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Historical/Informational Articles

  • Shamisen Origins: A brief, rudimentary history of the shamisen which will, at the very least, allow you to sound smart at a drunk party.
  • Styles of Shamisen: Learn about the four main styles of shamisen, including the Okinawan ancestor.
  • Tsugaru Origins: How did this Tsugaru style of shamisen playing evolve?

Instructional/How-To Articles


  • Shamisen Composer: Karl Hedlund's online tool lets you create your own shamisen tablature.

Care and Handling

Here are some tips and tricks for keeping your shamisen at its best.

The Skin

The skin is responsible for 80% of the sound quality, so it is the main part of the shamisen which you have to take care of. Frequent change in humidity and temperature will weaken the skin. When you play, avoid direct sunlight on a hot day, and moist environments. Skin replacement is costly, so keeping it safe will benefit your wallet!

Watch Kyle show you how to properly care for the skin.

Note: Synthetic skin isn't affected by climate, so it will last much longer.

Checking shamisen in luggage.

If you going on an airplane and check your shamisen in luggage, the rapid temperature fluctuations and violent tossing in the cargo can cause the skin to rupture.

Watch Kyle show you how to safely travel with your shamisen.

Inserting the Koma

Lift up all three strings when inserting the koma. Not doing this will stress the koma, and may cause it to break. When you are finished playing, lift the strings and slide out the koma. Leaving it in the shamisen puts pressure on the skin, which weakens it.

Watch Kyle demonstrate how to insert the koma.

Wiping down

At the end of every playing session, wipe down your shamisen and polish the bachi with your saofuki (polish cloth). Grime builds up when it's not cleaned regularly.

Watch Kyle demonstrate how to clean the shamisen.

Fingernail notch

Pressing the string with the tip of your fingernail gives a clear sound. After a while, a notch will form in your nail where the string has been. Though a horror for the manicurist, it's helps prevent the string from slipping out of your nail. That said, as it grows over time, the notch will get deeper as you continue playing. The notch eventually becomes deeper than the thickness of the string. Thus, not only will you lose a clear sound, but the nail will scratch the sao, slowly wearing down the wood. A notch in the nail is encouraged, just make sure it doesn't get too deep.

Last edited by Luke Abbott Enter edit mode