Learning the Shakuhachi

Many years ago, I had read the graphic novel "Usagi Yojimbo" by Stan Sakai.  It is a story about an anthropomorphic rabbit called Miyamoto Usagi and his travels and adventures around ancient Japan.

In one of those adventures, Usagi comes across a Komuso monk ("monk of emptiness") who played the Shakuhachi flute.  From that moment on, I was fascinated with this instrument.  In the story, the monk explains to Usagi that the flute was a way of meditating, and trying to copy the music of nature.

I had been thinking of getting one of these, but when I researched online, I noticed that the best flutemakers around charged approximately $2000 up to $5000 for a hand made flute.  But a couple of weeks ago, I was doing another search and I came across Perry Yung's website, where he explains more about the flutes, and also where he sells a range of flutes from beginner 'Earth' models for around $150 right up to the high end ones, that take a year to make and are worth $2000+.

I decided to order an Earth model from Perry, and he was great during the initial contact and enquiry.  He even made a short demo video for me of the Earth model flute that he had.  I decided to go ahead, and Perry finished binding the flute for me, as well as applying a coat of traditional lacquer to protect it.

It arrived earlier this week, and I was as excited as a kid at Christmas.


This is a 1.8 flute, and tuned to 'C'.  The flute plays the pentatonic scale, and by breath control, you can achieve two octaves.

One thing I've discovered, is that it is not easy to play the Shakuhachi.  There is a lot of work to do with positioning the flute, as well as my breathing, in order to get the proper sound.  After about 10 minutes of playing, I am quite light headed and giddy from the breathing, which I think is a GOOD thing, because I've noticed recently that my sedentary work style has lead to very shallow breathing and a general level of unfitness.

Perry included a great CD and booklet with the flute, which will hopefully help me along my journey.  This is an instrument best taught by a teacher, but alas there are none in Darwin, so I will have to soldier through with Youtube videos and the book/CD set.


Modifying My Strat

Now for something a little different - a photo essay about a recent electronics upgrade I did to my Fender USA Stratocaster this week,

Basically, I think someone slammed another guitar into my volume knob at a gig or something, and the knob got jammed tight.  I actually stripped the knurls on the inside of the volume knob trying to turn it, and the knob just fell off.

While looking for replacement pots online, I came across the Emerson 'drop in' kit for quickly converting your Strat to have a Blender pot instead of a second tone pot.  I thought "Why Not?" and spent the AUD$90 odd dollars to grab one off eBay.

My Strat is just a USA Standard one, with Lollar "Dirty Blonde" pickups that I installed a couple of years ago.  It is also wired in the "Eric Johnson" style, with no tone control on the middle pickup.

For those who don't know - the Blender pot essentially allows you to gradually 'blend' in either the neck or the bridge pickup in with the other pickups.  So, YES, you CAN have all three pickups at once if you like, or just the bridge AND neck if you wanted to.

Basically, the second tone pot is the 'blend' pot.  When you have the bridge or bridge+middle pickup selected, it controls how much of the neck pickup is added to the selection.  Conversely, when you have the neck or neck+middle pickup selected, it controls how much bridge pickup is added in.

Seeing as I am a software guy, not hardware, I thought I would get some hired help to install this kit.

Now it was time to look at the plans, and to think about how we would go about the whole installation process...

Once the pickguard was off, it was time to dismantle the components, such as the pots, input jack, and to desolder some of the old pickup wires before re-soldering the new ones on...

This kit lives up to it's namesake.  It is quite literally a 'drop in' replacement for the original pots.  We only needed to desolder the 3 pickup leads, the input jack leads, and the two ground wires attached to the pickup cavity and trem claw.

Once the new kit was in, it was a simple task to resolder those on again.  At times it was a bit stressful handling hot soldering irons around the guitar finish, but we managed to do it.

I DID manage to forget soldering on the ground lead to the trem claw, but that was easily resolved.

Then it was time to put everything back together again.  Remember the stripped Volume knob issue?  I got Spidey to wrap some plumbers tape around the Volume knob shaft so that the stripped knob could grab on tightly.

Job Is DONE !!!

Job Is DONE !!!

While the strings were off, I decided to give the frets a bit of a dressing and polishing...

I wrote a full review of the kit over at