First, get an electronic tuner!

An electronic tuner is very affordable and makes tuning your instrument very easy.

Okay, you’ve just heard me say you can tune the shamisen to the key of B, C or D. But how do you actually set the shamisen to that tuning? How do you know when the shamisen is in one of those keys?

Excellent question! Basically, the ichi-no-ito (thickest string) determines the key. So, if you stick your electronic tuner on the tenjin (shamisen headpiece) and strike the Ichi no ito, the letter that the tuner reads equals the key that you’re in.

For example, if you strike the thickest string and the tuner reads ‘A’, that means the key of your shamisen is set to A.

Slowly tighten the Ichi no ito and strike the string often and check the tuner. As you slowly tighten the string and check, the letter on the tuner will raised to B, C and beyond.

Once the tuner reads ‘C’ when you strike the ichi no ito, you know that you’ve tuned your shamisen to the key of C! Congratulations!