Hi. Question about learning


Hi people of the internet. I bought the beginners shamisen a couple months back. Just wondering how long it took you to memorize the finger placements without looking at markers. I’m starting to feel like I’m going nowhere.

Another question. Is there a difference in the noise makes when the bachi hits the skin of a nagauta and a tsugaru shamisen? The beginners shamisen I have sounds like a chopping noise like a cutting board, while on YouTube, the tsugaru makes a nice klak klak sound.

Anyway, thanks for reading and responding




Everyone’s pace is different, and depending on how you’re learning you may encounter steeper or more gentle curves.

When I started, I began by learning Kokiriko, which helped me understand the positions for 3, 4, and 6. My teacher’s arrangement focuses on moving between the first and third fingers which helps to solidify the general pattern of position placement relative my hand size.

What’s your beginner’s shamisen skinned with? Getting a good, clean snap is largely technique, but your equipment can be a factor.

As long as you’re using a natural or recently developed artificial skin it’s probably technique. To get the nice “tic” of a good bachi strike, you must have follow through. Push the bachi against the skin so that the string pops out from between the blade and skin. That’s where the snap comes from!


I appreciate your input.

I must have played sakura, like, over a hundred times by now. Still not accurate but I know it takes time. Yeah probably my striking technique needs more practice. Just wanted to know how everyone’s journey began.


From my experience, it also depends on the finger placement itself: 3, 4 and 6 are so common, that you’ll start to memorize them automatically after a couple of months but after 11 the distances between the marks will get so tiny that even the slightest inaccuracy will make the sound out-of-tune so I recommend not putting the markers off until you have like perfect pitch (the struggle is real o-o)

But on the lower notes, it takes maybe less than a year to reliably get the hang of it, maybe try to recognize the sounds in songs you can remember easily and always compare the memory of it with the sound you are currently making…you know what I mean
AND if you notice your pitch sounds a bit off then IMMEDIATELY slide up or down, whatever direction you think is right, even if it’s making it worse, it’s no problem because practice is everything and it’s better than ignoring the false note!
It helps (on the long term) to memorize the sound, not the position because if the instrument is tuned differently, the position changes too, but the sound must stay the same ^^

And Christopher Brown already described the thing with the Tsugaru-noises very well, so no need to add anything from my side ^^


Wow. Thanks. Yeah I’m still really new so all this helps. I’ll consider all this advice as I learn.


Woah Sakura won’t do it! If you want to play Tsugaru style, then play real Tsugaru songs! ^^
Maybe start with Adohadari (it’s the standard of all standards xD)

And always move on to other pieces from time to time - every song teaches you different skills which will improve your general playing quality (and make the journey less frustrating, works for me at least xd) ^^


Ah, I see. Mix it up. keep it fresh.


Shifting songs has never been very beneficial for me. It helps keep away boredom, but I never found that I progressed if I bounced around too much.

I usually focus on a single song for memorization purposes and have a set of other songs that I’m polishing or adding to (i.e., learning to sing while concurrently playing; tempo arrangements). Best of both worlds.


Currently trying to memorize another song. Trying to not move on to new ones until I finish up on the one I’m doing now.


I know I’m really late to this party, but I thought I would share my experience since I am still really new, too. I have been playing since March and taking formal lessons since the end of March. As others have said, 3, 4, and 6 are pretty well programmed in, not just to hit them right most of the time, but to hear and know when I hit them wrong. 9 is mostly there, but I still miss occasionally. Everything else is rocky.

I started learning Ichi-Dan a few weeks ago and it has a long-ish run from 3 to 19 (3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 12, 14, and 19, if if remember correctly). I tend to miss 9 fairly often if I am trying to go too fast. And as someone else said above, the spacing gets kind of weird past 10 or so and I am really struggling with hitting them all consistently.

But, as time goes on, it’s starting to get easier. One thing that has helped me is just to sit with my eyes closed and play. No sheet music. No finger markers. Just listen and play. When I hit the note wrong, I’ll open my eyes and adjust, then close them again and play. Besides being almost meditative, it has really forced me to develop some muscle memory.

I think what @ChristopherBrown (who is far more skilled that I will probably ever be) said really dawned on me about a month ago. A good snap really is more about technique. It’s not about strength or velocity. You can actually do it very slowly and deliberately if you try. Think of it as trying to trap the string under the bachi in just the right way so that it pops out and snaps. That helped me at least.

Out of curiosity, what kind of bachi are you using? I could never get a good snap with a plastic bachi. Maybe I can now, but I haven’t tried since I ditched mine. I hated that thing…


Thanks for even taking a look.

I’m using a wooden bachi. It makes a horrible scraping noise though on the 2 thicker strings.

Was thinking about a bekkou bachi. If the acrylic one is any good I might to have that instead.


I am no expert, so please take all of this with a large grain of salt.

I have never used an “official” full wooden bachi, so no real experience there. The plastic one I have makes a scraping sound on the strings, too. That’s another thing I hated about it. I have made a bachi blade of wood, and when it got thin enough that I felt like it would be good to play with, it was too thin and snapped easily. Either the real ones are thicker (which seems like it would make it hard to play with), or they are made of a much denser wood than I was using.

I have not used the premium acrylic bachi sold on bachido.com, but I have made one myself of similar construction. It seems to me that acrylic is the best currently widely available material for bachi outside of bekkou or faux bekkou, which are very expensive. It’s cheaper than bekkou (faux or not) and pretty durable. If someone twisted my arm right now and said “you must buy a bachi”, I would probably by the premium acrylic. Probably the 3mm. The acrylic that I used that was around 1.6mm (technically 3/32 of an inch or around 2.3 mm) seemed a little thin to me. It’s possible I just had cheap acrylic, though. :smile:


The wooden one is pretty smooth, but has no flex so I’m wondering if that has anything to do with it. Maybe it’s my technique though. But it’s good to share this because I started the same time as you. You have differing experience and differing insight.


Oh. I just realized that Adohadari, which @Nonoctopus posted above, is what I have been playing (although slightly modified). My teacher has always referred to it as Ichi-Dan, which I think literally means “First Part” or “Part 1”. I guess Adohadari is the name of the full piece?


I’m using a wooden bachi too and yes, it’s just technique and practise. But I think it’s way easier with bekkou than wood. Also you have to hit the skin so hard that the bachi sometimes breaks a bit ^^ (You should probably save for a bekkou, I’m too currently ^^’)


Oh yeah that’s very likely! I heard, in Japan it’s the very first song people learn (not understandable *cough *)
What are the differences in your version?


First song? That’s brutal. The version I have is basically what you posted, but a bit simpler. There are a couple of missing “flourishes” and fewer kamashi (with none of the 0303 form) toward the end. I’m sure those will get layered in as I get less inept at playing it.


Man, I can’t seem to pull off hajiki easily. It seems especially harder the higher you go up on the neck. I can’t seem to hit 3-1-0-0 on ringo bushi beginning part. Any tips? My hand cramps because I can’t reach over to the middle string.


Yeah. Hajiki down around 19 can be really tough. You’re basically shoving the blade of your bachi under the string for hajiki at the point, especially in the maebachi position.

Christopher Brown rightly pointed out that I got hajiki and sukui mixed up. Sorry for any confusion/misinformation. Please ignore the above.

As far as cramping, I really don’t mean this to sound flippant, but maybe just loosen up? My teacher and I were talking about this some at my last lesson. I was telling him that I realized that in some cases (especially for kamshi/4300) that I was just trying to mash the life out of my strings and I realized that sometimes you just really don’t need to. We also talked a little bit about hand position that day, and the gist of what he said was “try to maintain form, but don’t be a slave to it”. If you need to move your fingers/thumb/hand to reach a string, move them/it. Between those two things, my hand has been much happier!


Ichidan is the first part of Rokudan Jongara Bushi - a relatively modern teaching piece.

In Rokudan Jongara, the student learns a variety of phrases and patterns that show up in other Tsugaru Min’yo and that will be eventually used in creating ones own Jongara arrangement.

Adohadari is slightly different. Listening to it I hear Ichidan, then a slightly modified Yondan, and a variant of GoDan.

@Chris hajiki is a left hand technique. The bachi is not involved. Maybe you’re thinking of sukui (upstroke)?

Here is (one) Rokudan Jongara. It varies a little on your Ryuu.

Here is Adohadari