Commonly mistaken for a putty knife, the bachi is the plectrum for the shamisen. Choosing the right bachi for you is just as important as the shamisen, as it greatly affects your playing experience. What’s the most important factor in choosing a bachi? Flexibility.
Flexibility changes your playing experience the most. When you hold the bachi, you strike the strings with the tip. When there is flexibility, the tip will bend, which makes striking the string feel smoother. If it is really hard, it will feel like the tip is getting caught in the strings. A good rule of thumb is that more flexibility is better. However, higher flexibility means that it may break more easily. Knowing that, please consider your budget as well as your desired experience.
Pantera Bachi パンテーラ撥
Introducing the newest technology for shamisen bachi! Made by TOA, the synthetic material of the blade is as close as it gets to natural material. Unlike other Faux Bekko bachi which are made from a material closer to acrylic (I’m not 100% sure, but it’s something like that), the Pantera is made of casein, which is a natural protein, and thus much closer to real shell than any other.
Until now, I hadn’t felt that any bachi could match the same feeling as real bekko. Faux Bekko and Acrylic bachi are both outstanding, but still the feeling and tone were different (not bad, just not exactly the same). With that in mind, I am very, very impressed with the flex and tone from the Pantera bachi. I can only assume that casein is the key ingredient, because I can’t feel or hear a difference from bekko.
Hard: 8 This is very rigid, almost like Plastic Bachi, or cheaper bekko bachi. Only choose this if you are accustomed to hard bachi and especially prefer it.
Medium: 5 This is a similar level to the Faux Bekko Bachi, as well as most bekko bachi available.
Soft: 3 This is ideal for beginners. (Flex level has no connection to skill level – many professional players use soft bachi) Soft bachi are comparable to high end bekko bachi, as very flexible shell are reserved for expensive bachi. (Hard/Medium bachi can be high end as well, but it’s much harder to find natural soft flex in the lower price ranges) The extra flex makes it very comfortable to get a satisfying percussive snap against the skin, and unlike stiffer bachi, it doesn’t get caught in the strings as much. Masahiro Nitta’s personal bachi has a similar flexibility as this, and it’s my favorite as well.
Size options: (Length x Width)
Takayama Synthetic Bachi (Nitta Ryu) 高山製〜先が黄色い撥
Made by Takayama, this Bachi is made with their own synthetic blade. While the material is secret, to me it’s reminiscent of Acrylic. Medium flex with a warm and solid tone!
This particular bachi is made to Masahiro Nitta’s own specifications.
Blade Width: 86mm
Handle Width (Base): 25.5mm
Handle Width (Blade*): 32mm
Handle Height (Base): 25.5mm
Handle Height (Blade*): 9mm
*The feathered edge where blade and handle first connect, (towards middle of handle, not the edge of handle)
Faux-Bekko Bachi べっ甲調撥 (BA-BC)
Hardness level: 5.
Made by Tokyo Wagakki, this bachi is great for beginners and advanced players alike. It has a similar feel & flex of a natural bekko bachi, but is stronger and will potentially last many more years of hard tsugaru playing! The tortoise will thank you too. Update: the Pantera bachi (shown above) is made from newer material and in my opinion is even closer to natural bekko than this bachi. This bachi is still awesome so we still offer it, but I do prefer the Pantera. :-)
Note: On very rare occasions, the blades of these bachi sometimes crack or separate from the handle. (It used to be a frequent problem but that issue seems to have been eliminated recently.) That being said, these bachi are covered with one-year insurance. If your bachi cracks or separates from the handle within one year’s time, send it back and it can be replaced!
Plastic Bachi プラスチック撥 (BA-P)
Hardness level: 8.
Reccomended only for trying shamisen with little investment, or if you need an ice scraper. Unfortunately, it is difficult to use and can make the shamisen experience less enjoyable.
Wooden Bachi 木撥 (BA-K)
Hardness level: 7.
The Wooden Bachi can be used for a variety songs and techniques. It’s only weakness is that it can break fairly quickly with hard tsugaru playing. Perfect for wood lovers!
Note: In the video, Nitta san plays an earlier model which we used to sell. The pictures show the current model available.
9cm x 16.5cm (Regular) – Normal size for Tsugaru style.
7cm x 15cm (Trimmed) – Ideal if you have average size hands but tend to find tsugaru bachi unwieldy.
6cm x 13cm (Small) – Best for kids or small hands.
Wooden Bachi (Bachido Engraving) 撥道マーク入り木撥
Want to represent Bachido on your wooden bachi? Now you can! This is a standard Wooden Bachi (Oak) with the Bachido logo laser-cut into the handle. Sexy time!
Fair warning to those who are particularly sensitive to visual orientation/design: While the maker tries his best to etch the logo precisely in the middle of the bachi blade, sometimes it will be off-center by a few millimeters. Since it’s purely a visual element, it’s not of concern for structural integrity. But if you find yourself bothered when visual elements are slightly misaligned, it may be a risky choice. :-P
Premium Wooden Bachi (Ezon) エゾ木撥 BA-EZOKI
Enjoy a higher strata of elegance with this Premium Wooden Bachi made by Nitta san’s friends of his Sapporo music group Ezon! The handle has a Marquetry-style inlay which brightens your bachi with an artsy brilliance!
This bachi is available in both Maple and Oak.
Oak is stiffer with a hardness level of 8.
Maple has a bit more flex with a hardness level of 5 (although still durable)
Medium: 178mm x 92mm (Similar to Plastic Bachi)
Large: 192mm x 105mm
Acrylic Bachi - Clear アクリル撥－透明 (BA-T)
Hardness level: 9.
Made out of clear acrylic and looks very stylish.
About Bekkou Bachi
Bekkou bachi are bachi made from tortoise shell, commonly used in Japan. Bekkou is favored for it’s flexibility and tradition. However, production of these bachi is decreasing, due to limited availability (endangerment) of materials. They are still sold in Japan, but there is a need to make better synthetic bachi. If you are considering purchasing a bekkou bachi from Japan, please be aware of your country’s laws and regulations.