We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is a Bamboo Flute?

By Michael Smathers
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Musical Expert is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Musical Expert, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Flutes are one of the simplest musical instruments that can be produced. They consist of a basic tube with finger holes, a sound hole and a mouthpiece, and the vibration of air across the mouthpiece or reed produces sound. Most are made out of metal or wood. The Japanese bamboo flute, also known as a shakuhachi, is an end-blown flute used to produce a variety of tones and played similarly to blowing over the end of an open bottle. The structure of the shakuhachi allows a flexible variety of tones as opposed to the specific pitches used by recorders or similar flutes.

The bamboo flute is approximately 21.65 inches (55 cm) long; its name, shakuhachi, comes from the medieval Japanese equivalent measurement. It has four finger holes on top and one on the bottom. A standard shakuhachi has a base note tuned to D just above middle C, with the other four notes as F, G, A and C. The player grips the flute with both hands and covers the finger holes with the index and ring fingers. Different finger patterns, such as covering one-third of the hole, half, or two-thirds of the hole, can all alter the sound.

Pitch variation on a bamboo flute consists of more than just finger placements; the player must also tilts his or her head up and down to change the angle of airflow. Lowering the pitch is called meri and raising it is called kari. Changing the speed of airflow alters the octave at which the shakuhachi plays. It has a range of two octaves and half of a third octave; these are known as otsu, kan and dai-kan. Attempting to produce a note too high for the flute will cause it to make a dissonant squeaking sound.

A bamboo flute has to be hand-made to produce a quality sound because each flute comes from a live stalk of bamboo and no two pieces of bamboo grow the same. Shakuhachi also have to be custom-made for their users. Longer ones have the finger holes spaced more widely and have a lower pitch.

The shakuhachi has three main styles of play. These are honkyoku, solo; sankyoku, a traditional ensemble with the shamisen, a stringed instrument and koto, a woodblock; and shinkyoku, a Western-influenced ensemble. The bamboo flute, due to its sound versatility, features frequently in orchestral film soundtracks.

Musical Expert is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
Musical Expert, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Musical Expert, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.