How to correctly hold the bachi?


#1

I made a post like this awhile back but was unable to provide picutures, thus assistance to my question was minimal. So this time I went and took pictures to ask what is the proper technique.

I personally always hold it the first way. It feels more natural and my grip on the bachi is stronger. The one problem I have is that my wrist as to turn in a lot more to get a proper strike on the do.

The second way looks a lot closer to what I see in images (such as the one the this website), however I find it to be a very weak grip when I use it, making it very difficult to perform sukui without it flying from my fingers. I am also unable to find a good way to maintain a strong grip while following the advice of thumb on top of the head of the bachi as opposed to the edge. The up side to this grip is that the angle my wrist has to take to strike the do is much more shallow, making each strike less strenuous and making the percussive element of tsugaru style more prevalent.

So I hope that you guys will be able to help understand what is wrong with either (probably both) of these grips so I can play more effectively. Thanks in advance!


#2

Hey Tino!

So, this is a mix of personal preference and stylistic preference, depending on things like lineage as well as what’s comfortable in your own hand.

The “standard” grip is pretty much like what you have in the first picture, with just a little adjustment. I keep my thumb a bit lower on the edge to give it room to flex. This is a nice, proper, catchall way to hold the bachi and is the most common way to do it, as I’ve seen.

The second picture you have is way more Nitta Ryu, and is equally correct, though more advanced. You’re spot on about the percussive nature being brought out - holding it this way contributes to the hallmark driving percussive nature of the Nitta style.
The way the Nitta school holds it involves only the end joints of the fingers holding the bachi, like you have it in that picture. From what I’ve seen, Masahiro also keeps his thumb just a little bit on top (so not necessarily parallel like that, so it won’t slip off), but it is more on the edge then the basic grip, which places the thumb more on top.
The reason you see this way so much here is because of our close ties with Masahiro and Hiroshi Nitta, who taught Kevin Kmetz, who taught Kyle, and then through the online lessons many of us. So his style is pretty pervasive throughout the bachido community.

Other schools also likely have their own fine adjustments to the grip, though I’m not acquainted enough with them to detail them.

The standard way and Nitta way both work great, and it really depends on what you’re going for in your playing. I personally like playing with both, as each gives a unique feeling in the playing itself.
I hope this helps!


#3

Ah thanks, that explains a lot actually. Now I don’t have to doubt myself every I pick up my bachi to play haha.


#4

You’re welcome! :smiley: Bachi on (with confidence!) :stuck_out_tongue:


#5

One of the biggest “Aha” moments for as far as holding the Bachi came to me when I “got” the idea of where and how to guide your energy. Im quite sure Kyle Abbott has an actual picture (photo with lines superimposed onto it) demonstrating this, If I remember correctly, in the Shamisen on Japan book. It is very hard to explain this just with words so maybe I will make a video on this subject if I can squeeze in the time. But to give it my best shot. here goes... So the main important thing is to grip firmly with the pinky and ring fingers. When you can comfortably do this the Bachi actually begins to Magically do the work for you. In other words by focusing the grip entirely on that part of your hand you can completely relax your grip and simply place the remaining fingers in their designated locations and the energy will start flowing from one end of your hand to the other. Its like surfing a bit I guess. Once you catch the wave of energy that will move the bachi naturally and smoothly, you can then just chill out and have fun rocking the Shamisen. What still Amazes me to this day is how relaxed your hand can be and still achieve that Ultra Slap in the face Bachi-strike tone. In fact I would go so far as to say that only when your Bachi hand is properly relaxed will you get that classic Shamisen “SMACK!!!” Tone. Anytime muscle strength is overapplied the sound ironically becomes noticably weaker.


#6

Re: Grip

My grip is most like the first picture, but there’s usually 1-2 Centimeters of bachi visible before my thumb.

In fact I would go so far as to say that only when your Bachi hand is properly relaxed will you get that classic Shamisen “SMACK!!!” Tone. Anytime muscle strength is overapplied the sound ironically becomes noticably weaker.

This! The percussive sound is all about the snap. Which I often fail at :p.

It occurs to me that focusing your grip on the pinky and ring finger frees up your thumb and index to adjust for better oshibachi/suberi control.

Hm