Does a good skin help out a cheap shamisen?


While I was in Japan, I lucked out and got one of those cheap beginner shamisens made with karin wood for only 30,000 yen. However, from playing it’s easy to hear how much weaker it is from more professional shamisen players I’ve heard.

After a few months of no playing, I’m going to dedicate myself to the shamisen again. However, the skin on mine is showing signs of wear. I was wondering, if I sent it to Kyle for reskinning would that make a big difference in the tone and quality? Or should I hold out, try to save up, and buy a better quality base shamisen? However, those high quality $1-2k shamisens will be out of reach for a while if I go that route…


I believe I read somewhere that a shamisen’s skin is responsible for about 80% of it’s sound.


The type, quality, and tightness of the skin has a tremendous impact on the sound you’ll get out your instrument.

As Phil indicated, I believe Kyle has said (somewhere on this site) that it’s about 80% of the battle. I’d largely agree with that sentiment.

If the skin is loose or has holes, you may benefit from a reskinning.

However, you’re still going to be limited by the build quality, wood, and your own technique level. If you’re noticing a difference between yourself and professional players, I might start with polishing skills before dropping serious cash.

(Speaking from experience on that last end, and all the yen thrown into the fire chasing gear instead of just practicing more and more)