Did I buy the wrong Shamisen?


So i’ve been wanting to get a shamisen for a while now. I bought Kyle’s book and started making my own, but unfortunately my busy life has kept me from working on it. Recently, I purchased a Shamisen on ebay that had a torn skin; I figured it would be easier to just fix a broken one than making one from scratch. Well it arrived today and the first thing I notice was how thin the sao was. It is only 2.3 cm wide, whereas in Kyle’s book it says the sao should be 3.5cm. So, did I buy a children’s shamisen?


Hi. Can you post a picture, pls ?


Here is a link to the ebay listing


It is probably a nagauta shamisen (2.3 cm is quite thin even for a nagauta).


There’s no such thing as a wrong shamisen. haha

I play a nagauta and have zero regrets.


Yes, definitely a nagauta.



Hello Jeff.

Kyle’s book describes a kind of wide-necked or futozao shamisen used in Aomori and Akita Prefectures.

Often, it is referred to as a Tsugaru shamisen after the sub region in Aomori that birthed the kind of music played on it. Futozao includes a broad range of widths, traditionally starting from 2.8 cm and going all the way to 3.5 these days.

Your shamisen at 2.3 cm falls in the thinnest end of the thin necked shamisen subtype - the hosozao. Hosozao generally refers to a range of necks from 2.3 to 2.5 / 2.6.

It is, as others have said, likely a nagauta. Depending on the specifics of the body dimensions, it may class as something else.

Beyond the torn skins (replacement will cost well more than your paid for the instrument), it does seem to be in good shape. I’m a little concerned at the joint near the tenjin, but it could just be the lighting. I don’t see any wear on the neck, which is nice.

As an aside, the seller description is so much fluff and nonsense. That shamisen would never sell for 200,000 yen in Japan.

Happy twanging ~


A “futatsuori” sao ! It looks like the shamisen I have been offered last summer ! I opened a thread about it :


Thank you everyone for the information, it really helps! So it seems I just bought a different type of shamisen. The neck seems so thin that I am concerned it will be especially difficult to play.

As for the broken skin, I plan on trying to replace that myself following the instructions in Kyle’s book. Although at this point, I think I am just going to save up and buy the beginner’s shamisen.


Well, you certainly could buy that one! Worse case scenario, you’d have a second instrument.

But remember that the beginner’s shamisen is also a nagauta. It’s a modern model, so the neck should be a bit wider but still a hosozao.


my training instrument is actually a kojami chintone (kind of a small shamisen - just like ukulele vs. guitar). the neck is quite thin here, too. with the small distance between the strings i can’t play part three of the sakura lesson here at bachido … or am i just too clumsy?


“As an aside, the seller description is so much fluff and nonsense. That shamisen would never sell for 200,000 yen in Japan.”

hahaha, did it say that?


haha yes it did; I didnt believe it anyway, I figured it was just part of the sales pitch


yes I agree, that is a 100% naguta style shamisen. altho older naguta shamisen necks tended to be thinner, vice versa "more comfort to playing traditional music.


Oh, jeez, I didn’t read the item description the first time I read through this thread. That’s some hardcore, old-school eBay speak in that description! I think that’s the first time I’ve seen that sort of item description in something like 15+ years. And now I feel old at 30-something. >.>