I guess it would have been a bit of hubris if I had started writing this blog a year ago, with the assumption that I would continue playing the shakuhachi. That sort of thing would have been like live-tweeting my experience, which isn’t that interesting. I think it’s more worthwhile to look back now on the early days of my experience.
I’ve heard it said that the hardest thing about the shakuhachi is making a sound. I disagree; making a sound isn’t that hard, what is difficult is making that sound every time you blow, and making it consistent. My biggest difficulty over these twelve months has been my embouchure. At one point, I started being able to play quite well, but when I paid attention to what I was doing, I realized that I was pushing my lower jaw out a great deal. This was causing tension in my jaw muscles, and I had to start over (more or less) and learn the right way to do things.
Even now, perhaps six months after that realization, I have moments when I can’t play consistently, but lately this only seems to happen when I’m having bit of an allergic reaction to something (I’ve got allergy to pollen and dust). This swells my lips a bit, making it more difficult to keep my lips in the appropriate position.
But this is an interesting process. Each time I have trouble blowing, I pay attention to what I’m doing to try to find the cause. And, in fact, what is most interesting about playing the shakuhachi – compared to other instruments I’ve played – is that the actual sound of notes is so dependent on a few small muscles.