Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Antara bahagia dan serakah

Kita memulai hidup kita lahir ke dunia sebagai seorang bayi yang masih suci seperti kertas yang belum tercoret. Saat itu yang Kita butuhkan hanya satu, kasih sayang seorang ibu. Dengan kasih sayang ibu Kita tumbuh menjadi anak yang baik. Kita kemudian menjalin hubungan dengan teman-teman kita. Saat itu Kita mulai mengenal lingkungan. Kebahagian kita saat itu adalah perhatian dari orang tua kita dan bahagia bermain dengan teman sebaya kita. Lalu kemudian orang tua kita menyekolahkan kita. Mungkin Kita belum terbiasa dengan kehidupan sekolah tapi dari sana Kita memulai belajar untuk beradaptasi dengan lingkungan. Dua belas tahun Kita belajar di sekolah dasar, Kita belajar dengan baik di sana. Hingga akhirnya Kita lulus sekolah dasar. Kita dihadapkan pada tiga pilihan : Lanjut Kuliah, Cari pekerjaan, Atau mungkin nganggur. Tapi tak semua dari kita mempunyai tiga pilihan itu, ada yang hanya punya dua pilihan, ironisnya lagi hanya satu pilihan. Apa pun pilihan kita, mestinya kita terbentur pada proses pencarian jati diri. Kadang kita telah merasa bahagia walau pun kita tidak tahu jati diri kita. Tapi kebahagiaan itu semu dan akan mudah luntur seiring berjalannya waktu. Dan pada saat itu kebanyakan dari kita akan bertanya pada diri sendiri "Aku telah peroleh apa yang aku cari, tapi aku bosan dengan semua ini..." Ada juga orang yang sering kita lihat hidup dalam kesusahan tapi tak tampak kerut wajah penyesalan di wajahnya. Dia malah menjalaninya dengan bahagia dan syukur (Mungkin dialah orang yang kita cari, Orang yang sudah menemukan jati dirinya, Dan kita perlu belajar bersyukur dari orang-orang seperti itu). Bagaimanapun, apa pun yang kita peroleh di muka bumi ini tidak akan pernah cukup untuk menghilangkan dahaga hawa nafsu kita. Kita memang harus berusaha untuk memperoleh apa yang kita cari, tapi kita jangan lupa bersyukur dan berdoa. Dan seandainya kita gagal kita ikhlaskan saja. Jika kita berhasil jangan lupa bersyukur.

"Maka nikmat Tuhan kamu yang manakah yang kamu dustakan..." Kutipan Surat Ar-Rahman

Dan sedikit kutipan dari Tao Te Ching 57 & 58 :
Semakin banyak hukum dan pembatasan,
Semakin miskin rakyat jadinya...
Semakin banyak peraturan dan pengaturan,
Semakin banyak pencuri dan perampok.
Ketika negara diperintah dengan ringan tangan,
Rakyatnya sederhana.
Ketika negara diperintah dengan kekerasan,
Rakyat menjadi licik

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Three Japanese musical instruments


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Japanese 13-stringed koto
The koto () is a traditional Japanese stringed musical instrument, similar to the Chinese guzheng, the Mongolian yatga, the Korean gayageum and the Vietnamese đàn tranh. The koto is the national instrument of Japan.[1] Koto are about 180 centimetres (71 in) length, and made from kiri wood (Paulownia tomentosa). They have 13 strings that are strung over 13 movable bridges along the width of the instrument. Players can adjust the string pitches by moving these bridges before playing, and use three finger picks (on thumb, index finger, and middle finger) to pluck the strings.


The character for koto is , although is often used, but 琴 usually refers to another instrument, the kin. 箏, is also read as in certain contexts.


The ancestor of the koto was the Chinese instrument guzheng[2][3] and was first introduced to Japan from China in the 7th and 8th century.[4] The first known version had five strings, which eventually increased to seven strings. (It had twelve strings when it was introduced to Japan in the early Nara Period (710–784) and increased to thirteen strings). This particular instrument is known throughout Asia but in different forms: the Japanese koto, which is a distant relative to the Chinese zheng, the Korean gayageum, and the Vietnamese dan tranh[citation needed]. This variety of instrument came in two basic forms, a zither that had bridges and zithers without bridges. The type that was most known in China was the qin[citation needed], similar in design to many other instruments in Asia.
An 1878 depiction by Settei Hasegawa of a woman playing the koto.
When the koto was first imported to Japan, the native word koto was a generic term for any and all Japanese stringed instruments. Over time the definition of koto could not describe the wide variety of these stringed instruments and so the meanings changed. The azumagoto or yamatogoto was called the wagon, the kin no koto was called the kin, and the sau no koto (sau being an older pronunciation of 箏) was called the sō or koto.
The modern koto originates from the gakusō used in Japanese court music. It was a popular instrument among the wealthy; the instrument koto was considered a romantic one. Some literary and historical records indicate that solo pieces for koto existed centuries before sōkyoku, the music of the solo koto genre, was established. According to Japanese literature, the koto was used as imagery and other extra music significance. In one part of "The Tales of Genji (Genji monogatari)", Genji falls deeply in love with a mysterious woman, who he has never seen before, after he hears her playing koto from a distance.
The history of the koto in Japan dates back to the 16th Century. At this time a Buddhist priest by the name of Kenjun (1547–1636), who lived in northern Kyūshū, began to compose for the koto, calling the style "tsukushi goto".
Perhaps the most important influence on the development of koto was Yatsuhashi Kengyo (1614–1685). He was a gifted blind musician from Kyoto who changed the limited selection of six songs to a brand new style of koto music which he called kumi uta. Yatsuhashi changed the Tsukushi goto tunings, which were based on gagaku ways of tuning; and with this change, a new style of koto was born. Yatsuhashi Kengyo is now known as the "Father of Modern Koto".
Masayo Ishigure playing a 13-string koto
The Japanese developments in the bridgeless zithers include the one-stringed koto (ichigenkin) and two-stringed koto (nigenkin or yakumo goto) around the 1920s, Goro Morita created a new version of the two-stringed goto. On this goto, one would push down buttons above the metal strings like the western autoharp. It was named the taisho goto after the Taisho Era.
At the beginning of the Meiji Period (1868–1912), western music was introduced to Japan. Michio Miyagi (1894–1956), a blind composer, innovator, and performer, is considered to have been the first Japanese composer to combine western music and traditional koto music. Miyagi is largely regarded as being responsible for keeping the koto alive when traditional Japanese arts were being forgotten and replaced by Westernization. He wrote over 300 new works for the instrument before his death in a train accident at the age of 62. He also invented the popular 17 string bass koto, created new playing techniques, advanced traditional forms, and most importantly increased the koto's popularity. He performed abroad and by 1928 his piece for koto and shakuhachi, Haru no Umi (Spring Sea) had been transcribed for numerous instruments. Haru no Umi is even played to welcome each New Year in Japan.
Since Miyagi's time, many composers such as Tadao Sawai (1937–1997) have written and performed works that continue to advance the instrument. Sawai's widow Kazue Sawai, who as a child was Miyagi's favored disciple, has been the largest driving force behind the internationalization and modernization of the koto. Her arrangement of composer John Cage's prepared piano duet "Three Dances" for four prepared bass koto was a landmark in the modern era of koto music.


Detail of koto
A koto is typically made of Paulownia wood. The treatment of the wood before making the koto varies tremendously: one koto maker seasons the wood for perhaps a year on the roof of the house. Some wood may have very little treatment. Kotos may or may not be adorned, some adornments include inlays of ivory and ebony, tortoise shell, metal figures, etc.
The bridges (Ji) used to be made of ivory, but nowadays are typically made of plastic, and occasionally made of wood. For some very low notes, there are small bridges made, as well as specialty bridges with three different heights, depending on the need of the tuning. When a small bridge is unavailable for some very low notes, some players may, as an emergency measure, use a bridge upside down. Of course, such an arrangement is unstable, and the bridge would have a tendency to fall down. Bridges have been known to break during playing, and with some older instruments which have the surface where the bridges rest being worn due to much use, the bridges may fall during playing, especially when pressing strings. There are, of course, various sorts of patch materials sold to fill the holes which cause the legs of a bridge to rest on an unstable area.
Ji (bridge)
The strings are made from a variety of materials. Various types of plastic strings are popular. Silk strings are still made. Silk strings are usually yellow in color, but they cost more and are not as durable, but claimed to be more musical. The strings are tied with a half hitch to a roll of paper or cardboard, about the size of a cigarette butt, strung through the holes at the head of the koto, threaded through the holes at the back, tightened, and tied with a special knot. Strings can be tightened by a special machine, but often are tightened by hand, and then tied. One can tighten by pulling the string from behind, or sitting at the side of the koto, although the latter is much harder and requires much arm strength. Some instruments may have tuning pins (like a piano) installed, to make tuning easier.
For every part of the koto there is a traditional name which connects with the opinion that the body of a koto resembles that of a dragon. The name for the top is therefore "Dragonshell" (Ryuko/竜甲)(the asian dragon is believed to have a shell like a turtle), the lower part is called the "Dragonstomach" (Ryuhara/竜腹), one end of the koto, noticable because of the removeable colorful fabricshell, is known as the "Dragonhead". The "Dragonhead" consists of the "Dragonhorns" (Ryukaku/竜角), "Dragontongue" (Ryushita/竜舌) and so on. The lower part of the koto implies the "Dragontail" and the Heavens Seat (Tenmiyo/天御代) or Cloudhorns (Kumokaku/雲角), a description of the wooden pillow for the strings.

Koto today

Koto concert at Himejijo kangetsukai in 2009
Michiyo Yagi playing a 21-string koto
The influence of Western pop music has made the koto less prominent in Japan, although it is still developing as an instrument. The 17-string bass koto, called jūshichi-gen in Japanese, has become more prominent over the years since its development by Michio Miyagi. There are also 20-string, 21-string, and 25-string kotos. Works are being written for 20- and 25-stringed kotos and 17-string bass kotos, and a new generation of players such as Japanese master Kazue Sawai, her students including Michiyo Yagi, and American performer Reiko Obata, are finding places for the koto in today's jazz, experimental music and even pop. The members of the band Rin' are popular jūshichi-gen players in the modern (pop/rock) music scene.
Well-known solo performers outside of Japan include koto master and award-winning recording artist Elizabeth Falconer, who also studied for a decade at the esteemed Sawai Koto School in Tokyo, as well as koto master Linda Kako Caplan, Canadian daishihan (grandmaster) and a member of Fukuoka's Chikushi Koto School for over two decades. Another Sawai disciple, Masayo Ishigure, holds down a school in New York City. Yukiko Matsuyama leads her KotoYuki band in Los Angeles. Her compositions blend the timbres of World Music with her native Japanese culture. She performed on the Grammy winning album Miho: Journey to the Mountain by the Paul Winter Consort garnering additional exposure to Western audiences for the instrument.
In March, 2010 the koto received widespread international attention when a video linked by the Grammy Award-winning hard rock band Tool on its website became a viral hit. The video showed Tokyo-based ensemble Soemon playing member Brett Larner's arrangement of the Tool song "Lateralus" for six koto and two bass koto. Larner had previously played koto with John Fahey, Jim O'Rourke and members of indie rock groups including Camper Van Beethoven, Deerhoof, Jackie O Motherfucker and Mr. Bungle.
In older pop and rock music, David Bowie used a koto in the instrumental piece "Moss Garden" on his album "Heroes". The multi-instrumentalist, founder and former The Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones played koto in the song Take It Or Leave, on the album Aftermath, 1966. Paul Gilbert, a popular guitar virtuosoist, recorded his wife, Emi playing the koto on his song "Koto Girl" from the album Alligator Farm. Rock band Kagrra, are well known for using traditional Japanese musical instruments in many of their songs, an example being "Utakata" (うたかた), a song in which the koto has a prominent place. Winston Tong, singer with Tuxedomoon, uses it on his 15-minute song, "The Hunger" from his debut solo album Theoretically Chinese. The rock band Queen used a (toy) koto in "The Prophet's Song" on their 1975 album A Night at the Opera. Dr. Dre's 1999 album Chronic 2001 prominently features a synthesized koto on two of its tracks - "Still D.R.E." and "The Message". David Horvitz played the instrument in a contemporary indie rock scene setting on Xiu Xiu's album, The Air Force.
The influence of the koto on Western music is also evident in jazz. The "in-sen" scale, a five note scale, was first introduced to jazz by John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner[citation needed] (another koto player) and is based on the tuning of the koto. Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck composed "Koto Song" that, while not featuring the koto itself, is played to allow the piano to emulate its sound. June Kuramoto of the jazz fusion group Hiroshima was one of the first koto performers to popularize the koto in a non-traditional fusion style. Reiko Obata, founder of East West Jazz band, is the first to perform and record an album of jazz standards featuring koto. Obata also produced the first-ever English language koto instructional DVD "You Can Play Koto". Brett Larner was also active in jazz, recording a duo CD with saxophone legend and composer Anthony Braxton.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Tokyo Geisha with Shamisen, circa 1870s
Kitagawa Utamaro, "Flowers of Edo: Young Woman's Narrative Chanting to the Samisen", ca. 1880
A Japanese man playing a shamisen while another sings
Shamisenwithvocals 2006.ogg
A shamisen accompanying traditional vocals, with a solo. (audio)
The shamisen or samisen (三味線?, literally "three flavor strings"), also called sangen (三絃?, literally "three strings") is a three-stringed, Japanese musical instrument played with a plectrum called a bachi. The Japanese pronunciation is usually "shamisen" but sometimes "jamisen" when used as a suffix (e.g., Tsugaru-jamisen).[1] (In western Japan, and often in Edo-period sources, it is sometimes "samisen.")


The shamisen is a plucked stringed instrument. Its construction follows a model similar to that of a guitar or a banjo, employing a neck, and strings stretched across a resonating body. The neck of the shamisen is fretless, and is slimmer than that of a guitar or banjo. The body, called the (?), resembles a drum, having a hollow body that is taut front and back with skin, in the manner of a banjo. The skin used depends on the genre of music, and level of skill of the player. Student shamisens often use dog skin, and sometimes plastic, as they are cheaper to replace, and more durable. The shamisens of professional players are often taut in cat skin, as it is more delicate and expensive. It is said that the best sound quality is produced from a shamisen bound in cat skin. In the past a special type of paper was used and recently various types of plastics are being tried. On the skin of some of the best shamisen, the position of the cat's nipples can still be seen.[2]
The sao (?), or neck of the shamisen is usually constructed such that it is divided into three or four pieces that fit and lock together. Indeed, some shamisens are made so that they can be easily disassembled and stowed to save space. The neck of the shamisen is a singular rod that transcends the drum-like body of the instrument, partially protruding at the other side of the body, acting as an anchor for the strings. The pegs used to wind the strings are long, thin and hexagonal in shape. They were traditionally fashioned out of ivory, but as it has become a rare resource, they have been recently fashioned out of other materials, such as various kinds of wood and plastic.
The three strings are traditionally made of silk, or, more recently, nylon. They are taut between the pegs at the head of the instrument, and a cloth tailpiece anchored at the end of the rod which protrudes on the other side of the body. The strings are stretched across the dō, raised from it by means of a bridge, or koma (?), which rests directly on the taught skin. The lowest string is purposefully laid lower at the nut of the instrument, so that it buzzes, creating a characteristic timbre known as sawari (somewhat reminiscent of the "buzzing" of a sitar, which is called jivari). The upper side of the dō (when on the player's lap) is almost always protected by a cover known as a dō kake, and players often wear a little band of cloth on their left hand to facilitate sliding up and down the neck, known as a yubikake. The head of the instrument may also be protected by a cover known as a tenjin. The material of the strings will depend on the skill of the player. Traditionally, silk strings are used. However, silk breaks easily over a short time, so this is reserved for professional performances. Students often use nylon strings, which last longer than silk, and are also less expensive.

Variations in construction and playing method

The heike shamisen compared with a medium-sized, or chuzao shamisen.
The construction of the shamisen varies in shape and size, depending on the genre in which it is used. The bachi used will also be different according to genre, if it is used at all. Shamisen are classified according to size and genre. There are three basic sizes; hosozao, chuzao and futozao. Examples of shamisen genres include nagauta, jiuta, min'yo, and tsugaru.
The hosozao (細棹?, literally "thin neck"), as its Japanese name implies, is the smallest kind of shamisen. The body is small and particularly square-shaped, with a particularly thin neck, which tapers away from the strings just as it approaches the body. Generally, the hosozao is used in nagauta, the shorter and thinner neck facilitating the agile and virtuosic requirements of Kabuki. Hosozao shamisen especially built for nagauta ensembles is often simply known as a "nagauta shamisen." The hosozao is also often used in kouta, where it is plucked with the fingernails.
The chuzao (中棹?, literally "middle neck") is a size up from the hosozao. As its name implies, the neck is slightly thicker. As the neck approaches the body of the instrument, the distance between the strings and the fingerboard is maintained, unlike the hosozao, where it tapers off. The fingerboard ends abruptly, and the rest of the neck curves sharply into the body of the instrument. The pronunced curve that occurs just before the neck meets the body is called hatomune (鳩胸?, literally "pidgeon's breast"). The result is an extended fingerboard that gives the chuzao a higher register than the hosozao. The chuzao is favored for jiuta style playing, with a broader, more mellow timbre. It is also an "all-round" instrument that can actually be used across many genres.
Finally, futozao (太棹?, literally "fat neck") are used in the robust music of Gidayubushi (the music of Bunraku), Joruri Min'yo, and Tsugaru-jamisen. In these genres, a thicker neck facilitates the greater force used in playing the music of these styles. The futozao of Tsugaru-jamisen is quite a recent innovation, and is purposefully constructed in a much larger size than traditional style shamisens, and its neck is much longer and thicker than the traditional nagauta or jiuta shamisens.
Variations in Bachi
The bachi or plectrum used to play the shamisen also differ in size, shape, and material from genre to genre. The bachi used for nagauta shamisen are made out of three possible materials. Wood, Plastic, and Ivory. While many nagauta teachers do not approve of the use of plastic, if ivory is unattainable and wood is still out of price range, plastic will suffice. Jiuta bachi are made entirely out of plastic or ivory, or are plastic and tortoiseshell (bekko), or ivory and tortoiseshell. Jiuta bachi are the easiest identified because they are the longest, the widest and also have a deep indentation where the tortoiseshell meets the handle. There are sometimes also jiuta bachi that are made with buffalo horn handle. These however make no difference in the sound whatsoever. Gidayu shamisen uses the heaviest and thickest bachi made, but it is not as wide as nagauta bachi. The bachi used for tsugaru shamisen is the smallest bachi. It is almost always tipped with tortoiseshell.
Pictured: Bachi for minyo, tsugaru and heike shamisens.
Other Variations
The width of the koma, or bridge, and the material from which it is made. Koma can be fashioned out of aged bamboo, ivory, ox-bone (shari), rosewood, buffalo horn, kouki wood, any combination of the above, or plastic for the student level. One must also know that Koma come in many variations of height. The higher the Koma, the louder it will be, and the harder it is to control rapid "sukui". The higher koma are not really recommended for beginners. Please plan on buying accordingly!
Koma Variations
Nagauta Koma
Heights Used: 3.2 - 3.6 Koma for Nagauta are fashioned out of only three materials. Ivory, Bone, and Plastic. Ivory is the most expensive and produces the most desirable sound and amplification, but due to its high price tag is normally only used in performances. Ox-Bone or "Shari" is the most popular koma for practice and with students who are performing. Because of Ivory's volume and vibration it is normally used by a teacher or "Tate-jamisen"; lead shamisen, so that the other players can follow their tone and signals. Plastic is becoming increasingly harder to find simply because it does not produce a desirable sound when compared to Shari koma. Shari is not too much more expensive than plastic, and most teachers openly express their displeasure with plastic koma and require shari.
Jiuta Koma
Heights Used: 2.6 and 2.8 are the standard. (Other heights may be available if specially ordered.) Koma for Jiuta are made out of a few select materials. Yellow or Black Water Buffalo Horn known as "Suigyu" are the standard for Jiuta. Black Water Buffalo Horn does not have a significant sound difference when cut in the Jiuta koma style, and it is far less popular. Yellow Suigyu is the most widely used for Jiuta style shamisen, both in practice and performance. Plastic is available because of the higher price tag of Suigyu. Many people believe that for Jiuta, there is not a large sound difference between the two, but there is a high change in vibration. Plastic makes a deader sound, which is not the most favorable for Jiuta. Shari is used from time to time in practice, but never for performance of Jiuta.
Tsugaru/Min'yo Koma
Heights Used:2.6, sometimes 2.7, and 2.8 Tsugaru Koma are very easily identifiable due to their unique structure and use of two different materials. Tsugaru Koma are very thin in width, and arent very high. The base is usually made of either bamboo, smoked bamboo, or a wood of some kind, while the top half in which the strings pass through can be made of ivory, bone, or tortoiseshell. Because of the thickness of both the strings and neck of the Futozao shamisen, the Tsugaru bridge in general tends to be longer than the others. One should note not to confuse a Gidayu (Highest Koma made, fashioned out of black buffalo horn) or Kiyomoto koma (looks exactly like Nagauta koma but is much wider at the base) with Tsugaru.
Shamisen used for traditional genres of Japanese music, such as jiuta, kouta, and nagauta, adhere to very strict standards. Purists of these genres demand that the shamisens be made of the correct wood, the correct skin, and are played with the correct bachi. There is little room for variation. The tsugaru-jamisen, on the other hand, has lent itself to modern use, and is used in modern genres such as jazz and rock. As a more open instrument, variations of it exist for show. The tuning pegs, which are usually fashioned out of ivory, and bachi which are fashioned from a combination of ivory and tortoise-shell for example, are sometimes made of acrylic material to give the shamisen a more modern, flashy look. Recently, avant-garde inventors have developed a Tsugaru-jamisen with electric pickups to be used with amplifiers, like the electric guitar: the electric tsugaru-jamisen [1] has been born.
The Heike (平家) shamisen is a shamisen particularly fashioned for the performance of the song Heike Ondo, a folk tune originating from Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture. The neck of the Heike Shamisen is about half the length of most shamisen, giving the instrument the high range needed to play Heike Ondo. The use of more typical shamisens is possible, but they must be properly adjusted with a capo device to raise their pitch to make them suitable for use.

Variations in Playing

A busker playing a shamisen in Sydney, Australia
Pictured: Bachi, or plectrum for the shamisen.
In most genres the shamisen, the strings are plucked with a bachi. The sound of a shamisen is similar in some respects to that of the American banjo, in that the drum-like , amplifies the sound of the strings. As in the clawhammer style of American banjo playing, the bachi is often used to strike both string and skin, creating a highly percussive sound. In kouta (小唄?, literally "small song") style shamisen, and occasionally in other genres, the shamisen is plucked with the fingers.


The shamisen is played and tuned according to genre. The nomenclature of the nodes in an octave also varies according to genre. In truth, there are myriad styles of Shamisen across Japan, and tunings, tonality and notation vary to some degree. Three of the most commonly recognized tunings across all genres are "honchoshi" (本調子), "ni agari" (二上がり), and "san sagari" (三下がり).
"Honchoshi" means "home tuning" or "base tuning," and it is called so because other tunings are considered derivatives of this one tuning. For honchoshi, the first and third strings are tuned an octave apart, while the middle string is tuned to the equivalent of a fourth, in Western terms, from the 1st string. An example of this is D, G, D.
Ni Agari
"Ni agari" means "raised two" or "raised second," and this refers to the fact that the pitch of the second string is raised (from honchoshi), increasing the interval of the first and second strings to a fifth (conversely decreasing the interval between the second and third strings to a fourth). An example of this is D, A, D.
San Sagari
"San sagari," which means "lowered three" or "lowered third" refers to tuning the shamisen to honchoshi and lowering the 3rd string (the string with the highest pitch) down a whole step, so that now the instrument is tuned in fourths, e.g. D, G, C.
Instead of having a set tuning, such as on a guitar (i.e. E, A, D, G, B, E) or a violin (i.e. G, D, A, E), the shamisen is tuned according to the register of the singer, or simply to the liking of the player. The shamisen player can tune the shamisen to whatever register desired, so long as the above conventions are followed.

Musical notation

Vertical shamisen tablature, read from right to left. Nodes for the 3rd string are indicated by Arabic numerals, for the 2nd string by Chinese numerals, and for the 1st string by Chinese numerals preceded by イ.
Horizontal shamisen tablature, read from left to right. Similar to guitar tablature, three horizontal lines represent the strings of the shamisen. Nodes are represented by Arabic numerals, and note subdivisions are indicated by lines under them.
Music for the shamisen can be written in Western music notation, but is more often written in tablature notation. While tunings might be similar across genres, the way in which the nodes on the neck of the instrument (called tsubo (?) in Japanese) are named is not. As a consequence, tablature for each genre is written differently. For example, in min'yo style shamisen, nodes on the shamisen are labeled from 0, the open string called "0". However, in jiuta style shamisen, nodes are subdivided and named by octave, with "1" being the open string and first note in an octave, starting over at the next octave. The nodes are also labeled differently for Tsugaru style shamisen. To add to the confusion, sometimes nodes can be "sharped," and since the names of nodes and their positions are different for each genre, these will also vary. Consequently, students of one genre of shamisen will find it difficult to read tablature from other genres of shamisen, unless they are specially trained to read these kinds of tablatures.
Tablature can be written in traditional Japanese vertical right-to-left notation, or it can be written in more modern horizontal left-to-right notation, which resembles modern guitar tablature. In traditional vertical notation, Chinese characters and older symbols for dynamics are used, however notation from Western style music notation, such as Italian names for dynamics, time signature and the fermata have been imported. What tuning a work calls for is usually indicated on the tablature.

History and genres

The Japanese shamisen originated from the Chinese instrument sanxian (Chinese: 三弦).[3][4][5][6] The sanxian was introduced through the Ryūkyū Kingdom (Okinawa) in the 16th century, where it developed into the Okinawan instrument sanshin (三線) from which the shamisen ultimately derives.[3][4][5][6][7] It is believed that the ancestor of the shamisen was introduced in the sixteenth century at port Sakai near Osaka.[5]
The shamisen can be played solo or with other shamisen, in ensembles with other Japanese instruments, with singing such as nagauta, or as an accompaniment to drama, notably kabuki and bunraku. Both men and women traditionally played the shamisen.
The most famous and perhaps most demanding of the narrative styles is gidayū, named after Takemoto Gidayū (1651–1714), who was heavily involved in the bunraku puppet-theater tradition in Osaka. The gidayū shamisen and its plectrum are the largest of the shamisen family, and the singer-narrator is required to speak the roles of the play, as well as to sing all the commentaries on the action. The singer-narrator role is often so vocally taxing that the performers are changed halfway through a scene. There is little notated in the books (maruhon) of the tradition except the words and the names of certain appropriate generic shamisen responses. The shamisen player must know the entire work perfectly in order to respond effectively to the interpretations of the text by the singer-narrator. From the 19th century female performers known as onna-jōruri or onna gidayū also carried on this concert tradition.
In the early part of the 20th century, blind musicians, including Shirakawa Gunpachirō (1909–1962), Takahashi Chikuzan (1910–1998), and sighted players such as Kida Rinshōei (1911–1979), evolved a new style of playing, based on traditional folk songs ("min'yō") but involving much improvisation and flashy fingerwork. This style - now known as Tsugaru-jamisen, after the home region of this style in the north of Honshū - continues to be relatively popular in Japan. The virtuosic Tsugaru-jamisen style is sometimes compared to bluegrass banjo.
Kouta (小唄) is the style of song learned by geisha and maiko. Its name literally means "small" or "short song," which contrasts with the music genre found in bunraku and kabuki, otherwise known as nagauta (long song).
Jiuta (地唄), or literally "earthen music" is a more classical style of shamisen music.

Shamisen in non-traditional genres

One contemporary shamisen player, Takeharu Kunimoto, plays bluegrass music on the shamisen, having spent a year studying bluegrass at East Tennessee State University and performing with a bluegrass band based there. Another player using the Tsugaru-jamisen in non-traditional genres is Michihiro Sato, who plays free improvisation on the instrument.
Japanese American jazz pianist Glenn Horiuchi played shamisen in his performances and recordings.
A duo popular in Japan known as the Yoshida Brothers developed an energetic style of playing heavily influenced by fast aggressive soloing that emphasizes speed and twang; which is usually associated with rock music on the electric guitar.
Metal guitarist Marty Friedman has often used a shamisen in his recordings to give a more exotic sound to his music.[8]
Japanese extreme metal band Zenithrash played shamisen and shakuhachi in their latest album to achieve the band's ideal of Japanized extreme metal.[9]
Japanese rock musician Gackt opened his "Sixth Day Seventh Night" concerts in 2004 seated on stage with a shamisen, joined by two musicians from his band, GacktJOB, also playing shamisen.[citation needed]
Japanese rock musician Miyavi has also played the shamisen on various occasions, incorporating its use in albums and during concerts (i.e. during the debut live of superband S.K.I.N concert at the 2007 Anime Expo convention at Long Beach, California on June 29, 2007).[10]
American Tsugaru-jamisen player and guitarist Kevin Kmetz leads a rock band called God of Shamisen, which is based in Santa Cruz, California, and also plays the instrument with the band Estradasphere.[11]
Japanese traditional and jazz musician Hiromitsu Agatsuma incorporates a diverse mix of genres into his music. He arranged several jazz standards and other famous western songs for the shamisen on his latest album, Agatsuma Plays Standards. His previous recordings displayed funk, electro music and traditional Japanese styles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A shakuhachi flute, blowing edge up.
  • Left: top view, four holes.
  • Right: bottom view, fifth hole.
The shakuhachi (尺八?, pronounced [ɕakɯhatɕi]) is a Japanese end-blown flute. It is traditionally made of bamboo, but versions now exist in ABS and hardwoods. It was used by the monks of the Fuke school of Zen Buddhism in the practice of suizen (吹禅?, blowing meditation). Its soulful sound made it popular in 1980s pop music in the English-speaking world.
They are often made in the minor pentatonic scale.


The name shakuhachi means "1.8 shaku", referring to its size. It is a compound of two words:
  • shaku (?) means "shaku", an archaic unit of width equal to 30.3 centimeters (0.994 English foot) and subdivided in ten subunits.
  • hachi (?) means "eight", here eight sun, or tenths of a shaku.
Thus, "shaku-hachi" means "one shaku eight sun" (almost 55 centimeters), the standard length of a shakuhachi. Other shakuhachi vary in length from about 1.3 shaku up to 3.3 shaku. Although the sizes differ, all are still referred to generically as "shakuhachi".
A shakuhachi showing its utaguchi (歌口, blowing edge) and inlay
Shakuhachi are usually made from the root end of a bamboo culm and are extremely versatile instruments. Professional players can produce virtually any pitch they wish from the instrument, and play a wide repertoire of original Zen music, ensemble music with koto, biwa, and shamisen, folk music, jazz, and other modern pieces.
Much of the shakuhachi's subtlety (and player's skill) lies in its rich tone colouring, and the ability for its variation. Different fingerings, embouchures and amounts of meri can produce notes of the same pitch, but with subtle or dramatic differences in the tone colouring. Holes can be covered partially (1/3 covered, 1/2, 2/3, etc.) and pitch varied subtly or substantially by changing the blowing angle. The honkyoku pieces rely heavily on this aspect of the instrument to enhance their subtlety and depth.
Unlike a recorder, where the player blows into a duct—a narrow airway over a block which is called a "fipple"—and thus has limited pitch control, the shakuhachi player blows as one would blow across the top of an empty bottle (though the shakuhachi has a sharp edge to blow against) and therefore has substantial pitch control. The five finger holes are tuned to a pentatonic scale with no half-tones, but using techniques called meri and kari, in which the blowing angle is adjusted to bend the pitch downward and upward, respectively, the player can bend each pitch as much as a whole tone or more. Pitches may also be lowered by shading or partially covering finger holes. Since most pitches can be achieved via several different fingering or blowing techniques on the shakuhachi, the timbre of each possibility is taken into account when composing or playing. The shakuhachi has a range of two full octaves (the lower is called otsu, the upper, kan) and a partial third octave (dai-kan). The various octaves are produced using subtle variations of breath and embouchure.
A 1.8 shakuhachi produces D4 (D above Middle C, 293.66 Hz) as its fundamental—the lowest note it produces with all five finger holes covered, and a normal blowing angle. In contrast, a 2.4 shakuhachi has a fundamental of A3 (A below Middle C, 220 Hz). As the length increases, the spacing of the finger holes also increases, stretching both fingers and technique. Longer flutes often have offset finger holes, and very long flutes are almost always custom made to suit individual players. Some honkyoku, in particular those of the Nezasaha (Kimpu-ryu) school are intended to be played on these longer flutes.
Due to the skill required, the time involved, and the range of quality in materials to craft bamboo shakuhachi, one can expect to pay from USD $300 to USD $5,000 for a new or used flute. Because each piece of bamboo is unique, shakuhachi cannot be mass-produced, and craftsmen must spend much time finding the correct bore shape for each individual flute to result in correct pitch over all notes. Specimens of extremely high quality, with valuable inlays, or of historical significance can fetch USD $10,000 or more. Plastic or PVC shakuhachi have some advantages over their traditional bamboo counterparts: they are light weight, extremely durable, nearly impervious to heat and cold, and typically cost less than USD $100. Shakuhachi made of wood are also available, typically costing less than bamboo but more than synthetic materials. Nearly all players, however, prefer bamboo, citing tonal qualities, aesthetics, and tradition.


Sketch of a komuso (right) playing shakuhachi
The bamboo flute first came to Japan from China during the 6th century.[1] The shakuhachi proper, however, is quite distinct from its Chinese counterpart[2] – the result of centuries of isolated evolution in Japan.
During the medieval period, shakuhachi were most notable for their role in the Fuke sect of Zen Buddhist monks, known as komusō ("priests of nothingness," or "emptiness monks"), who used the shakuhachi as a spiritual tool. Their songs (called "honkyoku") were paced according to the players' breathing and were considered meditation (suizen) as much as music.
Travel around Japan was restricted by the shogunate at this time, but the Fuke sect managed to wrangle an exemption from the Shogun, since their spiritual practice required them to move from place to place playing the shakuhachi and begging for alms (one famous song reflects this mendicant tradition, "Hi fu mi, hachi gaeshi", "One two three, pass the alms bowl"). They persuaded the Shogun to give them "exclusive rights" to play the instrument. In return, some were required to spy for the shogunate, and the Shogun sent several of his own spies out in the guise of Fuke monks as well. This was made easier by the wicker baskets that the Fuke wore over their heads, a symbol of their detachment from the world.
In response to these developments, several particularly difficult honkyoku pieces, e.g., Shika no tone, became well-known as "tests": if you could play them, you were a real Fuke. If you couldn't, you were probably a spy and might very well be killed if you were in unfriendly territory.
Performer playing shakuhachi in 60th Himeji oshiro festival,2009
With the Meiji Restoration, beginning in 1868, the shogunate was abolished and so was the Fuke sect, in order to help identify and eliminate the shogun's holdouts. The very playing of the shakuhachi was officially forbidden for a few years. Non-Fuke folk traditions did not suffer greatly from this, since the tunes could be played just as easily on another pentatonic instrument. However, the honkyoku repertoire was known exclusively to the Fuke sect and transmitted by repetition and practice, and much of it was lost, along with many important documents.
When the Meiji government did permit the playing of shakuhachi again, it was only as an accompanying instrument to the koto, shamisen, etc. It was not until later that honkyoku were allowed to be played publicly again as solo pieces.
Shakuhachi has traditionally been played almost exclusively by men in Japan, although this situation is rapidly changing. Many teachers of traditional shakuhachi music indicate that a majority of their students are women. The 2004 Big Apple Shakuhachi Festival in New York City hosted the first-ever concert of international women shakuhachi masters. This Festival was organized and produced by Ronnie Nyogetsu Reishin Seldin, who was the first full-time Shakuhachi master to teach in the Western Hemisphere. Nyogetsu also holds 2 Dai Shihan (Grand Master) Licenses, and has run KiSuiAn , the largest and most active Shakuhachi Dojo outside Japan, since 1975.
The first non-Japanese person to become a shakuhachi master is the American-Australian Riley Lee. Lee was responsible for the World Shakuhachi Festival being held in Sydney, Australia over 5–8 July 2008, based at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.[3][4]


The first shakuhachi recording to appear in the United States was Bell Ringing in an Empty Sky, performed by Gorō Yamaguchi for Nonesuch Explorer Records on LP.
New recordings of shakuhachi music are relatively plentiful, especially on Japanese labels and increasingly so in North America, Europe, and Australia. Although the instrument is sometimes considered quaint and outdated in Japan, it is experiencing growth overseas.
The primary genres of shakuhachi music are
  • honkyoku (traditional, solo),
  • sankyoku (ensemble, with koto and shamisen), and
  • shinkyoku (new music composed for shakuhachi and koto, commonly post-Meiji era compositions influenced by western music).
Shakuhachi are often used in modern film scores, particularly ones by James Horner. Films in which it is featured prominently include: Legends of the Fall and Braveheart by James Horner, Jurassic Park and its sequels by John Williams and Don Davis, and The Last Samurai by Hans Zimmer and Memoirs of a Geisha by John Williams.
In the domain of contemporary music, Carlo Forlivesi's composition for shakuhachi and guitar Ugetsu (雨月) is one of the most challenging works ever written for the instrument. "The performance techniques present notable difficulties in a few completely novel situations: an audacious movement of ‘expansion’ of the respective traditions of the two instruments pushed as they are at times to the limits of the possible, the aim being to have the shakuhachi and the guitar playing on the same level and with virtuosity (two instruments that are culturally and acoustically so dissimilar), thus increasing the expressive range, the texture of the dialogue, the harmonic dimension and the tone-colour."[5]

Synthesized shakuhachi

The sound of the shakuhachi is also featured from time to time in non-traditional non-Japanese music , from electronica to pop-rock to jazz music, especially after being commonly shipped as a "preset" instrument on various synthesizers and keyboards beginning in the 1980s.[6] Here is a short list of well-known tracks from various musical genres where you can hear the sound of an electronic or emulated shakuhachi:
Year Artist or band Album Song, range, notes
1974 Tangerine Dream Phaedra "Sequent C'" [full 2:18 track]
1983 Osamu Kitajima Face to Face "Tracks 2,3,5,7,9" [Tacoma Records TAK-7107]
1985 Tangerine Dream Le Parc "Yellowstone Park" [0:00–0:05, 2:23–2:50]
1985 Tangerine Dream Legend OST "Opening" [0:00–0:30]
1985 Tangerine Dream Legend OST "Unicorn Theme" [0:00–0:10]
1985 Dire Straits Brothers in Arms "Ride Across the River" [0:00-0:06]
1985 Echo & the Bunnymen Songs to Learn & Sing "Bring On the Dancing Horses" [0:45-0:53 and in every chorus that follows]
1985 Wang Chung To Live and Die in L.A. (OST) "Wake Up, Stop Dreaming" [???–???]
1985 Tears for Fears Head Over Heels (single) "When in Love with a Blind Man" (b-side) [0:44-0:54, 1:32-1:36, 1:45-1:56]
1986 Shriekback Oil and Gold "Coelocanth" [whole song]
1986 Coil Horse Rotorvator "The First Five Minutes After Death" [1:15–1:45, 2:38–3:38, 4:30–end], morbid shakuhachi.
1986 Peter Gabriel So "Sledgehammer" [0:00–0:16, 3:16–3:34]
1987 Coil Gold Is the Metal "The First Five Minutes After Violent Death" [0:30–1:30, 2:45–3:45, etc., morbid shakuhachi.
1987 Coil Unnatural History III "Music for Commercials": Liqueur [0:41–1:26] Natural Gas [03:15-04:00]
1987 Roger Waters Radio K.A.O.S. "Me or Him" [0:09–0:22, 1:27–1:35, 2:06–2:20, etc.]
1987 Rush Hold Your Fire "Tai Shan"
1988 And Also the Trees The Millpond Years "The Sandstone Man" [0:33–0:39, 3:25–4:36]
1988 Sade Stronger Than Pride "Love Is Stronger Than Pride" [0:28–0:33, 2:08–2:14, 2:28–2:33, 3:08–3:30, etc.]
1989 The Sugarcubes
(Björk's ex-band)
Here Today, Tomorrow, Next Week! "Pump" [2:06-2:22]
1990 Enigma MCMXC a.D. "Sadeness (Principles of Lust, Part 1)" [1:14–1:54, 2:56–3:16]
1991 Klaus Schulze Beyond Recall "Airlights" [0:00–0:05, 0:15–0:20, 0:40–0:50, 1:00–1:05, etc.]
1992 Snap! Exterminate! "Exterminate! Feat. Nikki Harris" [2:20-2:52, etc.]
1993 Dave Brubeck Late Night Brubeck "Koto Song" [4:30–9:50] - Bobby Militello's flute emulation
1993 Future Sound of London Cascade "Cascade 1" [2:05–6:25] + "Cascade 6" [1:40–2:15], opener/closer tracks
1994 Future Sound of London Lifeforms "Little Brother" [4:00-5:13(end)], closer track
1994 Klaus Schulze as
Richard Wahnfried
Trancelation "The End - Someday" [2:17–2:36]
1995 Michael Bolton Greatest Hits (1985-1995) "Can I Touch You... There?" [0:00–0:04, 3:26–3:50, 4:24–5:07]
1995 Juno Reactor Beyond the Infinite "Samurai" [scattered throughout]
1996 Toshio Iwai SimTunes Piper, blue "bug" available voice, Low C3 to C5
1998 Symphony X Twilight in Olympus "Lady of the Snow" [0:00-0:26]
2001 Incubus Morning View "Aqueous Transmission" and "Circles"
2001 John Zorn The Gift "Samarkan" [1:17-6:39] actual instrument
2003 Linkin Park Meteora "Nobody's Listening" [0:00–2:57]
2004 Autumn Tears Eclipse "At a Distance" [0:32–0:56, 1:19–2:15, 2:37–3:04, 3:47–4:15]
2010 Andrea Carri Partire "Dove Andremo?" [0:31–1:21]
2011 Zenithrash Restoration Of The Samurai World "Ritual","Harakiri","The Samurai Metal"

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