(Another) New Shamisen Beginner!


Hello everyone! =)

I’m very pleased to have finally signed in to that awesome community and I hope you are doing fine with your Shamisen lessons, hehe!

So I started to get in touch with Shamisen since I’ve heard the Geishas of Kyoto playing - it’s such a wonderful sound and after a while I wanted to learn it for myself. And so the journey started and I got myself one.
The problem is - I bought my Shamisen (via ebay) … ~3 years ago and I moved a lot during those years so I hardly had the chance to start playing seriously. Now I settled down and I’d like to start taking some (BEGINNER) lessons again =)

BUT I totally forgot which kind of Shamisen I bought (stupid me) and now I need some help to identify my Shamisen because I need some new parts like the strings and the Itumaki (are they called Itumaki or Karakui?? I’m totally confused).
The strings seem to be in shape but I really need some new Itumaki/Karakui - I will add some pictures, so it would be great if you can help me identify my Shamisen and give me some advice which kind of Itumaki (and eventually strings) I need, because I have absolutely no clue! ((OK update: I just uploaded one picture because I’m not allowed to post more than one. Is this one enough to identify the type of Shamisen?))

This is the detail of the upper part - so you can see that one of the Itumaki/Karakui is damaged and not an original part. I’d like to replace it and I suppose it’s the best to replace all of them?

To be honest, I also think that my Shamisen is for children, because it’s rather small (which shouldn’t be a problem since I’m also not that tall, haha). It’s size is in total about 80 cm and the single piece neck alone is ~ 61 cm.
Does this effect which kind of strings and Itumaki I need to buy? I highly appreciate your help on this - thank you so much in advance!! :smiley:

Have a great day!! =)


Hey Sarah, welcome.

The primary points of reference for sub-type identification are the width of the neck and dimensions of the body - so no, this isn’t really enough to go on. I can point out a few things and concerns however.

If your instrument is 80 cm it is smaller than a tanzao - which typically falls between 90 and 95cm. This puts it closer to sanshin sizing (http://www.asovivasanshin.com/newwoodsanshin/)

At 80cm, your instrument is only 10 cm larger than Shamisen Rakuya’s SHABO mini (https://shami1000rakuya.com/item/shamisenbox/4343/), but still around 7 cm shorter than the standard variant (https://shami1000rakuya.com/item/bestitem/1947/).

Is the neck made from wood or plastic?

The itomaki, tuning pegs, seem to be faux ivory, and the middle peg is definitely in rough shape.

Ah, for reference: Karakui is the term used for sanshin and itomaki is the term used for shamisen.


Hi, it looks like a Nagauta shamisen to me (the neck looks thin and the cord number one is touching the wood directly (sawari) on the top)


Hi Christopher!

Thanks a lot for your reply. Also thanks a lot for clearing my confusion about karakui and itomaki :slight_smile:

So here’s some more info:
Width of neck: ~2cm
Dimensions of body (length-width-height): 17x 15 x 7,5 cm
Does this help?

Regarding it’s size I believe it’s a Shamisen for children, it doesn’t really look like a Sanshin though the size is similar… But I’m not sure if it could be such a SHABO mini Shamisen you linked in your post! But as you pointed out it is shorter than the standard variant.

As for the neck I believe its made of plastic since it feels too light and is without any texture to be made of wood.


Hi Miguel!

Thanks a lot for your answer! I also thought it might be a Nagauta Shamisen but it’s still the size that’s irritating me since I’m not completely sure if it’s a childrens Shamisen or not. If it is a small size Nagauta Shamisen: do you know which kind of itomaki (and strings) I need for that one? Do I need a special size itomaki, since the Shamisen is smaller than a regular one? :thinking:



It’s not a sanshin or a shabo - the former has a dramatically different shape and the latter is a relatively new thing.

Without really inspecting it and listening to it, I’m hesitant to call it a children’s shamisen. As far as I know, shamisen intended for children don’t swing as low as 80cm. See the product in the amazon link (a mass produced version)

The aberrant size and materials suggest to me that this is something else. My gut feeling is that this is more of a display piece or toy rather than a proper instrument meant for children. It might be playable, but I don’t think it’ll sound as one might expect a regular instrument would.

All that said, it’s definitely mimicing the form of a nagauta shamisen - which is the base model after all.

I’ll touch base with some of the shops nearby and see if they have any input. Cheers~


Hi, I’m not sure about that but I’ll ask my teacher next time I see him.
Anyway, I have never seen a children size Nagauta Shamisen. The little kids that I know use normal size Shamisen from the begining.


Hi Miguel!
Thanks again for your reply. Maybe it’s true and it’s not really a children’s Shamisen… eventually ChristopherBrown is right and it’s just for display :weary:

Could you find out anything when asking your teacher?


Hi Christopher!
Thanks a lot for your kind reply again!
Okay so this is some new kind of information - it really may be that my little Shamisen is only for display and not for playing. Miguel also pointed out, that children use normal size Shamisen…
It’s such a pity but thank you so much for helping me with that one!!

Cheers, Sarah