It is said that 80% of the shamisen's sound quality is determined by the skin. A professional skin replacement is a significant way for bringing out the wide range of tones that comes from a shamisen. Thus, if your shamisen is not sounding as vibrant as it used to, or if it's ruptured, it may be time for a new skin.
Why does a skin rupture?
- Change in Environment: In warm, dry climates, the skin tightens. In cool, wet climates, the skin loosens. The skin weakens if exposed to these two climates frequently.
- Force on Skin (1): To get the percussive sound required for the tsugaru aesthetic, the bachi (plectrum) strikes the skin hard. Though tsugaru shamisen uses thicker skin to withstand the impact, regular sessions of heavy bachi strikes will take it's toll on the skin.
- Force on Skin (2): When not in use, leaving the koma (bridge) under the tightened strings puts unnecessary pressure on the skin. Thus, remove the koma after every playing session.
Professional Reskinning Options
Hibiki (Advanced Synthetic Skin)
Exclusively at Bachido, Hibiki is the most advanced synthetic shamisen skin on the market. After extensively searching for new shamisen skin materials, Kyle Abbott finally discovered Hibiki in 2018 and loved it so much, he uses it for his own personal shamisen.
- Richer Tone: The plastic shamisen skin from the 1990s/2000s was infamous for being so unresponsive that it sounded like a toy. Hibiki boasts an overall sharp and powerful tone while providing a deeper richness and a ringing clarity to all three strings.
- Durability with a soft touch: Made from a strong nylon weave, Hibiki can be stretched tight as natural skin and withstand bachi strikes from even the most aggressive tsugaru shamisen player. Unlike other synthetic skins, Hibiki has a softer texture which will not wear down the bachi. Being synthetic, it is waterproof and can be played in the rain!
- Crystal Clarity: When skillfully played, the tone of a shamisen can express a wide range of emotion and flavors tones. Hibiki is perfectly balanced to bring out the best of your playing. When gently plucking, the skin responds with clear resonance, and the buzzing drone of the sawari hums with an electric-like brilliance.
For Tsugaru style, the special qualities of Hibiki is instantly recognizable from the very first strike of the ichi no ito. With proper tatakibachi technique, the ichi-no-ito punches with depth and sustain. Whether played gently or aggressively, Hibiki provides you with tones filled with a spectrum of color and presence!
Available in Black and White
(Note: White skin can sometimes turn slightly transparent on the top perimeter of the body where the skin is glued to)
Professional Hibiki Skinning available by Kyle Abbott in California
Hibiki™ Synthetic Skin
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Vintage Tone™ (Natural)Vintage Tone™ is natural goat skin specially prepared for shamisen. Unlike goat skin used for doumbeks and bongos, Vintage Tone™ is developed by master craftsmen who once made the highest quality traditional shamisen skin (before the recent switch to goat skin). The result:
- Strength of skin is so high, even a shamisen harikae machine (used for stretching skin tightly on a shamisen) can't break it.
- Thickness is masterfully leveled to the same taper as traditional skin, which is thicker on one side and thinner on the other.
- Tone is very warm and responsive, and the sawari rings clear as a bell. Not to mention, it's loud!
Read more about Vintage Tone™ in the Bachido Blog!Professional Vintage Tone Skinning available by Kyle Abbott in California and Taichi Yanaka in Japan
Vintage Tone™ (Tsugaru)
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What to do after your paypal transaction.Contact Bachido: If there are any special instructions or questions you have, please tell Kyle at store (at) bachido (dot) com, and he will make sure your requests are fulfilled, and will provide the address to send your shamisen!
Remove Dou (body) from Sao (neck): To reskin your shamisen, only the Dou (body) is needed. Please remove the Dou from the Sao (neck) by gently but firmly tapping the bottom spike against the floor. The body is held to the neck with friction, so a firm tap is the traditional way to separate the two.
Ship your Dou: After shipping the package with your preffered carrier, please tell us the tracking number, so we can prepare for the arrival of your package.
Please allow two weeks for the reskinning job to be completed. Upon completion, your Dou will be sent to your provided address, and we will send the tracking number to your email address.
Enjoy your new tone! When your dou is delivered, reattach it to the neck, put on the strings and have fun!
The sound of the Hibiki is warmer than other synthetics that I’ve used. I’ve never like the sound quality of synthetic skins, and only used them because they held up to temperature and weather changes. In the past I tried to mute annoying overtones by strategically placing duct tape at various points on the underside of the skin the way I have seen some bodhran players do, but it never really worked. I don’t hear those same annoying, ringing overtones with the Hibiki.
I’m really happy with the Hibiki, and have been playing this shamisen exclusively since Kyle re-skinned it because I like the sound, and I am able to leave it out, ready to play whenever I feel like it. I finally dug my other, much more expensive shamisen out of its various protective layers today so that I could compare the sound of the two to finish this review. That much nicer instrument, with fresher strings, and a new natural skin (also put on by Kyle) does sound better, but I have a feeling that it’s going to be getting a lot less play now that I have the Hibiki skinned shamisen at the ready to play whenever I get the urge.