Some Instrument Questions

Just had a few general questions about the instrument itself …

1) I'd read and been directly advised to remove the koma after playing. How critical is this? As oppose to removing after long term storage.

2) The Bachido video on stringing the shamisen suggests keeping the knot below the top of the dou. Is the critical point here to keep the string against the corner of the dou? I don't think so since I'd think the sound stops at the koma.

3) I put my trainer markers along the side of the sao using my tuner. So with CGC tuning, the 3rd position for the ichi no ito (thick) or san no ito (thin) would be D#; 7th G; and 12th an octave higher C. I'm using this since the suggested measurements was slightly off when I used a chromatic tuner. Is this ok?

4) The seller of my shamisen suggested I use melted candle wax on the joints, firmly join them, then wipe excess wax. I did not use candle wax (I was too excited to play it so I just put it together) and it seems to play fine. Should I take it apart and use the wax?

5) On classical guitar, it is recommended to use minimal string on the tuning machine rollers I think to keep a consistent tone. I have a lot of excess string on my itomakis. Should I be leaving on only what's necessary?

6) How easy is it to break an ivory koma? I like using it instead of the plastic one since the plastic one is much higher. I plan on getting a bone koma so I can store thee ivory one for when I go on tour and stuff (LOL).

[edit] Just measured both komas and the ivory one is 7.7mm while the plastic one is 9.7mm. This is a big difference. Is this for different playing styles or something? Right now, I prefer the lower action of the shorter koma (even ignoring the material).

7) I also had a question related to the Kuroishi Yosare Bushi lesson (awesome lesson by the way!). In the PDF (, where is the repeat beginning?

Thanks! I am having a lot of fun with my shamisen particularly learning Kuroishi Yosare Bushi. I'm also looking to get a new doukake and when I start wanting to upgrade parts for an instrument that usually means I'm hooked lol. So do komono's use standard U.S. sizes? LOL jk.

Edited 3 times; last edited Jun 19, 2017 by Rob R
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Bukake ??? Do you mean kabuki ?


LOL yes kabuki. I'm not even gonna ask what a bukake is. Too afraid.


Bukkake just means splashed.

It also has other, contextual meanings that are best discussed elsewhere.

More to the point, a higher action does affect the tone and volume, creating higher pitches and much louder projection if played appropriately. It's also true that many of the songs are delicate and gentle.

It's also true that Tsugaru is mostly characterized by aggressive, forceful playing but that's not to say Nagauta doesn't have a few pieces.

Skilled Nagauta players can and do shred


The harder play we associate with tsugaru leads to heavier strings, a thicker skin, and a heavier, (some might say harsher) sound.

More personally, I also feel like lower action on the strings helps to emphasize the percussive character or tsugaru pieces.

Even the shreddiest Nagauta pieces sound like strings. Whereas almost any Tsugaru piece has extremely audible snapping from the powerful tataki.

My tsugaru teacher actually plays hard enough that even when he misses a string (rare as that is) the slap on the skin is so hard that there's no missed beat.


Holy cow. Thanks Christopher for sharing that video. That playing was mesmerizing. Can totally hear (and see) the percussive aspect of shamisen from that video. The use of the bachi - its shape and attack technique totally makes sense now. Insane control of volume. That tremolo section looked inhuman lol.

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