Comparing the Shakuhachi, Okuralo, and concert flutes

One of my most interesting musical friends, Toby shares this with us from the alt.flute alias. Those of you who know me, know I have dabbled with the flute for years, never quite getting traction as I have also been trying to add the clarinet to my arsenal too. 

imageI fired up my old Rev7 and produced a spacy little demo mp3 comparing Shakuhachi, Okuralo and concert flute. It’s just a bit of improv, and be warned that I am very rusty on all three of these instruments (and completely self-taught on all three), so don’t expect great stuff. But at least you can hear the Okuralo in action. I quite like the sound, and find it a very nice mix of shakuhachi and flute. Here is the download link (it’s safe):”

Toby goes on to say, “I think that this was a model made by an independent company, probably not by Okura-san. The company name is “Mirabilis Auditu”. No information I can find on the net. The serial number is Z200004, my guess is that it is actually the fourth one made.

imageThe sound is quite interesting. It definitely has some of the bright intensity of a shakuhachi, but since the bore is significantly smaller than a shak at the utaguchi (18.8mm compared to a nominal 20.0 for a 1.8) it is harder to find the sweet spot and not quite as–how can I say it?–smoky as a shakuhachi. It is clearly all handmade, with soldered tone holes and a seamed tube.

Interestingly, whoever owned this flute had a standard flute headjoint made for it. It has to be custom made, because it is significantly longer than a normal flute head joint (the okuralo has a short body) and also a bit larger in diameter than any standard headjoint. It has a very interesting “wing” designed embouchure. I will post a pic and let you know.


Anyway with that headjoint the okuralo becomes a quite respectable concert flute, but with a much darker sound than a standard flute. This I put down to the head geometry, but it is interesting that it changes character so much with the two different head joints.

That’s a very interesting conjecture vis-a-vis the name “misspelling”. It sounds completely feasible, but I have always seen the name written as “okuralo”.

He published his pictures of the Okuralo here:

Read more including some info about curved headjoints and traverse flutes here.

About Gandalfe

Just an itinerant saxophonist trying to find life between the changes. I have retired from the Corps of Engineers and Microsoft. I am an admin on the Woodwind Forum, run the Seattle Solid GOLD Big Band (formerly the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra) a GOLD sax quartet, and enjoy time with family and friends.
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