shakuhachi embouchure
Above: topical bindings

Shakuhachi Care and Cracks

Why does bamboo crack?

Cracking is in bamboo’s very nature. Conveniently, it makes it easy to split by hand for the crafting of countless items. It’s certainly one of bamboo’s most useful traits. However, when the air becomes too dry for a particular pole of bamboo, such as a bamboo shakuhachi, it can crack/split along its length (y-axis). If this happens, bindings are applied to close and repair the crack(s). Bindings can also be applied to greatly help prevent cracks in the first place (to see how bindings are applied click here).

How to prevent cracks in lieu of bindings

Bindings are the single best solution for crack prevention. Once bound, there is very little chance that a shakuhachi will crack. In the rare chance that a bound shakuhachi cracks, the bindings almost always keeps the crack in check, requiring no repairs. However, if your shakuhachi is not bound, avoid extremes in temperature and humidity whenever possible.

To reduce the risk of cracks, use humidified storage when the humidity drops below 50%. Pictured below is one of the easiest methods for humidified storage using a damp bit of material, be it sponge, fabric, or paper towel, and a plastic bag. The damp material is placed between two 'twists' at the top of a plastic storage bag. Be sure to check for mold on the damp material and replace as necessary, or clean with distilled white vinegar.

How to prevent odors and mold

After playing, swab the bore with a tsuyutoshi which is a bit of fabric with a pull-string tied to one corner. To make one, cut fabric to a size that will fit down the bore (try 1 sq. ft. or 30 cm sq.) and tie a string longer than your shakuhachi to one corner of the cloth. When pulling through, protect the sharp blowing edge with the soft part of the thumb. A 50/50 mix of distilled white vinegar and water can be used to clean the inside as well. That's it really... caring for shakuhachi is actually quite easy when compared with most other musical instruments.

shakuhachi humidified storage for crack prevention