Shakuhachi Note Charts

➤ Before your first lessons be sure to practice ウ 'U' (see the last note chart/section on this page near the bottom). Once you have the finger position down for ウ, practice going back and forth between ウ and the notes レ 'Re' and ハ 'Ha'.

For my shakuhachi note charts, the Katakana ハ 'Ha' is used. Alternatively, this note is represented by り 'Ri' in Kinko Ryu notation systems. ハ was originally used for the Honkyoku of the Seien Ryu from Fudaiji Temple. This is likely to be the first Honkyoku style that I teach you (Myoan and Tozan Ryu adopted the use of ハ from the Seien Ryu).

Another tiny bit of info, all shakuhachi notation is what's known as phonetic musical notation as it's based on the Katakana syllabary. It's preferable to staff notation for nearly all shakuhachi applications. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most people find shakuhachi Katakana notation to be far more intuitive.

How to read my shakuhachi note charts

shakuhachi note chart finger fingering jon kypros

Like most shakuhachi notation, you'll read my shakuhachi note charts from right to left and top to bottom.

The shakuhachi has two full registers and some third register notes. In Japanese, we call the first register Otsu 乙 and the second register Kan 甲. The first sound you get will most likely be in Otsu because Kan requires more air pressure or effort to achieve (video on Kan here).

Notice that you'll play ハ 'Ha' and イ 'I' by covering the bottom two finger-holes. We do this because it helps to produce a more solid tone for these two notes. When going from ハ to チ 'Chi', notice that your bottom two fingers must lift off for チ. With practice, this transition between チ and ハ will become second nature. Strive for a smooth, clean transition between チ and ハ.

Every note on the shakuhachi has a different range of power and volume. Some notes are also more difficult than others. For practicing and exploring Otsu: チ, ハ, and イ tend to be or should be expansive, offering room to explore. ロ on well made shakuhachi is expansive, however, it tends to be the most difficult note to perfect, requiring a larger opening of the lips which does not work well for most other notes, especially the higher register Kan.

How to Articulate a Note Using an Atari

shakuhachi note chart finger fingering atari jon kypros

レ can also be repeated on hole 四/#4. In some notations, repeats are alternatively notated by simply writing the note again.

How to read my Atari shakuhachi note chart

Many flutes make use of tonguing to 'articulate', 'attack', or 'repeat' a note, however, traditional shakuhachi uses the fingers. Many people call this technique atari 当たり or 'striking' and sometimes osu 押す or 'pushing/pressing'. By using our fingers to articulate a note instead of our tongue, we shakuhachi players leave our air stream undisturbed, which has some advantages.

Meri Shakuhachi Note Chart

(One can easily come across a lot of differing opinions on pitch for the Meri notes. For an essay on this topic see the guide titled, Shakuhachi Meri Note Pitch.)

shakuhachi meri note chart finger fingering jon kypros

How to read my meri shakuhachi note chart

➤ Before your first lessons be sure to practice ウ 'U'. Once you have the finger position down for ウ, practice going back and forth between ウ and the notes レ 'Re' and ハ 'Ha'.

shakuhachi meri note finger shading

For meri we can also use our lips to get closer to the edge in addition to, or instead of the head. However, use of the lips for meri is more advanced/difficult so it's usually best to begin by tilting the head. In the beginning, you will not be able to flatten the pitch very much. Meri is the most difficult technique to master. The shakuhachi is indeed an instrument of great subtlety...

Once you're familiar with these shakuhachi note charts you can proceed to Your First Honkyoku – Kyorei 虚鈴.

Good job making it this far and keep it up!