The player places the shamisen body (called the dou) on their thigh and lays their hand over the body. Typically, the player plays the shamisen with a large ice scraper-sized plectrum called the ‘bachi’. The bachi almost acts as a drumstick, because it strikes the skin as well as the string.

The most unique quality of the shamisen is it’s ability to be percussive and melodic at the same time. It can be played quiet as a whisper or, if played forcefully, can be clearly heard outside on a crowded street.

The player holds the neck up with their left hand (or right hand, if left-handed) and changes the pitch simply by pressing the strings down. The fretless neck of the shamisen is initially daunting, but with just a little practice and muscle memory, the shamisen is an incredibly fun instrument to learn.

Also, adhesive position marks are used to help identify where to press the string.

The tuning pegs are called itomaki. The strings are tied to them, tightened and held in place with friction.