Chikuzen cut me some slack on isn't what he intended to be number six.

Last edited by radi0gnome (2011-02-12 10:16:22)


"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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#8 2011-02-12 10:58:21

Christopher B.
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From: Berlin, Germany
Registered: 2009-03-17
Posts: 235
Website

Re: What affect pitch

Ha, I am glad to see the topic is active. Thanks for that! I think it is pretty hard thing to work on and good to know what things affect pitch so I can work on it. As I started playing (well, shakuhachi is my first instrument) I never thought about pitch and know it is even harder to work on besides the other technics and pieces.

I think some good points mentioned here before.

Best,


In reality it is Ha,Ro,Ha,Ro... ~Sensei~
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
How do you know that life is a dream? Cause there is a way to wake up!
http://naturalbreath.wordpress.com/

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#9 2011-02-12 15:07:19

Moran from Planet X
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From: Here to There
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Re: What affect pitch

radi0gnome wrote:

Usually it gets a lot better, but Ro is almost never effortless for me. Some of the very difficult notes like Ro Dai Kan, if I land it (solid on a C pitch) more than once in a practice session, I'm doing well. Never mind on demand at the end of Chosi or those occurrences in Kyorei.

You're talking about otsu-Ro-dai-meri here? correct? Ro Dai Kan is a different animal called Go-no-Ha.

radi0gnome wrote:

True, but don't you think most students should be most concerned with being able to play a nice smooth tone without breaks and getting it to sound at the moment it is attempted?

Kakazakai teaches that if your sound breaks occur at the utaguchi-level then you simply lost the stream of air on the center-line utaguchi edge. That edge is just to make sound, so you always have to find it. You may just be moving too much. Basics, basics, basics.

To get the meri, try not only going slightly down but also aiming the air-stream toward the upper U-shaped edge of the utaguchi, still splitting the air stream in the center. --Not so much that you loose the stream of air hitting the edge, and not pushing so hard that you later can't use the same technique to go to dia-meri.

On dia-meri, then you have to have room to push IN on the fleshy part of the lip. But you've got to have room and relaxation enough in your basic more relaxed, fleshy tone production to find this low note.

But this is just the deaf leading the blind. Must get you and Chikuzen face to face. Then he must beat you in person.


"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass...and I am all out of bubblegum." —Rowdy Piper, They Live!

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#10 2011-02-12 16:44:20

chikuzen
Dai Shihan/Dokyoku
From: Cleveland Heights,OH 44118
Registered: 2005-10-24
Posts: 401
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Re: What affect pitch

I recently made a list of 12 ways to get the tsu meri pitch down for a student of mine who was having troubles. Either the list has increased, or I just didn't want to overwhelm you with a large number at first.  We listed them numbered 1~12. She was aware of about 5. But, for example, she was focused on #1, #4 & #8 and they were getting her where she wanted to go. We found that having her focus on a couple others, she was able to get down enough, and not have to be aware of all 12. I think the point is that since we are organic and have almost all moving parts (skin, muscle, bones, teeth, tongue, breath, consciousness, lips, credit cards, etc.), we can construct a zillion ways to do something (1~12, for a few), but we only need to find the ones that are effective. We'll bump into other ways if we keep playing long enough.

There's a lot of good comments here. I thought I was hard  on radiognome though earlier as #4 & #5 are really not the same, are they? Apologies.


Michael Chikuzen Gould

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#11 2011-02-12 18:43:05

radi0gnome
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From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
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Re: What affect pitch

Moran from Planet X wrote:

radi0gnome wrote:

Usually it gets a lot better, but Ro is almost never effortless for me. Some of the very difficult notes like Ro Dai Kan, if I land it (solid on a C pitch) more than once in a practice session, I'm doing well. Never mind on demand at the end of Chosi or those occurrences in Kyorei.

You're talking about otsu-Ro-dai-meri here? correct? Ro Dai Kan is a different animal called Go-no-Ha.

Correct. Thanks.

Moran from Planet X wrote:

radi0gnome wrote:

True, but don't you think most students should be most concerned with being able to play a nice smooth tone without breaks and getting it to sound at the moment it is attempted?

Kakazakai teaches that if your sound breaks occur at the utaguchi-level then you simply lost the stream of air on the center-line utaguchi edge. That edge is just to make sound, so you always have to find it. You may just be moving too much. Basics, basics, basics.

No. I think it's more of a support issue. Variations in my breath are causing the embouchure to change unexpectedly. That's not to say movement isn't a lot of the problem when I attempt head-shake vibrato, or when the problem with the note breaking is after having moved up from Ro meri back to Ro.

Moran from Planet X wrote:

To get the meri, try not only going slightly down but also aiming the air-stream toward the upper U-shaped edge of the utaguchi, still splitting the air stream in the center. --Not so much that you loose the stream of air hitting the edge, and not pushing so hard that you later can't use the same technique to go to dia-meri.

I'm not sure I'm following you. By "upper U-shaped edge" do you mean the upper corner? I don't really have too much problem getting Ro Meri to sound, but getting between it and Ro is something I haven't got down very well. 

Moran from Planet X wrote:

But this is just the deaf leading the blind. Must get you and Chikuzen face to face. Then he must beat you in person.

This is why Skype is so wonderful! smile


"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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#12 2011-02-12 20:09:51

radi0gnome
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From: Kingston NY
Registered: 2006-12-29
Posts: 1030
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Re: What affect pitch

chikuzen wrote:

I thought I was hard  on radiognome though earlier as #4 & #5 are really not the same, are they? Apologies.

That's OK. The two whacks healed a long time ago, and the confusion of not understanding why they were the same allowed me to grow, I thought it was a zen koan or something.  smile


"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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#13 2011-02-12 23:14:08

llocust
Member
From: Rochester, NY
Registered: 2010-10-19
Posts: 5

Re: What affect pitch

This is a good thread for beginners like myself.  I've been trying various things to get a good tsu meri, both in ka and otsu.  One thing I've noticed is how, when playing in the upper register, my lips tend to be taut to get a strong air stream, yet in order to keep the stream on the utaguchi when I drop my head, it seems I need to make my upper and lower lips loose.  I find that trying to get the sensation of stuffing my lower lip more into the opening seems to help, as has been mentioned.

radi0gnome wrote:

I still have to wonder, does my flute have a sharp chi because it's the only note that plays up to pitch, or is it that the notes below it become more difficult to play and to squeak them out I resort to the easier achieve flat tone?

My flute also plays a chi that is sharper in otsu than the tsu or re with the same blowing angle, I wonder if that's a common problem with shakuhachi.  I try to compensate by lowering my head slightly to get a 440 A.  For a while I was covering the second hole to drop the pitch slightly, but that's probably a bad habit to get into.

radi0gnome wrote:

The flatness almost always gets better (less flatness) later in the practice session.

I've noticed my overall pitch accuracy improves during a practice session as well.  Perhaps this is partially due to the flute warming up during playing, as dstone pointed out the effect of temperature on tone.

Happiness is a warm shakuahchi smile


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