On Thursday afternoon, my new 1.8 shakuhachi from Jem Klein arrived. It is the root end black Koruchiku bamboo instrument pictured below, made with Jem’s new cast-interior jiari technique. Work and study have been so hectic that only today I was home to practice and get to know my new shakuhachi.
The bamboo is a very slender single piece, more even than the “fairly slim” description prepared me for. It has a large, full voice, warm tone and consistency through all three octaves that belies its innocent appearance. If it was wine, it would be full-bodied and chocolaty. The embouchure is slightly different to my Miura and Levenson flutes but it did not take more than five minutes to adjust.
Deep meri notes are a complete pleasure and very natural. The finger holes are not giant like my other kinko instruments but the utaguchi produces true meri tuning without the need for half-holing, shading and compensations for anomalous pitch that is typical even amongst very good shakuhachis due to the individuality of the bamboo. The hole spacing and narrow bore feel comfortable to my wrists.
Whatever Jem does to fine-tune the intonation produces very accurate results and the tone is even in the second and third octaves. Second and third octaves speak freely and allow for good control of tapering and dynamic range. The resonance and volume of such a light and slender piece of bamboo is truly remarkable. I find this instrument liberating and inspiring.
It may be crass to point out, but this is really good value for the price.
Jem is clearly a very talented maker and the attention to detail is evident in the smooth bore interior, excellent tuning, and handsome looking instrument.
On the basis of this shakuhachi, I highly recommend these instruments. I took a chance ordering online, unheard, and the instrument is more fulfilling than I could have anticipated.
Thank you Jem Klein for such a beautiful shakuhachi. When I have practiced a little more, I will record a sound file. I will continue to follow your making with great interest.
The flutes have arrived! Christmas!! :-)) They are wonderful. The sound is warm and exactly as specified. The lower flute is really amazing. I get along with the fingering just fine. Very cool how low it plays. The shakuhachi responds nicely in the upper octave as I wished for. I'm really excited! I'm looking forward to record them soon.
This is a courtesy email to let you know my parcel arrived today in perfect condition and I am one very happy customer
I really love the tiger bamboo and the workmanship it is a beautiful musical instrument to hold and play as well as to display in my house
In time I am sure I will come to appreciate the enhanced resonance but my playing ability at this stage I am sure cannot deliver the quality of sound this shakuhaci is capable of , but I was after a quality instrument that will reward me for the dedication I give it as my playing skill develops and give me a lifetime of pleasure.
I am very impressed with the quality of the silk flute bag it is a work of art in itself and I loved the way you tied the securing strings.
Thank you for taking the time with my order and it will become one of my prized possessions
When I saw this flute on your website today, I saw the exact flute we had discussed and knew I should act.
I’m really looking forward to getting another flute from you and trying this long one with a low tone.
The 2.0’ flute I bought from you at your shop a couple years ago continues to provide me with great joy and sympathetic vibrations. It has also proven to be very stable (no shrinking or cracking) and quite possibly the most beautiful thing I own.
“...You gave a SOUL to THIS piece of bamboo !... Absolutly incredible. Magical. Perfection. Really something special and quite unexpected after playing so many wind instruments in my life."
“I just wanted to say how thankful I am for the fine instrument you created, and I had the good fortune of purchasing. I spent some time with the shak and the birds last evening in my backyard, and it was really special. The flute has a great tone and is exceptionally easy to play. Every note pops with little effort and the meri and keri is very wide and easy to produce. I really love the large holes. Thanks again, and I'll make sure to tell the folks in my dojo about your work!"
"I received the beautiful flute Saturday. I was able to get a tone from it on Sunday. I am very pleased with the flute."
"Your Shakuhachi arrived today. I was able to spend some time this afternoon and am so happy. I find the tone to be deep and the flute's ability to go between Ryo and Kan is remarkable, the flute glides between the two very easily.”
"The care you put into the instrument is very evident. I cannot exhaust the deep feeling of playing a long earthy RO!"
"I received the flute. To say I am impressed is an understatement. Beautiful tone, wonderful feel. What a joy! The degree of craftsmanship is a pleasure in itself. Thank you."
"My flute arrived this morning - and it's beautiful. Thank you for all the hard work that went into making it, from the flute itself right down to the careful packaging to make sure it got here safe and sound. I'll do my best to do it justice as I learn."
"Wow. The new flute got here last night. I gave it a night to get used to its new home and began playing it today. This is one great little flute!"
"I thank you very very much for your wonderful job : optical and musical top !! I love it (once again) !"
"Jem is the finest shakuhachi craftsman I have ever met. I recommend his shakuhachi with the utmost confidence and respect."
"I received the shakuhachi this morning!
That was fast, and shipped very safely and securely.
The flute is beautiful------a work of art!
It plays effortlessly and the upper registers are right there.
Beautifully crafted, oiled and bound.
I would absolutely recommend these flutes to anyone looking for a superb instrument."
Thank you again!
"I ordered a madake bamboo 1.8 student model shakuhachi with standard D tuning, from Jem, along with a silk cloth bag for protecting the flute and a simple shaku whistle.
We had a lengthy conversation in choosing and making the flute that would be just right for me and it was a very pleasant experience. Jem is very personable and catered to my requests with descriptions and photos of work in progress as well as finished product before I finalized the order.
My order came packed very carefully to ensure the contents survive the often “brutal” postal system treatment. Everything was placed inside ziplock bags to keep humidity stable and also wrapped in bubble wrap for extra cushioning before being placed in a triangular box packed with foam peanuts. So packing was first rate and shipping was fast too. I had the package down in Australia within a week after it was posted from the US. Very happy with this too.
The protective bag is a thing of beauty. I was torn whether to get the blue or the red one and opted for the first choice by a slight margin. The bag is well designed and lends an air of luxury along with a sense of tradition from the pretty patterns, color and texture. It protects the flute quite well and should last me a lifetime.
The shaku whistle is a nice little piece of bamboo which has the professional treatment of a full flute but consists of the top part with the utaguchi mouthpiece. It is well shaved on the back and is shined to a perfect sheen. The utaguchi is natural, it does not include any inlay and is perfectly adequate to use for practicing embouchure and blowing. You can use your palm to block the bottom part so as to practice or partially open the bottom hole to whistle some tune. I plan to also attach it onto different length tubes of plastic, cardboard etc and experiment with playful ad-hock shakuhachi simple flutes.
The purchase of the main flute includes a bottle of walnut oil used to rub on the outside body of the flute 3-4 times a year in order to reseal the bamboo and protect it from humidity changes, and a tsuyutoshi cleaning cloth made of fine cotton fabric and a string with a steel weight on one side, used to clean the inside of the flute by inserting the string and carefully pulling the cloth through the bore making sure that you protect the utaguchi with your thumb to avoid damaging it. Both are very nice to have. The package normally comes with a wonderful beginner’s guide written by Jon Kypros, called: Your Shakuhachi Journey. It is very well laid out with clear pictures that take you through your first lessons on how to hold the flute, proper embouchure, blowing etc. It also includes some simple songs which become gradually more intricate towards the end of the book. Having this book entitles you to a free live lesson with Jon by skype which is a nice bonus. I already had the book and Jem just offered a discount instead.
To the main plate now, the flute. What can I say? Well, I will start from the timber which is a gorgeous broad bore cream coloured madake piece of bamboo that is not a root end but is very pleasing to look at and hold. The top two holes on the front are separated by a node from the bottom two holes maintaining the traditional aesthetic. All holes are round and carefully drilled in proper distances making the flute easy to handle and use atari rearticulation techniques. The backside of the mouthpiece end is well shaved and shined making for comfortable playing. The cast material inside allows the flute to have an ideal bore that enables all octaves to play correctly and in tune. It turns the flute into an ideal student instrument that can handle lessons and practice at a fraction of the cost of a professional root end one. The flute is luxurious and has some weight feeling hefty in the hands, for some it may be a bit on the heavy side. The utaguchi is kinko style black acrylic and has a silver lining in the inlay. It really looks opulent and the craftsmanship is top notch. The black bindings are placed at ten spots on the flute and their purpose are to ensure the bamboo does not expand with temperature changes thus remaining crack free. They are equidistant and look nice. In professional models they would most likely be inlaid and covered with rattan but that would involve a much higher cost. At any rate, they do not interfere with finger placement at all but they lend to the overall attractiveness of the flute.
The sound is easy to produce, much easier than more rudimentary flutes I ‘ve had so far. It can be as clean or breathy as you want. It is powerful with great resonance, thunderous almost, yet it can also be as sweet and whispery as a tweeting bird. It handles octave changes with fluidity and is absolutely screaming to be played. I cannot make myself put it down, once I start my practice, time just flies. But the biggest test the flute had to pass was my teacher, Bronwyn Kirkpatrick an Australian master of the shakuhachi. She encouraged me to seek a better flute than the one used to start me up for this journey. I researched a lot and arrived at Jem Klein’s site and Etsy shop. He is an accomplished shakuhachi maker and has studied the art working with Monty Levenson. This was a good starting point and though my teacher did not have a firsthand experience with any of Jem’s flutes she was familiar with Monty’s and she agreed to pursue this path. When I presented my flute to Bronwyn, she studied it a lot and blew through every note possible for a while, low and high octaves, meri notes and all and seemed pleased. That was the warmup, she then proceeded to play Honshirabe to feel the flute perform in the proper context. It was magical! She obviously has the skills, but the flute kept up and sounded just like if she was playing on it for ever. I really got a taste of what this shakuhachi is capable of and can only feel motivated to make it sound close to that someday. When she was done, she smiled and approved. This flute, she said, would be a fine instrument to accompany me in my journey. It does what it’s supposed to do well and with consistency.
Overall, I was extremely pleased with my purchase. It is a professionally made serious instrument suitable for formal study. It gets my teacher’s approval and I feel very lucky to have it in my possession. I would highly recommend Jem’s flutes to anyone who wants to pursue the study of shakuhachi or to just use them for meditative blowing.”