Sho

Is a Japanese free reed musical instrument that was introduced from China during the Nara period. It is modeled on the Chinese sheng, although the sh
o tends to be smaller in size. It consists of 17 slender bamboo pipes, each of which is fitted in its base with a metal free reed. Two of the pipes are silent, although research suggests that they were used in some music during the Heian period.

The instrument's sound is said to imitate the call of a phoenix, and it is for this reason that the two silent pipes of the sho are kept - as an aesthetic element, making two symmetrical "wings." Like the Chinese sheng, the pipes are tuned carefully with a drop of wax. As moisture collected in the sho's pipes prevents it from sounding, performers can be seen warming the instrument over a small charcoal brazier when they are not playing. The instrument is one of the three primary woodwind instruments used in gagaku, Japan's imperial court music. Its traditional playing technique in gagaku involves the use of tone clusters called aitake, which move gradually from one to the other, providing accompaniment to the melody.

A larger size of sho, called u (derived from the Chinese yu), is little used although some performers, such as Hiromi Yoshida, began to revive it in the late 20th century.
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