Kanberi Repair

Kanberi Repair


If you play your shamisen and notice particular notes sounding especially dull or harshly buzzy, there’s a good chance your sao has kanberi. Kanberi is basically wear-and-tear naturally caused by the act of pressing the string against the sao repeatedly over the course of years. Releveling the sao completely removes this wear and restores the full resonance of a shamisen, making it sound brand new again.

After purchasing this service, Kyle will send you an email with instructions for shipping. Please be prepared to ship your whole shamisen.


Kanberi (wear) will often occur around positions ‘2’, ‘3’, ‘4’, ‘6’, ‘9’, ’10’, and “12” as those are the most commonly used positions in songs. Basically, over years of pressing the string in these spots, the wood naturally wears down and compresses, which creates tiny valleys/dips in the neck. Once this happens, when you press the string on the positions with kanberi, the string is basically pushed into a valley. When sounded, the vibrating string touches the higher edge of the dip which interferes with the vibration. Depending on how severe the wear is, kanberi can mildly reduce sustain to cause harsh buzzing.

This will happen no matter how well you take care of your shamisen. To be clear, shamisen with kanberi are still completely playable, so it’s nowhere near as critical as a broken skin. However, a perfectly smooth sao is the key to unlocking the full resonance potential of a shamisen, and thus releveling the sao can make a used shamisen sound brand new again!

Before, I would downplay the importance of kanberi repair because I felt bad about pushing services which weren’t absolutely necessary (like replacing a broken skin is). But over years, I began to realize just how much joy I felt from the night/day difference of resonance whenever I releveled my sao, and so now I feel better about encouraging this repair. Again, it’s not necessary to make a shamisen playable, but it’s very recommended if you want your shamisen to have the best sound quality possible.

Kanberi repair is a process of planing the topside of sao to flatten the surface, while being careful to maintain the level of relief (a very slight 1mm~1.5mm curve along the length of the sao)  which improves tone quality. Sometimes, the base of the tenjin is also planed so that the kamigoma position lowers just enough to maintain the correct string action (distance from neck). After all this, the sao is finely sanded and polished to a mirror-like shine.

If you’d like to see the kanberi repair process in action, check out 6:30 in this video where I repair Mike Penny’s shamisen!


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