1) Striking the string closer/farther from the bridge (Affects volume and sharpness)

2) Use of hajiki, uchi and sukui techniques (each gives a unique tone to sounding a note)

3) Simultaneously touching touching the string with your thumb as the bachi strikes down. (Creates subtle harmonic tone, dampening

4) The immensely wide variety of slides and vibrato you can create from the fretless neck.

This is just a small selection of the wide flavors available. While these are properly called “techniques”, techniques for shamisen are usually something pre-determined. When learning a song (Sakura Sakura, for example), one will read the song notation to find which/where each technique is executed. It’s static and fixed.

Example of techniques written in notation (shown under numbers)

Now, that’s great if the goal is to play in a formal ensemble, but for the emotion-expressing side of shamisen, I much prefer the term ‘flavors’ because how I use them is very personal. Like flavors and food, it’s all a matter of taste.