Practice to perfection
What is the difference between effective practice and practice that is treading water? If we focus on practice as a means to an end, our shakuhachi lives will probably be self-limiting. What drives effective practice is the daily rediscovery of a passion to pick the beautiful thing up and blow through it. It’s a great advantage that shakuhachi are cute, beautiful things to have in the hand. Once we have picked it up with delight, then we have half a chance at doing something useful with it.
Practice that includes the two important elements of focus and mindfulness has a chance of becoming perfect practice. Perfect practice is what arises when you bring enough to the table, for a sufficiently focused time period, that you break through your own perceived boundaries, even if just for an instant. You get a glimpse of the new you, just over the horizon. This is tremendously stimulating and encourages you to pick up the thing the next day, and so on. Sustained, focused practice each day, builds concrete and lasting skills.
You are your own teacher
When you work with a teacher, you receive, either directly or indirectly their wisdom and knowledge of a piece, which you internalize and use as your model for your own playing practice.
The path of shakuhachi is really the exposition of your dialogue with this internal understanding of the piece being played: the dialogue between what you understand and what the flute relationship actually yields in the moment of playing.
It is important to give yourself the full experience of your internal wisdom of a piece. Separate your practice sessions into Workbench and Performance times. On the workbench, you practice long tones, refine embouchure, practice difficult phrases, strategize breathing points etc.
However, the Performance section is where you honor your internalized understanding of a piece by playing it all the way through, whatever happens. No redos of flubbed notes, no stopping for any reason whatsoever, even if no sound arises at all, even if your pitch is all over the map.
In this manner, you allow the full wisdom of your understanding of a piece to unfold completely without interruption, and you listen, non-judgementally to what actually arises in the sound-making. You may not be able to render it as fully as you want to, but you can, just the same, experience the complete gestalt of the composition as the beautiful masterpiece it is.
You give yourself the gift of the whole piece.
Over time and as a consequence of many of these complete experiences of a piece, your shakuhachi sound and your internal knowledge of how to play it will come together.