Rokudan - 六段


We were getting hella off-topic in the ukulele thread so~

Hey Bachido, let’s talk about Rokudan!

More specifically, does anyone know of a connection between Rokudan no Shirabe (An ensemble piece with shamisen playing accompaniment)?

And the Rokudan for Tsugaru

Aside from names, I’m not sure I see a lot of similarity… is it the structure?


As far as I know, you’re right. The only thing they have to do with each other is structure.
In the tsugaru piece, as you know, there are six “steps,” or movements, hence the name, and in rokudan no shirabe, the word rokudan refers to the six columns of music, which are similar in how they are played (as individual sections). This seems to be the only similarity, as the composition of the songs themselves are very different.
Even with tempo, they’re quite different; the tsugaru rokudan starts out with the steady ichi no ito ant getting quicker until the Kamashi whereupon you move into the next “step.” With rokudan no shirabe, it starts out slow, gets faster, and slows down again (jo ha kyu is the term I believe), and then you move on.


As my experience from koto players tells, Rokudan is called so because it has 6 movements, like 6 steps. Maybe the three pieces have 6 steps…
I can guess, the jiuta version can be a rearrangement of the original koto piece. Lots of koto pieces were rearranged from koto to shamisen (jiuta), but the majority of them are ensemble-played (koto, shamisen and shakuhachi, koto, shamisen and vocals, two kotos, one koto and one shamisen, koto, shamisen and kokyu…). It was possible that someone has composed a shamisen part, but the shamisen part has becomed a solo jiuta version, because of sokyoku’s transformation, maybe
I cannot listen to the videos (I don’t know wh), but I’m thinking that the tsugaru version would be a recycling song. Recycling is intended like this. The original composers thought “I want to experiment if this Amazing sokyoku piece could be made with tsugaru, so try it!”. I thought also that the idea might be achieved by the composer because (maybe) the original composer of the piece (Yatsuhashi) and him (the composer of the tsugaru version) were both blind…


Yes Roku Dan by itself is not nessicarily the name or title of a specific piece of music. As both Sakura and Ian have pointed out it simply means “Six steps” or six movements. So there could theoretically be a Roku Dan for electric guitar and then one for banjo or one for drums or bass or tuba and they would all be very different as they are the creation of “Six steps” written for each instrument and catering twords the specific techniques of each as a way for a student to progress and master fundamental techniques.
Currently I actually teach a new Roku Dan to my students here in Misawa which is totally different from the Tsugaru Shamisen Roku Dan and is a demonstration or exposition of the variety of new techniques synthesized from players such as me (Kevin Kmetz), Kyle Abbott, Mike Penny, Reigen Fujii, Masahiro Nitta and several others
(chord play/ triple Suberi Bachi / arpeggio sweeps + the use of major or altered scales/ world music/non-Japanese scales, Idian Sitar phrases, bluegrass banjo etc. etc. etc.) . I’m hoping that more people do something similar. I have always stood by my love and dedication to the Traditonal side of Shamisen and specifically Tsugaru Shamisen but in all brutal honesty a part of me feels like "For God sake’s people, it’s been the same Roku Dan for the past 30 or 40 years. We have new techniques today, new phrases, a whole new outlook on the tonal and technical possibilities for Tsugaru Shamisen. Tsugaru Roku Dan is more or less a very straight forward practical piece for learning the techniques of Jongara bushi as it would have been played in the 1940s and 1950s. Even from the 60s there was signs of musical innovation ( fusing with jazz, African beats etc.) well anyway sorry for ranting. Thoughts anyone???


Yes Kevin. I think that teaching a new Rokudan is brilliant. I never heard of a Shin Rokudan so maybe we could say you are teaching Shin Rokudan… Or maybe someone has a better suggestion?


I think it’s wrong to say “a new rokudan”, because, as Kevin said, rokudan is not “the everlasting sokyoku piece”, but it’s like Mozart’s compositions. Lots of compositions by him are called “sonata”, and we are not referring to one specific sonata, but to lots of them


Shin rokudan?


Now that I’ve finally emerged from the wonders of English immersion, I can read the thread~

Thanks for weighing in guys. That’s mostly what I suspected. At least on the tsugaru end of things, I knew it was mostly a teaching piece.

Sakura, Shin Rokudan (like Shin Jongara) would be Mr. Kmetz’s variation on the traditional Tsugaru Rokudan that includes new phrases.

I’d love to hear it by the way :open_mouth:


I’m not convinced…


Hi Sakura. In Japanese the word “shin” is added to define a “new” thing, for example shin-osaka is the new shinkansen station in Osaka. Shinbun is the news paper, etc… Shin Rokudan would describe a new version of Rokudan.


When Mr. Kmetz’s version of Rokudan is widely practiced and becomes a standard, it will be called Shin Rokudan 新六段 or KK Rokudan?

I just started to practice Tsugaru Rokudan. But everyone would love to hear KK Rokudan. It should be the next Schoolhouse lesson :slight_smile:


Mahagi, Yes! Certainly! I’d love to discuss that with Kyle.


Whoa nellie! I would love to hear this Shin Rokudan as well!! :smiley:


Cool. Dude we should Skype soon


Let’s do it! My schedule’s quite open this week.


"“For God sake’s people, it’s been the same Roku Dan for the past 30 or 40 years. We have new techniques today, new phrases, a whole new outlook on the tonal and technical possibilities for Tsugaru Shamisen. "

Yes, it seems that there is a whole attitude toward music that approaches it all as being finished (as in not needing to be improved upon or changed). Thinking about it, I blame the competitions for standardizing the songs, while fun, it’s benignly discourages innovation, suggesting that there is a “right” way to play music. Of course, they help hone your chops and are fun to participate in. The reality, though, is that standardized teaching, tests and competitions are an extremely new phenomenon and somewhat of a historical aberration.

It’s a cool instrument, why choke it to death? Let it fly free and wondrous (haha).

There are lots of innovative players out there, though.

Sorry, rambling.


Maybe some thread material was deleted…


Hey Everyone. I made I video JUST for this thread here on Bachido. Some examples of the peices I`ve been describing.




Finally the thread is working again!

Thanks for posting this Kevin. I can’t wait to suscribe to this video Lesson(s) . So much interesting stuff in this!