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Commonly mistaken for a putty knife, the bachi is the plectrum for the shamisen. Choosing the right bachi for you is just as important as the shamisen, as it greatly affects your playing experience. What’s the most important factor in choosing a bachi? Flexibility.
Flexibility changes your playing experience the most. When you hold the bachi, you strike the strings with the tip. When there is flexibility, the tip will bend, which makes striking the string feel smoother. If it is really hard, it will feel like the tip is getting caught in the strings. A good rule of thumb is that more flexibility is better. However, higher flexibility means that it may break more easily. Knowing that, please consider your budget as well as your desired experience.
Faux-Bekkou Bachi べっ甲調撥 (BA-BC)
Hardness level: 5.
Highly Reccomended! Perfect for beginners and advanced players alike. It has the same feel & flex of a natural bekkou bachi, but is stronger and will potentially last many more years of hard tsugaru playing! The tortoise will thank you too.
Note: Recently, the production of these bachi were moved to China. Though still flexible, there have been new issues with the bachi blade peeling from the handle and such. Fortunately though, these bachi are covered with one-year insurance. If you bachi breaks within one year’s time, send it back and it can be replaced!
Plastic Bachi プラスチック撥 (BA-P)
Hardness level: 8.
Reccomended only for trying shamisen with little investment, or if you need an ice scraper. Unfortunately, it is difficult to use and can make the shamisen experience less enjoyable.
Wooden Bachi 木撥 (BA-K)
Hardness level: 7.
The Wooden Bachi can be used for a variety songs and techniques. It’s only weakness is that it can break fairly quickly with hard tsugaru playing. Perfect for wood lovers!
Acrylic Bachi - Clear アクリル撥－透明 (BA-T)
Hardness level: 9.
Made out of clear acrylic and looks very stylish.
About Bekkou Bachi
Bekkou bachi are bachi made from tortoise shell, commonly used in Japan. Bekkou is favored due to it’s flexibility and tradition. However, production of these bachi is decreasing, due to limited availability (endangerment) of materials. They are still sold in Japan, but there is a need to make better synthetic bachi. If you are considering purchasing a bekkou bachi from Japan, please be aware of your country’s laws and regulations.