Helo with Shamisen Koma


Whats the sound difference between the bamboo koma and the bamboo koma with a bone tip?or like a video showing how they sound.


It’s pretty subjective. I doubt most people would be able to tell the difference at all. When harder materials, such as bone, are used at the end point of a vibrating string it will usually result in greater sustain and a ‘brighter’ tone. However, because the shamisen is a fretless instrument and you are holding the string down with your finger, which is very soft, any tonal differences between koma due to materials types will be mostly unnoticeable.



Generally speaking I don’t disagree with you there @Josh_Curry. As I’ve said elsewhere, post skinning and wood hardness it’s a small numbers game.

I will say that I can hear the difference between my plastic, bamboo/bone, ivory, and bekkou/bamboo koma. But it’s difficult to attest for one being better than the other.

As well, I’m obliged to quibble with your form comment. Proper fingering obliges you to use your fingernail with your index finger to create a sharper, cleaner sound.



Here’s an excellent resource for genre and material differences created by a shop in Kiraiya near Nagoya.

The owner and his wife are nice people.


If you can tell the different in tone between those koma then you have better hearing than myself, and probably most people. :smile:

I had forgotten about using the finger-nail. But I think that’s only on the 3rd string (san-no-ito), right? After playing guitar for so long I always forget that is the correct way to do it.


Mmm… Well, if you say so!

I think there’s a pretty clear, albeit small, difference. It’s most evident on single notes, but can easily be lost amidst everything else. Given this, it’s not really worth worrying about for most people ~ though I know some professionals carry around multiple koma heights and materials to account for weather and pressure changes impacting skin tightness.


You’re correct about that, as far as I know! Your index finger’s nail (人差し指の爪) is used on the 3rd string (三の糸) in at least min’yo and Tsugaru.

My teachers have never made a point about fingering with the nail on the first and second strings. A website about jiuta suggests that using the nail on them is discouraged outright - it creates an undesirable sound.

(http://shamisen.info/) <- how amazing is it to get that as a domain?

Gidayu may be a different beast though. In Gidayu multiple fingers have an itomichi (糸道) - a groove cut or worn into the nail to allow the string to be depressed cleanly but to still allow proper sliding techniques.


Hi Sqid

Foud on youtube, recorded by Kyle Abott himself, here are the videos:

Bamboo Koma

Bone/Ivory tip:

Sometimes, I could swear I can hear the difference, somtetimes, I could swar there isn´t any…:thinking: