The most unique quality of the shamisen is it’s dual ability to be percussive and melodic. Using a large plectrum to strike the string and skin, you’re able to simultaneously bring out the tone of a drum and a melodic lute at the same time! These qualities combined with the fretless neck makes the shamisen an incredibly versatile instrument.

Another unique feature of the shamisen is the droning buzz called ‘sawari’. The buzz is created when the resonating string lightly touches a ridge (called the sawari yama) near the headpiece (called the tenjin), causing the droning buzz to occur. It is believed the sawari effect was inspired by the same effect of an Indian Sitar, which is called ‘Jawari’.