The instrument and its history

The name shakuhachi refers to the standard length of the instrument in traditional measuring units, 1 shaku, 8 (hachi) sun which is 1.8 Japanese feet or 54.5 centimeters (D) although flutes of various lengths are played, most commonly 1.6, 1.8, 2.0, 2.4. The shakuhachihas five finger holes, four in the front and one thumbhole – although variations with 7 and 9 finger holes exist. It is tuned to an anhemitonic pentatonic scale and on the standard D instrument the notes are D F G A C.

According to organology (the science of musical instruments and their classification) the shakuhachiis a Japanese vertical notched oblique bamboo flute and has the classification number 421.111.12 in Hornbostel-Sachs (the classification system of the world’s musical instruments most frequently used today).

Musical instruments are solidly embedded in local music cultures, and the shakuhachiis no exception. After the shakuhachiarrived in Japan in the 8th century, it went through a Japaniesation process whereby the material used to create the instrument changed to madake(Phyllostachys bambusoides), the most common bamboo in Japan. Out of the eight shakuhachiiin the Shōsōin repository, three were made from ivory, stone and jade. The remaining five were made from a smaller type of Chinese bamboo