shakuhachi guides

Shakuhachi Lessons

In your shakuhachi lessons, I'll guide you toward the sounds that call to you. With time, playing your shakuhachi will be like chatting with an old friend. I'll be happy to help you get there. You can meet with me in-person or over Skype video chat. Below, you can find info on shakuhachi lessons with me. Reach out with any questions you may have or to get started, Josen (Jon Kypros)

➤ If you don't have the time and money for live lessons, or if they give you anxiety, then check out my shakuhachi video courses (coming soon in 2024!)

Learn on a shakuhachi that inspires you...

I can teach you on any length/key of shakuhachi so that you can learn on one which truly inspires you. This great privilege and joy is afforded to me by the fact that I'm a shakuhachi craftsperson (see my shakuhachi for sale page to learn more about my work).

Receive the Honkyoku 本曲

In lessons, I'll pass down to you diverse regional styles of Honkyoku in an unbroken chain of teacher and student that stretches back hundreds of years. No matter which path we take, you'll experience the most venerated pieces of shakuhachi music, and that's what's important. All the variations between styles and masters are closer to the surface, riding on the same deep undercurrent.

In shakuhachi there's a saying, ichi on Jobutsu or 'one sound Buddhahood/enlightenment' — let's enjoy the 'one sound' together. In the expandable menu below you can learn more about the styles I teach, especially the older Edo period Honkyoku.

honkyoku score

The older, regional Honkyoku styles I teach

Below is a list of the older, regional styles of Honkyoku which were passed down to me by my teacher Justin Senryu. Much of these Honkyoku were preserved in the lineage of Yamaue Getsuzan 山上 月山 (b. 1908). Yamaue's student Sato Reido 佐藤鈴童 and their student Otsubo Shido both instructed my teacher. We help to preserve these pieces and others in Justin's Senryu-kai shakuhachi school, in which I hold my Dai Shihan 'Grandmaster' license. For the Seien Ryu of Fudaiji Temple, we have the late Iwata Seien VI to thank who also taught Justin directly.

While I've strived to perfect all of these styles over the years, I focus on the Fudaiji Honkyoku as passed down in both the original Seien Ryu form and the wonderfully more complexly ornamented versions from Myoan Taizan Ha.

Honkyoku styles from Masters

Exploration and Creation - Improvisation and Composition
We can preserve these classics and enjoy the freedom to explore and create. I would greatly enjoy empowering and encouraging you to explore via improvisation, and maybe even create your own humble compositions. Like learning how to write, eventually we can make poetry — even if that just means playing the notes our hearts want to hear in the moment…

FAQ about shakuhachi lessons with me

➤To begin taking shakuhachi lessons, contact me directly.

Tips for your shakuhachi lessons

Warmup practice before shakuhachi lessons

To make the most of your shakuhachi lessons, I recommend that you begin warming up/practicing at least 30 minutes before our lessons. In this way, you'll also be early for our shakuhachi lesson and ready for my call (since I often schedule students back-to-back with a small buffer, it's essential that lessons begin and end on-time).

Test devices and app before the shakuhachi lesson

Before each shakuhachi lesson it's a good idea to check and make sure that your devices and Skype are all updated and working properly. You might want to do this the day before our lesson, actually. Doing this will prevent your shakuhachi lesson time from being consumed by troubleshooting.

Turn off/disable all 'noise cancellation/filtering' for shakuhachi lessons

For shakuhachi lessons, 'noise cancellation/filtering' must be turned off in the Audio settings for Skype (if you struggle to find the setting search the web for a guide specific to which ever device you're using). Noise cancellation must be turned off because it filters out our shakuhachi as 'noise', no matter how good our playing...

Prepare shakuhachi notation prior to the shakuhachi lesson

Of course, I recommend that you have new shakuhachi notation printed and ready for your shakuhachi lesson. It's a good idea to print two copies of the notation; a 'clean copy' to reference and another copy on which you can write notes. Alternatively, notes can be made on a separate blank page, referencing the shakuhachi notation by line number and breath (I can teach you this method in the lesson). Doing so can also give you the option of just viewing the notation file on your screen.

Camera positioning and posture for shakuhachi lessons

In shakuhachi lessons, I must be able to see you from your bottom hand to at least your eye level. It's best if you play shakuhachi standing up, however, if sitting, make sure that your spine is 'straight'; don't lean back into your chair. Make sure that your chair armrests don't hit your arms and don't rest your arms on them while playing the shakuhachi.

I greatly encourage you to use the same posture/position for our lessons and your practice sessions. For instance, if you practice shakuhachi sitting down then you should ideally take your shakuhachi lessons seated (standing is preferable to all other positions for playing the shakuhachi).

It's also advisable to place your shakuhachi notation at eye level, or at a level which allows you to keep good posture. You can tape/affix your shakuhachi notation to the wall, however, a better solution is the setup I use which is a tablet affixed to a sturdy music stand using a 'gooseneck' (see pictures below).

music stand music stand close

➤To begin taking shakuhachi lessons, contact me directly.

Kind words from students...

The 3 key elements - Form, Sound, and Music

I've found that it's essential to cover these 3 key elements, in order, when teaching shakuhachi to my beginner level students. First, we begin with your form or posture and how you hold the shakuhachi. This is the foundation of all your efforts. Next, we'll move on to your sound or how to make your first tones. Finally, we arrive at music - even if you can't make a sound yet. As you progress down the path, what you'll find is that each and every time you pick up the shakuhachi you'll be perfecting aspects of these 3 key elements, even if you don't realize it.

  1. Form - how you hold your body and your shakuhachi is your foundation upon which your shakuhachi playing is built. In your shakuhachi lessons, the first thing I will address is your posture, specifically, how you can have good posture with your unique body. Next I'll help you to hold your shakuhachi properly and safely.

    This not only ensures that you'll make better and faster progress with playing your shakuhachi but also helps you to prevent possible injuries from poor form, known as 'RSI injuries'. A more subtle aspect of this is also any body tension you might have, which is usually from overcompensating and/or mental strain or stress, both of which I'm happy to help you overcome/let go of.

  2. Sound - of course, naturally you wish to make sounds on the shakuhachi as soon as possible. I greatly enjoy helping my students with the incredibly subtle aspects of playing the shakuhachi well. However, the adjustments that your body will need to make are so minute that you must simply practice. In your lessons, we must avoid over intellectualizing this process or trying to force or 'hack' it. As soon as you understand the fundamentals of how to make sounds and practice, we'll move on to the 3rd area below. We should not wait until your sounds are free-flowing in order to move on. Actually, you don't even need to make sounds to begin learning music.
  3. Music - learning music is not actually dependent on your ability to make sounds on the shakuhachi. There's so much that you'll learn before your're anywhere near proficient with making consistent sounds. For example, I'll teach you how to read the notation, move your fingers and head, how and when to breath, and more. By the time you can make consistent sounds you'll be ready to walk, maybe even run, as opposed to crawl.

I hope to hear from you