I have always loved the Tsugaru type Shamisen and am looking to purchase one now and maybe another in the future for someone else. Aside from the price, size, and accessories, are there any additional considerations when deciding between the Akatsuki, Eclipse, and Sakura? All three look beautiful. I know that the Akatsuki is the latest release. Has anyone tried them all or have found themselves always using a particular one? Does one produce a better sound overall? Opinions are greatly appreciated!!! ^.^
I’m also new here and haven’t still purchased my first shamisen but as I am in a similar situation I am looking for as much information as I can before I buy one.
What I’ve seen in these three models and I consider worth to pay attention to are that the Sakura shamisen has a thinner neck than the regular tsugaru shamisen. Regarding the Akatsuki it has a ‘V’ type sao, which in the description of the instrument here in bachido seems to feel different than a standard ‘U’ type sao.
I honestly don’t know how much of a difference does that make for a beginner, but I hope someone can tell us, as I am hopefully very near to buy my first shamisen too
I have been scouring the web for other people playing the Akatsuki And the Eclipse. Hard to come by. If you go on Facebook, they have a Bachido Group page. From there I found Kyle Abbott’s page who founded Bachido. He posts ALOT of great stuff on his profile and it seems he plays a lot with the Eclipse and some Shamisen he has made himself. And the Eclipse videos are all within the past 3 months. From the few Akatsuki videos I found of him, the demo video is pretty true to the sound you hear. It is consistent. Very twangy and resonant. The Eclipse video is also the same in terms of sound consistency. It almost seems like he plays the Akatsuki in certain circumstances when there is a vocalist or duet. Doesn’t make the choice any easier, but I am leaning towards an Eclipse.
There’s a demo reel of each being played by Kyle Abbott on youtube, so you can get a sense of the sound.
More technically speaking, these instruments differ in the details:
All have azuma sawari and maru-uchi (flat interior) bodies made from karin.
The Sakura is made from purple heart. Purple heart, which is about as hard as the more traditional karin, should sound roughly similar.
The Eclipse uses a layer of shitan as a fingerboard over the karin. Shitan is harder than karin, but softer than kouki.
The Akatsuki uses a layer of kouki as a fingerboard over a karin neck. Kouki is the hardest wood.
Harder woods stand up to abuse longer, reducing the need for maintenance, they also color the sound produced (although the vast majority of a shamisen’s sound is due to the skin). In general, harder woods have more clarity; but this isn’t something you should worry about at the beginning.
Thank you for the input! That may have been a slight detail I overlooked regarding the special features of the Sao for both Shamisen.
-Akatsuki: Sao topped with solid, high grade kouki.
-Eclipse: Sao topped with solid, high grade shitan (rosewood).
Something else to note about the demo videos is that the skins being used appear to be the same. I do notice that both instruments have their own distinctive sound in all the videos I have seen. I guess that is down to the wood possibly?
Can both of these Shamisen be tuned the same way and sound very very similar if they have the same skinning and similar hardwoods Sao?
Both the Akatsuki and the Eclipse are using a Ripple skin. So yes, the wood is definitely coloring the sound. Outside of the skin and resonator size, it’s a game of small numbers but everything counts.
I don’t play on either of these models, so I can’t comment on how they sound relative to one another. For that matter, it’d be difficult for me to say how well they match standard models. You’d want to get in touch with someone with more than passing experience.
I will say that, in practice, tuning is not an issue. A properly made and maintained shamisen can hit whatever tuning you need it to.
Hey adoring.artist, thanks for the info, I’m actually already in the bachido facebook group as well as following Bachido/Kyle on youtube.
I even already purchased his book and got it last Friday for a really good price here in Europe. I only can recommend it if you’re going to start with the shamisen as I do. The first steps every shamisen newbie should know are all there in the book with a lot of pictures explaining not only how to build a shamisen but also how to put it together if you get it disassembled by post i.e., there are also tips on how to take care of the instrument and a couple of tablatures to start playing some songs.
I watched the videos of the three models again yesterday, they sound all great to me, maybe the one I liked the most in terms of sound is the Akatsuki, it kind of sounds more vibrant to me, but it could be just the recording set up, it is difficult to judge without having the instrument directly in front of me.
And regarding the looks I like the Eclipse the most because of its darker woods. Anyways, if I had the money I would buy the three of them all, the Sakura looks also great and I’m sure they all have something that makes them special. Having money for only one of them I think I would go for the Eclipse too, as the looks are the best for me and the sound can depend on the skin, which is changeable and you can even select which one you want to have on your shamisen before ordering it.
Sorry for my late reply! My presence on the forum has been embarrassingly spotty as of late, but I’m hoping to change that.
Adoring.Artist, I’m glad you’re interested in those three shamisen!
Oonabe, thanks for ordering my book!! I’m happy you are enjoying it. I enjoy having lots of pictures, and only wish it could be printed in color.
Regarding the sound of three models: While there is a sound difference between the Sakura and Eclipse/Akatsuki, there actually isn’t an incredible difference between the Eclipse and Akatsuki. I mean, there is, but that’s due to the tightness of the skin. The skin on the Akatsuki was stretched a bit looser than the Eclipse, and so the tone became a bit warmer. The size of the body is the same, and both have a hard topside on the sao, so tone is fundamentally the same (assuming the skin is stretched at the exact same tightness for both). The main benefit/price difference of the Akatsuki is in the slim curve of the Chibukuro and the slimmer ‘V’ style sao.
That said, the increased cost of the ‘V’ style doesn’t necessarily make it better. The labor cost is higher to make that style which is why the list price is higher. Personally, I love the slimmer size, but some players find it a bit too narrow. It’s simply a matter of preference.
Another note, we have recently replaced Ripple with Bachido’s new signature product, ‘Hibiki’. In my opinion, Hibiki sounds even better than Ripple, and because I supply it directly, the price is much lower than Ripple. Thus, you’ll find that either of those shamisen are much more affordable than they were a month or two ago.
In any case, I really love the Akatsuki, and the Eclipse is an amazing sounding instrument. Either way, you’ll get an equally amazing sound. The decision is a physical matter of the sao style.
Feel free to write with more questions! I’ll try to be more regular here!
Having your book printed in color would be really great
It is nice to hear that part of the tone color depends on the tightness of the skin, that would make the decision between the Akatsuki and the Eclipse much easier for me.
Can a regular player change the tightness of the skin by himself or does this need the work of an experienced shamisen builder?
Thanks for your answer Kyle, I think we all are kind of spotty here .
Every so often, I’ve thought about making the book in PDF form. But when checking my materials, I realized I made quite a blunder. To make the pictures easier to view in B/W, I cropped out all the backgrounds, AND to check how it looked, I saved all the pictures in B/W. Whoopsie! I’m sure I have the originals on my computer somewhere.
At some point, I’d like to make a massive revision with new building tricks I’ve learned, and a better playing section. Currently I’ve got too much on my plate, but I think it will happen sooner or later.
Regarding the tightness of the skin, it depends on the type of skin. Theoretically, anyone can change the skin. The main hiccup is the cost of the tools. To stretch Hibiki or Vintage Tone (for Tsugaru use) to an acceptable tightness for tsugaru style requires a metal machine which costs about $5000. (Homemade wooden tools work perfectly fine for thinner natural skin) If tools aren’t a factor, it’s possible for anyone to do it. Changing the skin isn’t difficult, just takes time and breaking a few to find out where it’s limits are.
My pleasure, Oonabe! I should have more info like this written up in the Blog or somewhere.
What book are you referring to please?
Shamisen of Japan: The Definitive Guide to Tsugaru Shamisen https://www.amazon.com/dp/1480064459/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_yAs5CbMPJ5V24
Hi Lissie, the one that adoring.artist just put on the link down here
Thanks! Thats very helpful!