While searching on the web for Shakuhachi to buy, we usually get lost with a huge range of pricing.
We can find from 40 € plastic Shakuhachi up to several thousands of Euros professional flutes !
It is then difficult to understand on what base pricing is done and how to justify so high prices for a bamboo flute.
Despite its simple or rough appearance, the traditional way of making Shakuhachi is meticulous and requires a lot of time and experience.
It’s important to know first of all that the material is not easy to find and needs a specific knowledge to be cured properly. Within a bamboo grove, there are only a few pieces amongst thousands that would be suitable for Shakuhachi making. Most of the makers living in urban areas don’t have acces to this material and need to buy it from sellers (a well cured good piece of madake bamboo is around 200 Euros).
The construction then is complex because the natural bore of the bamboo is very irregular (especially the foot part used for Shakuhachi) and it needs a lot of precise adjustments to obtain a well balanced instrument. This process is done empirically and requires to work slowly and gingerly.
The instruments are usually lacquered inside with Japanese Urushi that is expansive and need careful work and experience.
Prices criteria :
The acoustical qualities of a flute are of course essential. Timbre, power volume, balance and tuning are giving it’s main characteristics.
But aesthetic criteria are also very important (especially in Japan); they can even overtake on musical qualities. The type of bamboo used, the number of nodes (ideally 7), the shape of bamboo, it’s weight, the good looking of the root part or nice stains on it are considered.
Also some finishings are adding value to a Shakuhachi and represent skills from the craftsman. The inlay on utaguchi, Urushi artwork, inlaid rattan bindings, and even the use of silver or gold.
The renown of the maker is also linked to the price.
My own prices policy :
As years passed, the prices of my flutes slowly increased as the quality of my work did. I finally came to fixed price that are fair to me on the straight bamboo Shakuhachi. It is important to me to keep affordable price on beginners Shakuhachi; I don’t want the price to be a reason not to discover this great instrument !
For the traditional root-end Shakuhachi, as I just start to feel satisfied and looking at the long apprenticeship opening to me, the prices (unique for each flute) will keep on increasing while the general quality will do so; I cannot be the only one judging for that so the feedbacks I can get from professional performers, teachers or makers represent my guidance.