As a solo meditation instrument, it is no doubt that the Shakuhachi has a soothing and consistent tone. Typically made with a wooden pipe (usually bamboo in this case), the tone is wholesome. It can be considered “wooden”, which would involve a purer sound, something that is occasionally airy and is not very rich, in comparison to the more modern or Western wind instruments. In this recording, it is evident that a player of the Shakuhachi must play with the distinct style that has been developed for the instrument. For example, this would involve a very steady stream of air. Unlike other wind instruments, this does not involve the use of vibrato. Each note is played with care and does not have many even fluctuations. However, the player of this particular piece did use pulses of air. This means that for some of the longer, held notes, he would release bursts of air to make certain parts unexpected and louder than others.
In comparison to the modern flute, this is very different. A modern flutist will almost always use vibrato because that contributes to the richness of the tone. Moreover, the flute is held to the right, unlike the Shakuhachi which is held downwards, just like a recorder or clarinet. Since the flute is more modernized, a flutist obviously has the ability to play more complicated pieces, especially because it is chromatic. Since the Shakuhachi is more limited in that respect, players will most likely have multiple wind pipes of different lengths, allowing them to play within a larger range.
What is appealing about the Shakuhachi is that it can be used in many different moods or settings. In general, people are intrigued by more ethnic instruments because these styles of music will be distinct within particular cultures. Immediately after listening to this recording, it is evident that this instrument has the capability to be versatile. In most cases, it is used for meditative techniques, proving that it can sound very calm and relaxing. However, if a player wishes to experiment with something more upbeat and lively, the instrument can also be catered to that. In comparison to other modern instruments, it is also easier to play because it does not require a tight embouchure that must be learned over the years. Therefore, the Shakuhachi is easy for someone to pick up and incorporate into daily meditation practice. It is also an instrument that someone may want to learn at the beginning of his/ her musical experience since it is more comprehensive and easier to blow into to make a sound.
Japanese music usually includes sounds that develop a certain atmosphere. In other words, it is not like a classical symphony or concerto where the purpose is to showcase virtuosic abilities or to work on complex melodies and harmonies. Therefore, Shakuhachi music usually ends up being very calm, which is fitting for Japanese culture. Calm music that focuses on extended notes and relaxed breathing will help the player become closer with his/ her own thoughts during meditation or further explore man’s relation with nature. Although the Shakuhachi can be combined with more upbeat sounds, the purpose is almost always reflective.