Inherited shamisen need help!

I recently inherited a shamisen from my grandmother. I don’t even know where to begin. It hasn’t been touched in 20+ years. I’d love to be able to learn a couple simple things to play for my now very sick grandmother. Anyway I guess the first issue is the strings. I can’t tell if their in good shape or in tune or anything? I’m just so lost!!!

1 Like

Well you should upload some pictures of it, if is hasn’t been playing for 20 years, most probably those strings doesn’t work, trying to tuning em will break them, so you will need new strings, new neo as well.
You should be careful with the skin as well it might ripe off because of the long time.

1 Like

Hello. Welcome.

If you post some pictures, I can help.

Old strings are still usable, although they will break quickly.

I also notice when I tighten the strings sometimes they snap back idk if I’m tightening them too much or what

Uwaaa! That’s not a shamisen, that’s a Sanshin!

I’ve never seen one like this before. These are beautiful pictures. I’m not an expert with the sanshin, but I’m sure some others will be!

This is the Okinawan predecessor to the shamisen. The drum is skinned with snake. It is very similar to the Chinese Sanxian, which made its way to Japan, evolved into the Sanshin, which then changed into the shamisen when snake skin was discovered to be a “rarity” In Japan at the time.

Also, the part where you mention the strings “snapping back,” I don’t know if there is a bridge in there. It could also be because the tuning pegs are loose and you just need to shove them into the peg more. Again, I know almost nothing about the Sanshin. I love this sanshin. So beautiful. I’m glad you have it! Good luck on getting help.

~Matsubusa
p.s. I see the little pupper in one of the pics. So cute!

Hello again.

As was said, this is a little bit different. An Okinawan (or Amami island) Shamisen is usually called a Sanshin. It’s regrettably outside of my wheel house, although there are a few people on bachido who are much more familiar!

That said, I’m a little worried about the angle of the neck. It seems to be pulling away from the body, right? That’s no good!

I’m also curious about the strings… not so much the age as how they’re tied on. Most specifically, that middle loop looks… really off kilter. It might be fine, but I’m not sure.

Here’s a video about replacing sanshin strings.

1 Like