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Shakuhachi musical notation

Shakuhachi musical notation refers to the systems of transcribing playing instructions for shakuhachi music. The shakuhachi in Japan dates back to approximately 700 AD, though similar predecessor bamboo flutes from China and Korea can be dated to ancient times.

In addition to a strong verbal tradition of passing pieces down from teacher to student, the shakuhachi developed its own style of musical transcription necessary to write down the emphasized aspects of shakuhachi music. In contrast to Western staff notation, shakuhachi playing instructions commonly emphasize multiple timbres for a given pitch, microtonal slides between semitones, effects and modifications to a sustained tone, and specialized breathing techniques.

Some shakuhachi music, such as solo honkyoku ("original pieces"), is not strictly metered, but offers only suggestions for timing, breathing, and silence between phrases.

Modern shakuhachi music can be, and sometimes is, written using staff notation, especially during collaboration between shakuhachi and Western instruments.

Schools of notation


  • Mayers (editor), Dan E. The Annals of The International Shakuhachi Society, Volume I. 
  • Mayers (editor), Dan E. (2005). The Annals of The International Shakuhachi Society, Volume II. ISBN 0-9711625-1-4. 
  • Berger, Donald Paul (Autumn 1969). "The Shakuhachi and the Kinko Ryu Notation". Asian Music (Springer) 1 (2): 32–72. JSTOR 833910. doi:10.2307/833910. 
  • Lee, Riley Kelly (Spring–Summer 1988). "Fu Ho U vs. Do Re Mi: The Technology of Notation Systems and Implications of Change in the Shakuhachi Tradition of Japan". Asian Music (Springer) 19 (2): 71–81. JSTOR 833867. doi:10.2307/833867. 

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