What is A Shakuhachi?



Introduced from China to Japan during the Tang Dynasty, the Shakuhachi is an end-blow flute made from Madake Bamboo. It was reinvigorated later by monks in the Fuke school of Zen Buddhism; it served the purpose of suizen (吹禅) or blowing meditation.

Why Shakuhachi and Japanese Music?

Japanese culture has motivated my intellectual curiosity and informed my aesthetic sensibility for as long as I can remember. I recall seeing Japanese characters for the first time at the age of 5 and being fascinated with their beauty and mystery. My desire to figure out what those thin and thick, curving and precise lines meant was slowly fulfilled through formal language courses and private tutoring. My parents helped me explore Japanese culture and traditions as a child through martial arts classes, and I read voraciously into every source I could find about Asia.

My love of Japanese culture developed alongside my musical abilities, repertoire, and grew to be intertwined in my mind and career. When I started composing at the age of 15, I researched the musics of Korea, China, and Japan and found myself ever-more fascinated with Japanese music, which, to me seemed to affect a uniquely immersive experience through unique narrative structures, their use of time,and coloring. A combined sense of immersion,of mindfulness, and a slowing down of time, is a feeling that is deeply interconnected with the core of Japanese culture and tradition, not only in music, but also in the arts and humanities more broadly. As I developed my Japanese musical repertoire and continue refining my Japanese language skills, I only became more curious about what it might look like to combine elements of Japanese music with my Western roots in a way that remains authentic to both traditions.

As I continue to develop my own individual voice and infuse Japanese tradition, I have been privileged to study at one of the best music schools in the world,The Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM). I chose CIM to act as a conduit for my education for the opportunities to have my compositions played by some of the most talented up and coming musicians in the world, but also for the proximity of CIM to Case Western Reserve University, where I’ve been privileged to forge relationships with professors of Asian studies, and to the Cleveland Museum of Art, where I’ve reached out to curators of the Asian exhibits and expanded my knowledge of and familiarity with Japanese arts. It is always an enormous privilege to work with such talented peers and instructors and moreover, CIM is ripe with opportunities for professionalization. Even so, from the beginning, I wanted to pursue my love of Japanese music with the eventual goal of creating a blended genre that as yet does not exist.  

Although there have certainly been attempts to bring Japanese music into Western composition, by no means is there a canon of repertoire readily available to musicians. My unique background, which includes an ever increasing knowledge in Japanese language, traditions, and culture, along with classical Western musical training, a record of accomplishment in composition and performance,and playing knowledge of more than one traditional Japanese instrument, along with a respectful intellectual curiosity, fits me for the task of creating such a blended genre with authenticity and without cultural appropriation.

As global communication becomes increasingly apparent, it is our job as artists to reinvigorate old ideas and render new mediums of artistic expression that reflect a world-wide view.  I emphasize the possibilities and coherence between Eastern and Western ideas;  mixing the aesthetics and sensibilities of Japanese music with a Western musical framework. During the common practice era (1600 - 1900), western music was defined by its emphasis on harmonic and melodic structures.  Japanese music followed its own musical practices and remained separate from the western world.  It wasn't until the late 19th, early 20th century when some musical cultures began to form a small crossover. Today there is a new culture of musicians and artist alike blurring the lines of culture and in turn bringing our world closer together.  We are now beginning to break individualistic and ethnocentric views.  The purpose of this endeavor is to render a new musical genre that bridges the two distant and distinct cultures in harmonious way. Shakuhachi, for me, is acting as a passport into Japanese aesthetic which will help render an authentic immersion of these two artistic views.

Currently, I use folk songs and other traditional Japanese music as the DNA for my compositions, with the goal of creating a style that has a recognizably Japanese character. The genre I seek to create will bridge the two long and distinct traditions in which I have been privileged to take part. I seek to create a music that is built on harmonic structures familiar to Western tradition as well as atmospheres and coloring familiar to Japanese tradition.To do so, I've invented my own scales, essentially my own musical language,without which, authentic genre blending is not possible. Many of my materials also come from traditional Buddhist and Shinto Music i.e. Gagaku, Noh-Gaku, Shakuhachi Koten Honkyoku, and Kabuki.  Although my efforts to date have certainly been encouraging, I have much to learn in order to  bring Japanese tradition and Western classical tradition together in a respectful manner, a manner in which both Westerners and Japanese can have a familiar and new experience at the same time. 


Lessons and Licenses

Renzoh Studios offers individual shakuhachi lessons, masterclasses and more..

30 min lessons: $35

60 min lessons: $60

Beginners as well as players of all experience levels are welcomed.


Renzoh studios offers shakuhachi students the opportunity to work toward the rank of Jun Shihan (Associate Teacher's Certificate)

Awarding rank based on the student’s level of playing is as common in shakuhachi as in Aikido, Judo, Kendo, Go, and many more fields. The criteria is subject to vary from teacher to teacher. To earn licenses, the student must show the ability to play a selection of pre-decided songs as well as answer questions about the history of the works.

Of course, it is not everyone’s destiny to become a shakuhachi teacher, and that is usually not the reason one starts shakuhachi. Even so, it is useful for all students to know the level at which they are training, regardless of whether or not they are goal oriented. Shawn Renzoh Head provides a list of songs to his students so that they can get a relative view of where they came from and what they will be doing in the near future. Holding the rank of Shihan gives Renzoh the authority to bestow licenses up to the rank of Jun Shihan.

The levels and associated fees are as follows:

  1. Shoden (Beginning level) $175:

  2. Chuden (Intermediate Level) $350

  3. Okuden (Advanced Level) $500

  4. Jun Shihan (Associate Teacher's Certificate) $1000

The list of songs and testing materials used by Shawn Renzoh Head are available to his students upon request. If you have any questions concerning the ranking aspects of shakuhachi, feel free to contact Shawn.



Children’s Songs

Kutsu ga Naru


Hietsuki Bushi


Ouma no Oyako

Yuyake Koyake


Tsuki no Sabaku


Haru ga kita

Fuji no Yama



Takeda Lullaby

Azatoya Yunta

Chugoku Chiho Lullaby

Folk Songs

Kojo no Tsuki

Kuroda Bushi

Tanko Bushi







Sanson no Yugure (Mt. Village at Dusk)



Komori Uta

Etenraku Celebration Melody

Eternal Peace P

Mt Echo

Fukuda Rando/Contemporary Music

Tsubaki Saku Mura

Yugure Genso Kyoku

Sankyoku Ensemble

Sandan no Shirabe

Sandan no Shirabe




Dexterity Exercises

Children Songs / Folk Tunes:

Yamanaka Bushi

Aki no Sato

Akatonbo / Nanatsu no Ko

Hanagasa Ondo

Soran Bushi

Kazoe Uta

Natsu no Omoide


Hamabei no Uta / Hamachidori

Mori no Akebono (Pg. 2)


Itsuki Komori Uta

Shimabara Komori Uta

Fukuda Rando:

Otome Gokoro


Fue Fuki Doji


Soo Mukaiji

Hifumi Hachigaeshi



Murasaki Reiho



Mitsu no Keishiki

Shin Takasago

Rokudan no Shirabe


Folk Tunes

Komuso Nagashi

Oshima Anko Bushi

Komuso Secret Song

Tsuki no Sabaku

Iyasaka Ondo


Chidori no Kyoku

Kojo no Tsuki (3 shaku)

Take to Do Yori

Yabu no Sato







Nezasa Shirabe


Akita Sugagaki

Henro (duet)


Fukuda Rando:

Tsukigusa no Yume

Kikkyo Genso Kyoku

Tabibito no Uta

Seki no Akikaze

Modern Music:

Shikyoku ( yori)




Sanya (Three Valleys)

Soo Kyorei

Soo Koku

Soo Mukaiji





Fukudo Rando

Miyami Higurashi

Tone no Funa Uta

Mugibue no Koro

Gekko Roteki

Nezumi Kuruma (4 Shakuhachi)

Shunshouen (or) Shurei (pick one)

Komo Ri Uta




Shin Museme Dojoji


Futatsu no Denenshi

Haru no Umi

Mayudama no Uta



Sanya Sugagaki

Kaze no Touri Michi