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Miyakobushi Etude
Shinobue Duet, 2m30s

Download (free):  .mp3 (3.7MB)   .flac (12.3MB) 


The Japanese shinobue is a small transverse flute made from a single piece of bamboo. It may seem like a simple instrument, and indeed was traditionally associated with folk music, but modern craftspeople have been able to make instruments with precise tuning, and the shinobue is often used in modern pieces for traditional Japanese instruments.

While taking lessons in Japan on this and other transverse flutes, my teacher, Kohei NISHIKAWA sensei, asked me to compose a short duet for two shiunobue. He asked me to use the Japanese style vertical notation rather than Western staff notation, which gave me the opportunity to explore the strengths and weaknesses of both notation systems. It also means that the piece can be played on shinobue of any size, since the Japanese notation shows fingerings rather than pitches. This recording is on two size 'six' shinobue.

While certainly not all pieces for traditional Japanese instruments use traditional Japanese scales, in this case I wanted to explore the use of the Miyakobushi scale, the Japanese pentatonic collection with half-steps. In particular, I was interested in moving between several different transpositions of the miyakobushi scale, which had the consequence of making the piece somewhat difficult for the performers. In this way, the piece is an 'etude' for both the performers and for me as a composer.


Two shinobue, of any size, as long as they are of the same size.