Acoustical comparison of different fingerings

The shakuhachi uses many different fingering for each pitch. These involve a different mixture of open/partially covered holes, cross fingerings combined with the use of the meri-kari technique.

The first comparison is between ro-kan and hi (both pitched at D, fourth line of treble clef). The former is fingered with all fingers on and the latter with all fingers off. Ro-kan is richer in harmonic content. This is partly due to the fact that hi is played with some meri or lowering of the head to lower the pitch. Lowering the head has the effect of reducing the harmonic richness.

sonogram of note ro-kan

Sonogram and sound file of note ro-kan .

sonogram of note hi

Sonogram and sound file of note hi.

The next pair consist of chi-meri and u (both pitched at Ab, second space of treble clef). The former is played with one partially-covered hole and the latter with a cross fingering. Both are played with meri, hence the loudness of the harmonics is low.

sonogram of note chi-meri

Sonogram and sound file of note chi-meri.

sonogram of note u

Sonogram and sound file of note u.

Ri chi-meri and i are both at the pitch of B flat (just above treble stave). The former is played with a partially-covered hole in meri position and the latter with a cross fingering in kari position with the head raised. The sonograms show a low harmonic content for the meri note and high harmonic content for the kari note.

sonogram of note ri chu-meri

Sonogram and sound file of note ri chu-meri.

sonogram of note i

Sonogram and sound file of note i.

The next comparison consists of two fingerings for the pitch F (first space of treble clef). The first, tsu, is played in normal head position with only the bottom hole open. The second, tsu meri is a fingering used frequency in Tozan scores containing partial covering of holes 2 and 3 with meri. There is a rich harmonic content for tsu but only the fundamental is strong for tsu meri.

sonogram of note tsu

Sonogram and sound file of note tsu.

sonogram of note Tozan tsu-meri

Sonogram and sound file of note Tozan tsu-meri.

The final comparison is between tsu-meri kan and shi-go no ha, a fingering used in the opening section of 'Tamuke'. These notes are framed by ro-kan. The pitches played are therefore D-Eb-D on the treble stave. Tsu meri is played in a low meri position while shi-go no ha is played in kari position. The sonogram show richness in the kari note and only the fundamental for the meri note.

sonogram of note tsu-meri kan

Sonogram and sound file of note tsu-meri kan.

sonogram of note shi-go no ha

Sonogram and sound file of note shi-go no ha.

Learn more about shakuhachi acoustics by following the links below.