Usually I'm the type who plans things out before I act (sometimes I'm in the “thinking phase” for a ridiculously long time), but I deviated from the norm on this one. I was so hot and bothered to get my own shamisen that I did a miniscule amount of research (only enough to know that I did NOT want a nagauta or sanshin) and then promptly bid on and won my shamisen on eBay for roughly $400. That includes shipping and also a hard case for everything, a janky kibachi I don't intend to use long that has its own equally-janky, faded velvet covered bachi case (which I accidentally sliced when I was unpacking everything; I laughed because I knew I was going to end up cutting something and I was glad it ended being that and not something important!) and a few other accessories. It's a jiuta from the 80s or 90s, according to the seller, and from my neophyte perspective it seems like it's a decent instrument in decent shape, but thought I'd get a more expert opinion. What do you guys think?
Both skins appear to be in fairly good condition. There /might/ be some staining (not much) or maybe they just need to be cleaned. I haven't attempted anything like cleaning it yet, since I only unpacked it a few hours ago.
On the back there's a slight indent in the skin, but it's in the part that's glued to the dou and could potentially be a natural variation in the skin itself. Definitely no tears or punctures. There's a bachigawa attached that appears to be older (it's a tiny bit yellowed) and the corners toward ushirobachi have come up a bit. The neo absolutely looks old, it's very dirty! lol
That's good, especially that there's nothing glaring. A small dent on the back of all places isn't too much to worry about either, for the bachigawa though replacing that might be beneficial if the bachi is likely to catch and peel it back more. And well, I've never cleaned a neo but those are replaceable if it's that bad haha
All-in-all looks like you got a pretty good deal :D if it sounds and plays good that's of course what matters, so congrats on the new shamisen!
The gallery is down again, it seems.
If the skin has no obvious punctures, then you've likely got a playable instrument at absolute minimum. If the skin is yellowed or darkened, it's likely rather old (and perhaps soon to break). Older skins also tend to be looser and have a warm, more wild (imo) sound.
You may want to check the skin on the side where the the corners are peeling. if it is loosening, you might want to reinforce the edge of the skin with some tape.
Is there a consistent grain on the neck?
Do you know if the interior of the dou has ayasugi bori?
Are the sockets that the joints slide into naked wood or metal lined?
Do you have a yamasawari, en (circle), or azuma (square) sawari?
Alternatively, was this:
Yes, that's the listing for my shamisen.
It isn't the skin itself that's peeling, it's the bachigawa that had already been applied that is. Not much has come up and whatever did was either removed or had simply been worn off so there isn't anything that can catch the bachi while being played, thank goodness!
The grain of the neck is consistent and I'm 98% certain it's shitan. As a violin player, when I first unpacked it I definitely took a moment to admire the wood, it's gorgeous.
No ayasugi bori in the interior.
Naked joints on the mitsuori sao, but all pieces of the neck looked to be in very good condition.
Thanks for taking the time to respond!
Hm hm hm.
It's very much a mid-line student instrument in terms of bells and whistles, but I'd bet it sounds really nice. So the price point, with an intact skin, is about right. Well ~ done ~
Aside from some superficial damage to the tenjin (as you noted on the edge, and above the ichi-no-itomaki) and some wear on the neck (you can see some small ruts due to proper fingernail usage) it's in good shape from what I can tell. Interesting that it's using a tsugaru style bachigawa.
The first shamisen I picked out on the second hand market was very similar to this - maruuchi dou, shitan, chuuzao.
Mine had an azuma instead of en-sawari, rather large itomaki, and was a little bit newer though. Lovely, rich tone once it had a new skin on it.