Looking For Someone to ID a Shamisen


I recently came across this entry for a shamisen for sale: https://www.trademe.co.nz/a/marketplace/music-instruments/instruments/string/other/listing/3463455289?bof=1Agj3tsC

The owner says they believe it to be a tsugaru, but I’m skeptical. Wondering if anyone more experienced with this could weigh in or suggest questions I could pose to the seller

Hi there.

As I’ve posted elsewhere regarding identifying shamisen, you need to know the dimensions of the neck’s width (at least near the tenjin), the overall instrument length from tip to tip (not accounting for the curve of the tenjin, just looking at the footprint), and the length and width of the body (not accounting for the bevel).

From these dimensions, it’s usually possible to figure out the intended genre.

Additional indicators include:

Shape of the neck near the body
Presence or absence of an adjustable sawari (en or azuma)
Relative size of the itomaki (extremely poor indicator, but there are trends)
Skinning type and dimensions


A quick glance at your link says: No, not a tsugaru

Thank you so much for your reply!

I figured that probably I needed some more exact measurements (I saw your earlier post) but whether or not I can get them depends on if the seller will be likely to provide that much extra information and go to the trouble of taking those measurements for me. If I can, I’ll refer to your other post for the specifics on the measurements

I suppose, then, my follow up question is; is it possible/practical to modify or adapt a non-tsugaru shamisen to, at the very least, be an effective practice instrument for tsugaru-style playing? I understand the sound would be off, but I’m wondering if trying to praise tsugaru on a non-tsugru shamisen would be feasible or if it’d just not be worth it at all.

You can play whatever you like on whatever you have - there’s no modifications one would need to make that wouldn’t lead to just building a new instrument entirely. The sole exception to this is perhaps the addition of an adjustable sawari - but even that’s not necessary.

Moreover, the song from which Tsugaru shamisen originated were first played on whatever was handy. These are folk songs played on a folk instrument.

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Oh, that’s fantastic news then! I’ve been really keen to learn and this is the cheapest shamisen I’ve come across (plus it comes with a hard case which, frankly, makes it feel pretty worthwhile regardless).

You’ve been a ton of help! I hope to become more active in the community once I get a chance to properly start learning.

As a little update on this, I won the auction at $405NZD, the equvalent of $375AUD(for me) or $270USD. I still gotta pay to have my partner in New Zealand to get it shipped over to me, but for an instrument + all accesories + a hard case I think that’s pretty good! I’m so excited to finally be able to start learning once it arrives. If anyone had any tips on shipping shamisen to avoid damage, I’d appreciate it!