Archives for the day Sunday, February 9th, 2014

Japanese unique musical instruments;Koto

 In the previous entry titled “Japanese unique musical instrument:Shakuhachi“, I wrote about one of unique Japanese musical instrument “shakuhachi”,which is a flute made of bamboo,roughly 21 inches long, 4 holes on front 1 hole on back, with 7 joints.

 Besides shakuhachi, you will find many more unique musical instruments in Japan and,in this entry, I would like to introduce another unique musical instrument;”koto”.

 What is “Koto”?

 Koto is a Japanese musical instrument made of wood with strings. It is very similar to Chinese musical instrument called “Guzheng“.

 The Koto is 6 foot long with 13 strings over 13 movable bridges called “Ji”.

 This “Ji” is moved left to right to tune the sound.

 Pressing the strings and controling the tone with left hand, the players play the music with their right hand wearing the small picks on the fingers.

 These picks shapes are different depending on whose style you follow. One style “Ikuta” uses square picks, and Yamada style uses round picks.

 To play, traditionally, Koto was put it down on the floor and player keeled over 45 degree against Koto to play but present day, Koto is placed at chair level.

 The “Koto” sounds like “herp” and it has very beautiful sound.

 What is interesting is that, music note is very different from music notes for piano, for example.

 Each string has name and from top to bottom,right to left,the name of the string is written and you will play the Koto accordingly.

 1st string is called “ichi”,2nd string is called “ni”,3rd string is “san”, 4th string is “shi”, 5th string is “go”, 6th string is “roku”, 7th string is “shichi”, 8th string is “hachi”, 9th string is “kyu”, 10th string is “jyu”.

 Then, 11th string is “to”,12th string is “i”, 13th string is “kin”.

 So, if the koto music composer wanted you to play 1st string,music note will be written down as “ichi”. Then, you will read the note from right line to left line,top to bottom.

 When “pause”, the music note will have circle on it.

 I did not get to learn how to play the “Koto”, but my mother did and I remember I saw big, tall musical instrument “Koto” was placed in our music room at my grandmother’s house as a kid.

 History behind “Koto”.

 According to wikipedia, Koto was introduced to Japan by China around 7th-8th century (Nara period).

 The “Koto” was often played at the court.

 In about 17th-18th century, 17 strings bass Koto was invented by  Michio Miyagi.

 Here is the youtube video where you can hear the sound of “Koto”

“Koto”-Traditional Japanese musical instrument

  If you are a blog subscriber,please click here to watch the video.

 Here is the 17 string Bass Koto youtube music. You can see the difference in the sound.

17 string bass “koto”

  If you are a blog subscriber,please click here to watch the video.

 What do you think of “Koto”- Traditional Japanese unique musical instrument?

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Feb 09, 2014 | Comments are off | Japan