Moving up from Shamibuddy recommendations?

Hey there everyone. I picked up a Shamibuddy (Best Buddy) last year, right before COVID shut everything down (lucky me!). Really enjoyed it. I struggled mightily trying to decide between the Shamibuddy and the Beginner’s Shamisen. Ended up going with the Shamibuddy, since I wasn’t quite sure how much I was going to enjoy it/stick with it. A little bit of regret later, since the price delta going up to the Beginner Shamisen is a lot less than buying both… (still, it’ll be nice to have a shamisen that I can take out camping and the like, and not worry about as much)

Came into a little extra discretionary money recently, and have been considering moving up to a standard shamisen, but not sure what would make the most sense.

What’s the reasonable step-up to take?

Is the Beginner Shamisen a decent option for the next step up? Or should I look into Ebay / etc? The Ebay ones could be interesting, but I get concerned with the price+shipping+questionable quality, and/or getting scammed.

I’d like to find one with the adjustable sawari (azuma sawari?), and I guess the Beginner Shamisen doesn’t have that…

I’m reasonably crafty, so building myself a faux bekko bachi is on my to-do list. At some point I might try building one from scratch (bought the book!), but that’s some time off.

I’m in the US, for what difference it makes.

As a second question, what do people do for protective/travel cases for their shamisen? I didn’t see many options available. I guess I could just buy a Pelican-style hardcase with the customizable pick-foam and do it myself, but wondered if there were other common options.

Thanks in advance…

Hey there!

My suggestion would be to think about the kind of music you want to play. While you can fundamentally play any sort of genre on any sort of shamisen, each sort has its own, slightly different character that better suits one genre or another.

The beginner’s shamisen is a nagauta. It’s going to have a high, spritely tone and will be relatively quieter than other, larger instruments. It doesn’t have an azuma or en sawari.

Shopping on the secondary market is a risk - there can be great returns on it; but you’ll likely get burned once or twice. Even though I’m based in Japan, I’ve gotten stung thanks to poor photos and my own overzealousness. That said, I’ve also gotten flat out GREAT pieces that only needed a little bit of love.

The first instrument I bought by auction is a total beauty… Hmm.

The last time I was in the states, I brought a shamisen with me and left it at my father’s for safe keeping. If it’s still in good shape, maybe I could sell it to you, if you’re interested. It’s a shitan chuuzao (ichibugorindai body) with an azuma sawari and should still be skinned with a natural leather.

As brown say, it depends what you aiming to get, and the secondary market is risky, i just won a Shamisen but it might be not that good… Is a risk that might not worth it tho, you should go for the safe choice.

Hi Brown,

In terms of music… I don’t think I have a specific type. I like minyo, but also have liked the tsugaru pieces I’ve heard too. I have maybe a little more interest in traditional pieces, however (I’ve orbited various historical reenactor groups over the years). I’ve just really enjoyed learning what I have so far.

I don’t plan on busking or playing the local coffeeshop, but would play with other like-minded folks, given the opportunity. So some volume is nice.

Sounds like the beginner shamisen is out - of the “gotta have” features I want, I think the adjustable azuma or en sawari is the #1 on the list. I’ve used the tape-it-and-fake-it method for the Shamibuddy (it works!), but it also needs adjusting if you ever change tuning, and the adjustment is…inconvenient at best.

I’m OK with the synthetic skins, so I’m not really a traditionalist on that. So hibiki or Ripple are fine, too. (I kind of wonder about the longevity of the natural skin - I live in a very hot/dry part of the US).

Getting burned on the secondary market is a really big concern of mine. Most of the shamisen I’ve seen on eBay are in the US$300-600 range (+shipping), and spending that kind of cash on something that isn’t usable is a big worry. While I could probably eat it once, my wife would be a little more skeptical it happened a second time. I probably wouldn’t survive to make the mistake a third time…

While I’ve seen quite a few offerings with cut skins selling for a lot less, I’m not sure if there’s enough of a return on investment to buy one with a cut skin and then pay another couple hundred to fix it.

In the end, I guess, I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to trying to assess the quality of the instruments on the secondary market.

I had to go look up what ichibugorindai was (a sort of lower tone/bassy shamisen?), and that sounds pretty interesting! The Shamibuddy is also chuuzao, so that wouldn’t be a big change to try and adapt to. How much are you thinking to consider parting with it? (private message is OK?)

Thanks for the advice!

Thanks for the tip. What do you consider the “safe” choices? I haven’t really gone googling to find other sellers beyond Bachido.

Bachido’s selection isn’t bad, but it sounds like COVID and the (possible?) closure of Tokyo Wagakki is really putting a limit on availability and selection…

Of course! Message me at your leisure.

Ichi-bu go-rin dai bodies are usually associated with Jiuta shamisen, but they’re just as you say. A little bit bassier than a min’yo, not quite as growly as a tsugaru. This one was built in Hokkaido by 太田 , if memory serves.