Skin Replacement (Japan)
Sending your shamisen to be repaired in Japan can be very difficult and worrisome. At Bachido, we will help you arrange your shamisen to be professionally skinned in Japan. Easy, and all in English!
It is said that 80% of the shamisen's sound quality is determined by the skin. A professional skin replacement is a significant way for bringing out the wide range of tones that comes from a shamisen. Thus, if your shamisen is not sounding as vibrant as it used to, or if it's ruptured, it may be time for a new skin.
Why does a skin rupture?
- Change in Environment: In warm, dry climates, the skin tightens. In cool, wet climates, the skin loosens. The skin weakens if exposed to these two climates frequently.
- Force on Skin (1): To get the percussive sound required for the tsugaru aesthetic, the bachi (plectrum) strikes the skin hard. Though tsugaru shamisen uses thicker skin to withstand the impact, regular sessions of heavy bachi strikes will take it's toll on the skin.
- Force on Skin (2): When not in use, leaving the koma (bridge) under the tightened strings puts unnecessary pressure on the skin. Thus, remove the koma after every playing session.
Professional Reskinning Options
Vintage Tone™ (Natural)
Vintage Tone™ is natural goat skin specially prepared for shamisen. Unlike goat skin used for doumbeks and bongos, Vintage Tone™ is developed by master craftsmen who once made the highest quality traditional shamisen skin (before the recent switch to goat skin). The result:
- Strength of skin is so high, even a shamisen harikae machine (used for stretching skin tightly on a shamisen) can't break it.
- Thickness is masterfully leveled to the same taper as traditional skin, which is thicker on one side and thinner on the other.
- Tone is very warm and responsive, and the sawari rings clear as a bell. Not to mention, it's loud!
Read more about Vintage Tone™ in the Bachido Blog!
Professional Vintage Tone Skinning available by Kyle Abbott in USA and Taichi Yanaka in Japan
Vintage Tone™ (Tsugaru)
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Vintage Tone™ (Nagauta/Minyo/Jiuta)
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While natural skin provides a very responsive sound, the premium sound quality only lasts about 6 months and continues to lower through the years. It must be played daily to maintain a lively, responsive sound. If not played for a long period of time, the skin becomes brittle and is much easier to rupture. Changes in temperature/humidity can cause rupture as well. For this, Bachido proudly offers synthetic Ripple and FiberSen skin!
Ripple (Premium Synthetic)
Following the release of Fibersen (below), a brand new synthetic skin had been released after an entire decade in development. This synthetic skin is called 'Ripple' and is superior to Fibersen in the following ways.
- Richer Tone: The plastic shamisen skin from the 1990s/2000s was infamous for being so unresponsive that it sounded like a toy. Fibersen revolutionized the concept of synthetic skin by delivering a tone that was clear, resonant, and for the first time comparable to natural skin. That said, it's depth of Fibersen's tone has limitations. Ripple takes the tone of synthetic skin to new levels. Ripple boasts an overall sharp and powerful tone while providing a deeper richness and a ringing clarity to all three strings.
Kyle's Opinion: "When I first heard about Ripple, I admit that I wasn't very impressed. After all, I was already a fan of Fibersen. I thought, "How could the higher cost of Ripple be worth it? They're both synthetic skin!" My mind soon changed when I was able to compare the two skins in person.
While they both had clear responsive tones that would satisfy anyone wishing to avoid natural skin, I could instantly detect the HD-like quality of the Ripple skin. The boom of the ichi no ito strike, ringing of the san no ito and warm buzz of the sawari came through more vividly than any other synthetic skin I have ever played. If you are seeking the richest tonal experience for synthetic shamisen skin, Ripple is currently the best of the best."
- Durability: While Fibersen is waterproof and weather resistant, it is sensitive to physical stress and must be played properly to avoid damaging. If it is struck with an excessive amount of force or a sharply-angled bachi, the bachi can easily slice though it.
Ripple is made of a thicker material and feels much more durable. While it should always be treated with care and used with proper bachi technique, Ripple should be able to withstand higher stress. Again, we still encourage to not use heavy force, as high power does not translate to good, correct tone.
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FiberSen is a synthetic material different from regular plastic skin used for shamisen (which is created by layers of film). FiberSen can be stretched much farther than regular plastic skin, and so produces a much sharper, louder and brighter sound that lasts for years. Unlike plastic skin (which sounds like plastic), FiberSen skin sounds very similar to natural skin. Jamming in the park and it starts to rain? No worries! Fibersen is waterproof!
Note Though Fibersen is strong and waterproof, it is not indestructible. Fibersen is very sensitive to heat, so please refrain from leaving it in a hot car, or playing outside on a very hot, sunny day.
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Hello everyone. I've been without shamisen for about a month, I think, due to a tragic skin rupture. I've tried to be active here in my downtime, but have found it somewhat maddening without an instrument of my own.
I sent it in to be repaired with the fibersen. When I was making my decision, I had a hard time finding in-depth information about the material, but since the natural skin I had only lasted a little over a year, I decided to give it a shot. I'm going to try and document my experience with it here so as to hopefully aid others in the decision. I'll update this post as I play with it more.
7/7/2013 - Arrival
I've just returned from a trip out of town and the dou has been waiting here for me since yesterday. I eagerly rip open the packaging to find my shiny functional dou intact. I shipped it off in my somewhat worn washi bukuro, and am pleasantly surprised to find a new one wrapping my dou. Plus I just found my old one in the bottom of the box, nice going guys! A new gomu shiiru was also included unattached. I was happy to see that they color-matched the one that was on there before. Not sure if this was intentional, or if Bachido only stocks the brownish ones, but happy nonetheless. I haven't attached it yet, I'm seeing how I do without it for a while.
Visually, when I first looked at the skin, I thought “clean”, maybe pushing sterile. It's much whiter than the old dog skin, and has an even texture. From close up you can see the fibers that are its namesake. The edges along the sides of the dou are perfectly straight, where my old natural skin had rough edges stretched farther along the side. One thing I'm not sure I love is that it is physically thinner, or at least more translucent than the natural skin, and the wood and glue are fairly visible through the skin. Not a big deal though.
I've only just assembled my instrument and gotten the strings to hold their tuning somewhat. I play around a bit, and I haven't gotten as bad as I was afraid I would; hopefully start picking up again in the next few days. My hands start to fatigue pretty quickly though, and it's getting late so I store it away for tomorrow.
The tone is different than the old skin. It's much brighter, which may be because the natural skin was aging, but I think it has a slightly different characteristic outside of that, maybe more even harmonics, but definitely higher reaching ones. I feel like it exposes the flaws in my playing more, but I might be making more mistakes since it's been so long. That will be good for practice, but doesn't make me feel fantastic short-term. Overall though, I'm very pleased with the sound it produces so far. It is different, but I certainly can't call it worse. The sawari comes through nicely.
Finally starting to hold its tuning. The calluses on my fingers have gone away, and it's going to take some time to build them back up. This is the best I can remember my shamisen sounding! I ran through Ringo Bushi and parts of Rokudan, and it's just sounding great, it's very clear. The sawari sounds excellent. I'm a happy camper. I'll play some more later in the evening. I'm feeling a little directionless though, since it's been so long, and that's frustrating because I felt like I was just beginning to have some focus again when my skin ripped. Maybe I'll take this opportunity to check out some of the video lessons here on Bachido which are all new to me.
I've been playing with the fibersen for a while now, and I'm starting to get back into the groove of playing. I like the sound, but it's a little too bright with the bone koma that I have. It's fine with the ivory and snakewood one that I got from the bachido store. It's worth mentioning that the bone ones were pushing too bright for my tastes with the old skin. I might want to try a bekkou koma with the fibersen when I have some funds for it. All in all, it plays very well, and I'm a happy customer. I just hope that it's not a service I have to pay for again for a very long time.
I know this is purely anecdotal, but I have a minyou shamisen that has a chuzao neck and a body somewhere in between a tsugaru and nagauta in size. I recently had it reskinned with the fibersen. I haven't had any time to record it yet, but have been playing it lots. Two things I have noticed:
The tone is great, but INCREDIBLY bright! So bright that playing in a reflective room in my house is almost painfully loud. Having said that, the majority of my playing will be done outside, and having tested it outside, it was fantastic! Much louder than my old skin, but still with a great tone.
Second is that the reflectivity transfers into the bachi as well! It snaps back with tremendous force, and, with it's great durability, I can hammer on it like a tsugaru shamisen, and it just begs for more! When I switch to my bone-koma, it sounds great for minyou, and the sawari has taken some fine tuning. If I spend the extra second to find the sweet spots for the koma and the sawari it it magnificent! If I just throw it on, it can buzz like a giant Japanese hornet!
All in all I would say the fibersen has completely changed my shamisen, and has allowed it to remain dynamic!
I'm really impressed with the sound of the Fibersen. It is surpassing my expectations. A little more shrill than skin, especially on the highs, but even output and nice balance across the strings and the low end timbre is comparable to skin which I really wasn't expecting.
What to do after your paypal transaction.
Contact Bachido: If there are any special instructions or questions you have, please tell Kyle at store (at) bachido (dot) com, and he will make sure your requests are fulfilled, and will provide the address to send your shamisen!
Remove Dou (body) from Sao (neck): To reskin your shamisen, only the Dou (body) is needed. Please remove the Dou from the Sao (neck) by gently but firmly tapping the bottom spike against the floor. The body is held to the neck with friction, so a firm tap is the traditional way to separate the two.
Pack your Dou:
Fill a box halfway with packaging foam, place your Dou in the box, and tight pack the remaining gaps with more foam or cushioning. For safety, please include your mailing address and contact information inside the box before you seal it with tape.
Ship your Dou: After shipping the package with your preffered carrier, please tell us the tracking number, so we can prepare for the arrival of your package.
Please allow two weeks for the reskinning job to be completed. Upon completion, your Dou will be sent to your provided address, and we will send the tracking number to your email address.
Enjoy your new tone! When your dou is delivered, reattach it to the neck, put on the strings and have fun!