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As Shakuhachi is a wind instrument relating to our breathing, i am curious to know how you learn the technique of circular breathing?
Tks n rgs,
Your questions suggests that shakuhachi players use circular breathing as a musical technique. This may be a touchy topic for some players. Circular breathing is not used in Japan by those who play a traditional style of shakuhachi music (unless you are Akikazu Nakamura) but may be practiced by shakuhachi musicans who play modern music, or, whatever it is they play.
I learned it from Akikazu but do not use it when I'm playing shakuhachi music. I sometimes practice it only to remind myself that I can do it. Essentially, it is the same technique used by other wind instrument players who use circular breathing. Pharoah Sanders is a master at it and there are many others in the jazz world but few in the shakuhachi world.
While there are many ways to develope the technique, the one that made it clear for me is by blowing into a glass of water with a straw. (Imagine this next line read by David Carradine) "When you can maintain the bubbles without stopping, you've learned circular breathing...and can leave the temple."
Have a great day!
As Perry mentioned the best way to learn circular breathing is by a straw in a glass of water. Inhale through your nose, store the air in your cheeks. Your cheeks become a reservoir similar to the bag in a set of bagpipes. Expel the air using your cheek muscles. But before all the air leaves your cheeks inhale through your nose again and keep this cycle going.
Once you learn how to do it with a glass of water transfer this technique to a didgeridoo (or any tube). It's much easier to do circular breathing on an instrument with a sealed embouchure. Such as didg, tuba, trumpet etc. Next in ease is reed instruments. Flutes unfortunately are the most difficult, because so much of the air is wasted outside the mouthpiece. I would recommend learning on a didgeridoo or any similar tube first before attempting on shakuhachi. You can even blow into your shakuhachi as a didgeridoo if you like.
I use the same basic technique on all instruments. Akikazu Nakamura says on his website (I believe) that for shakuhachi you must use a different technique involving your eyes. I don't know what he's talking about, but he is great at circular breathing on shakuhachi. Maybe Perry can describe this if he got it from Aki.
In my experience some shakuhachi work better than others with circular breathing.
Traditional shakuhachi players consider it a gimmick when applied to honkyoku. Watazumi emphasised lengthening the out breath as the most important thing not only in shakuhachi, but in life.
Circular breathing is mind over matter. If you can't grasp the concept you can't do it. I've had success teaching it to children with asthma. On the other hand I've attempted to teach virtuoso wind instrumentalists who couldn't learn it. It's mysterious.
I only had one circular breathing lesson with Aki and it was at the end of my residency. For those who already play the shakuhachi and are used to the embroucher, it's not a huge leap. He didn't mention the eyes but he did teach it with his eyes closed. What takes time, however, is learning a particular piece of music in which to apply the technique to. That's a whole other forum. One thing Aki was intent on teaching was his Contra Breathing technique - his basis for playing shakuhachi. We spent a long time on it.