Care and Handling
Here are some tips and tricks for keeping your shamisen at its best.
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!
Note: Synthetic skin isn't affected by climate, so it will last much longer.
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.
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.
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.
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.