New to shamisen-

Greetings!

I'm completely new to shamisen, or playing any musical instrument for that matter. I also have no training or experience with reading music. I've always loved the gorgeous music of the shamisen (thanks to the Yoshida Brothers), but didn't decide to take the plunge until I watched Kubo and The Two Strings. So, I recently ordered a “vintage” used shamisen from ebay for a really reasonable price: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Japan-Vintage-SHAMISEN-Set-Classic-Stringed-Instrument-CYUZAO-w-Soft-Case-3349-/262875512997?roken=cUgayN&soutkn=CkUUZl

It came in the mail today, and I'm beyond excited to start this journey. Unfortunately, I have a few issues, the koma was broken in shipping (which I've contacted the seller about), and the itomaki are confusing me.

My issue with the itomaki: Mine aren't exactly marked with any indication as to the order of their placement, with the exception of one itomaki that has two dots on it. That would be number 2, correct? The other two itomaki have no markings, so I'm not sure which is 1 or 3. I keep referencing the pictures on ebay, and I think I have the correct order, except one of the itomaki is reluctant to fit in any of the holes snugly (without a little muscular, yet gentle, persuasion).

Can anyone tell me how I tell which itomaki go where, if there aren't any indicators? And, does the order actually matter? I can send some photos of mine, if that would be better for answering my question.

Also, any advice on where I should begin my practice/training? Or, any advice in general would be great!

Thanks!

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hi kristina,

i got my shamisen about 3 weeks ago - from the same source as yours. there was no bachi and no koma so i ordered those from other sources. the bachi is still on the way so that i did not start playing or learning to do so.

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Hullo there,

Welcome to Bachido! Let's see if I can help.

Judging by the images you've posted, it looks to me like your shamisen came with itomaki from two separate sets - likely as a replacement for a broken peg.

You can tell this from the additional grooves carved into the faces of the itomaki.

As for itomaki placement:

You have one peg marked with two dots. That's most likely your second string.

To determine which is your first and third, take a look at the hole for your strings. The wider hole is your first string. the thinner hole is your third string. Just eyeballing it, your odd-itomaki-out is probably your first string and the remaining one your third string.

As for placement:

The standard order is your first string should be on the top, your second string goes in the middle, and the third string goes on the bottom.

Another method is to place the first string at the top, the second string on the bottom, and the third string in the middle.

Which you do depends on two things:

  1. )How your teacher does it.

If memory serves, the second method is more strongly associated with blind playing traditions in general and tsugaru in specific. At the very least, my tsugaru teacher uses it, while my min'yo teacher uses the former.

  1. ) Where the holes are cut in your itomaki.

If your middle itomaki's hole is cut on (your) right side while stringing, place the second string there. If the hole is cut on the left side, place your second string in the bottom itomaki.

Your itomaki should fit; but getting a tight fit on them may be difficult if you're not used to the grip (pushing with your thumb while gently bracing the head with your little finger), but be aware that they go into the holes at a very slight angle.

Best

Edited Mar 13, 2017 by Christopher Brown
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Hullo there,

Welcome to Bachido! Let's see if I can help.

Judging by the images you've posted, it looks to me like your shamisen came with itomaki from two separate sets - likely as a replacement for a broken peg.

You can tell this from the additional grooves carved into the faces of the itomaki.

As for itomaki placement:

You have one peg marked with two dots. That's most likely your second string.

To determine which is your first and third, take a look at the hole for your strings. The wider hole is your first string. the thinner hole is your third string. Just eyeballing it, your odd-itomaki-out is probably your first string and the remaining one your third string.

As for placement:

The standard order is your first string should be on the top, your second string goes in the middle, and the third string goes on the bottom.

Another method is to place the first string at the top, the second string on the bottom, and the third string in the middle.

Which you do depends on two things:

  1. )How your teacher does it.

If memory serves, the second method is more strongly associated with blind playing traditions in general and tsugaru in specific. At the very least, my tsugaru teacher uses it, while my min'yo teacher uses the former.

  1. ) Where the holes are cut in your itomaki.

If your middle itomaki's hole is cut on (your) right side while stringing, place the second string there. If the hole is cut on the left side, place your second string in the bottom itomaki.

Your itomaki should fit; but getting a tight fit on them may be difficult if you're not used to the grip (pushing with your thumb while gently bracing the head with your little finger), but be aware that they go into the holes at a very slight angle.

Best

Thank you so much for the wonderfully insightful advice. With your and Kyle's help, I've started my first lesson. I just needed to get over that itomaki hurdle! Hah!

Thanks again!

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Welcome to the world of Shamisen

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Thank you, Kevin!

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