Acoustical comparison of shakuhachi special effects

The simplicity of design of Japanese instruments harnesses natural sounds. The presence of noise to become the sound of nature is a feature of Japanese music. Learn more about this in an article about Japanese aesthetics.

The first example is of muraiki. This is achieved by blowing a diffuse air stream over the utaguchi to create a loud wind sound. Muraiki can be played on any note. The sonogram shows the presence of wavy grey lines that represent the air sounds. The sound file begins with ro otsu (D above middle C) and jumps to ta (Eb two octaves above). The atari or finger hit can be seen at the 3 seconds point.

sonogram of muraiki

Sonogram and sound file of muraiki.

The next sample contains the opening breath tone of 'Honshirabe'. This can be played using a bell effect. After the initial atari, the loudness decreases. The atari is repeated after 3 seconds and again the decrease in loudness is represented by the grey line.

sonogram of bell effect

Sonogram and sound file of 'bell effect'.

The next effect is a percussive finger articulation using the bottom finger on the note re-kan (G just above treble clef) and dropping one octave to re-otsu like a breath tone in the honkyoku 'Shika no tone'. There is evidence of non-proportionally related pitches above and below the main pitch in the kan register but just a slight fluctuation of pitch in the low register.

sonogram of atari

Sonogram and sound file of finger hits.

Karakara is an effect achieved by trilling the bottom hole while playing chi-kan (the note A just above the treble clef). The effects can be seen in pitch oscillation directly above chi-kan but also in the upper harmonics.

sonogram of komibuki

Sonogram and sound file of karakara.

Korokoro is a difficult effect achieved by alternatively opening the two bottom holes. It is based around C an octave above middle C and usually resolves in D a tone above. The sonogram shows little consistency in the pitch oscillation.

sonogram of korokoro

Sonogram and sound file of korokoro.

The final sample is of tamane which involves flutter tonguing. This sample combines korokoro and tamane. The pitch oscillations are even more irregular than the previous example. Flutter tonguing can be played on any pitch.

sonogram of tamane

Sonogram and sound file of tamane.

Learn more about shakuhachi acoustics by following the links below.