Previous studies of shakuhachi honkyoku have approached analysis from the starting point of octave-species scales as well as trichords spanning a perfect fourth. However, a case study of the Kinko-ryū piece Sokaku Reibo shows that not all tonal content is accounted for by these frameworks. Three transpositions of the miyakobushi trichord (m2+M3=P4) account for a portion of what is heard in the piece, but do not give a full picture.
A bottom-up approach based on melodic and rhythmic motives is favored in this study since intervals other than the m2, M3, and P4 of the miyakobushi trichord occur frequently, as do tones that do not fit the usual trichord transpositions. Pitch cells and rhythm cells are repeated, contracted and expanded throughout the 12 dan (sections) of Sokaku Reibo. Analysis of these cells as motives, in addition to analysis of frequently occurring intervals and exceptional tones, is relevant to the overall structure of the piece.