Beginner Shamisen Player

Hey I just bought my first shamisen off ebay! One question I have is if I got the right style. I noticed the beginner shamisen on the Bachido Store is Nagauta but the one I bought off Etsy is a Jiuta Shamisen.

As a beginner will it make a huge difference which one I play? I’m not too sure what style I want to play as this is my first shamisen so any input would be greatly appreciated! :slight_smile:

No, you can absolutely play any style you want on any style shamisen. The only thing I’m not sure of is if the skin might be more delicate on different styles and might be more susceptible to damage from the extra hard pounding that is optional when playing tsugaru. Maybe someone more knowledgeable on the hardware aspect on that can chime in. I personally like a very distinct percussion “thump” when I play but I also purposely play extra fast and hard and a little sloppy, that being my personal aesthetic being a child of the So. Cal. punk scene. As long as you have all three strings you are absolutely good to go.

If you have the virtually bomb-proof skins from Kyle, you should be able to play Tsugaru style on any Shamisen, hammering with abandon for a truly amazing Metallica cover. :grinning:

Of course, you will have to overcome some issues, which happen mostly when attempting to play Tsugaru style on smaller Shamisen:

  • Sao width, which is quite wider on Tsugaru to allow for more energetic and fluid play (plus tone modulation), meaning you will have to excel on dexterity to compensate for a narrower 25~27mm Sao.
  • Body and skin volume capacity, which means you may have to play a bit fiercer on a smaller Shamisen body. And speaking of playing fiercely, it is my opinion that applying Bachigawa to synthetic skin is virtually useleless, unless your synthetic skin is coated with some sort of plasticized gesso (I have seen some here in Japan). You’d be better off with a couple of layers of high tack 371 3M tape, replacing as needed.
  • Lack of a Sawari setup may also dampen the vibrance of the Tsugaru style, though you may be able to do a DIY sawari elevator with simple wood chips and removable non-residue scotch tape.

However, playing almost any style on a Tsugaru is easier to do, requiring less player adaptation, and perhaps just a change of strings.

In my opinion, if you want to play Tsugaru style on another type of Shamisen, I would say the Jiuta is the best “almost-like-a-Tsugaru” Shamisen alternative. In fact, I have seen plenty of Jiuta skinned in a Tsugaru Style (from just thick edges to full behemoth thicker skin).

A Jiuta would be the most versatile middle ground Shamisen type, if you are looking for a true “Beginner Shamisen” that is not made of cardboard or pallet wood.