New shamisen player here!


I finally went and did it! I’ve been really interested in the shamisen for years, and have found myself lurking on this site often, but never felt ready to join until I had my own. But now I do! I found a really amazing deal on a shamisen on an online auction site, but I don’t even know how to tell what kind it is! I want to say it’s a minyo… But I really have no clue. Here’s a picture from the auction. I can include more if it helps.
As you can see it came with a plethora of goodies, and actually a flyer from a program that’s in my town, so small world! Unfortunately, the tenjin joint came free in transit, and it appears to me that it had been repaired before with super glue (I’ve done a lot of woodworking/instrument repair before, so I’ve seen all kinds of adhesives). Luckily, the joint was still clean, so just some gentle glue scraping, and it’s gluing as we speak.

All that said… My long list of questions begins…
-It appears to be missing the kamigomi… Do I need one?
-Do I need to oil the sao and dou? (I have special oil for guitar fretboards which would work)
-Do I need to put any kind of oil or lubrication on the itomaki?

And if anyone is still reading, I would greatly appreciate any advice anyone has for a beginning player! I’ve played guitar and other stringed instruments for over 15 years, so I understand the concepts of playing a stringed instrument… Just have never held a shamisen. But I’m very excited to once this one is ready!


welcome to the bachido-community! for getting started try the free lessons here on bachido schoolhouse or buy a course. i started with sakura,sakura …


Hello There,

Welcome to Bachido!

The type of shamisen you have is a ‘Nagauta’ style. I play this style too, it is generally used for the long songs played in kabuki performances and works well for folk songs (minyo) too, (just don’t try all that hard hitting that Tsugaru players do)!

Can’t quite understand why it came with so many bachi, but check they have the corners on and find one that you are comfortable using. Can’t see a koma (bridge) on here, so you will need that. Personally, I’ve never oiled my neck and it is just as good as it was 15 years ago.


Thanks for the info! Yeah, I don’t know why it had so many either, but I’m not complaining. There is a koma (actually two, one plastic and one bone), and I ended up finding the kamigomi. It was inside the satin slip that it came with, so that’s great.


Hey there.

Without measurements it’s difficult to tell the actual shamisen subtype, but as @Michael_Graham says there’s a decent chance this is a nagauta based on the hatomune style neck. However~ the presence or absence of a curve near the dou is not the be-all end-all of genre. Hatomune appear infrequently on min’yo shamisen, often on kouta/hauta, and nearly always on gidayu.

To really tell, we need to look at the width of the neck near the tenjin, at the middle, and near the dou and compare it with the size of the body. A thin neck (capping out at 2.5) and a small body(`長唄) is a nagauta. A middling neck (2.6 ~ 2.8) and a slightly larger body (5厘大) tells us that its intended for min’yo, kouta, or hauta.

In your case, however, we can guess based on the books included with the instrument. If one of them says Kabuki like I think it does, it’s a a decent indication that you do, indeed have a nagauta ;p.

As for your questions:

You don’t need to oil anything. Shamisen are very, very heavily lacquered and sealed. You can use a small amount of camelia oil to clean it up and bring back the urushi’s luster if you like. But use only a small amount.

Do not oil your itomaki. They’re friction based tuning pegs, and typically will loosen over time.

Also your pegs look to be ivory.

So uh, take care~!


I’d lay you odds that at least one of those is intended for practice and one is intended for performance use. Alternatively, they may have different weights or materials for different sounds and uses.


Thanks so much for the thoughtful response. I will try and measure it later on and find out exactly which one it is. The body seems pretty well-preserved as of right now, but good to know I can use camelia oil on it. I happen to actually have some of that.

Having never played a shamisen before I can say, this thing is loud! I’ve heard people say they’re loud, but never believed how loud until now! I’m sorry to my poor neighbors and family…



So very true!!