Common shakuhachi terms glossary
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Atari (当たり) – to repeat or attack a note on the shakuhachi by quickly tapping a finger hole. Historically this may only refer to striking an already open hole while osu or “push” is sometimes used to refer to repeating on a closed hole.
Buki (吹き) – the breath (exhaling/producing a sound).
Chu Meri (中メり) – “half meri” usually achieved by only half covering a finger hole with no lowering of the head.
Dai Kan (大甲) – the third octave.
Dai Meri (大メり) – dai means “big” and is generally the deepest or lowest amount of flattening of the pitch used for classical music.
Fuke-shu shakuhachi or Fuke shakuhachi (普化宗) – the lengths/keys of jinashi shakuhachi that were used by the original Komuso monks of the former Fuke shu Zen sect. Most all Fuke shakuhachi where made in the lengths of 1.8 (D4), 1.9 (Db4), 2.0 (C4), 2.1 (B3), and 2.2 (Bb3). They were all natural jinashi with no paste in the bore.
Honkyoku (本曲) – honkyoku literally means “original music” and can refer to a single piece or to the genre as a whole. It is the most venerated type of shakuhachi music because it is considered spiritual or meditative, having been composed by the Komuso monks during the Edo period. Many distinct regional styles of honkyoku developed across Japan though few have survived to this day.
Insempo (陰旋法) – the “dark scale”. This is the Japanese scale which contrasts dark notes with bright notes. Honkyoku are all in this scale.
Jiari (地塗り) – fully pasted/plastered and shaped bore shakuhachi with lacquer, joints, and inlays.
Jinashi (地無し)– natural or mostly natural bore shakuhachi.
Kan (甲) – the second octave.
Kari (カり) – to raise the head and pitch, sometimes used to designate the regular head position.
Katarai – the “bouncing ball” rhythm heard throughout classical Japanese music. Perhaps most notably in the Kobuki theater.
Madake (真竹)– a species of bamboo from China (Phyllostachys bambusoides) common name “Japanese timber bamboo”. It has become synonymous with Japan because the Japanese excelled in its usage. It’s the preferred bamboo to use for making shakuhachi.
Meri (メリ) – the lowered head position usually combined with finger-shading used to flatten the pitch.
Otsu (乙) – the first octave.
Shakuhachi (尺八) – an umbrella term for all lengths of shakuhachi, however, shakuhachi literally means “1 8”.
Utaguchi (歌口) – literally “song opening”, utaguchi is the Japanese word for the sharp edge of the shakuhachi which air is directed at in order to produce a sound.
Yuri (ゆり) – vibrato on the shakuhachi which is achieved by moving the head side-to-side. Unlike most flutes, the throat or diaphragm/body is not use to create vibrato on the shakuhachi unless one is playing Kinpu Ryu or when performing Tamane which is a fluttering tongue vibrato.