Just ordered my first shamisen this morning after having kind of tapped out Kyle by email last week. Some of the questions were answered as “better suited to the forum”, so it’s finally time to get answers so I can digest the information while waiting on the slow process of shipping from Japan.
I have a slight (read that as playing for about an hour a day) background in western style music. I know this won’t necessarily carry over to shamisen, but have wanted to learn to play for years and it’s finally time to start. Because of that, the idea of using tablature feels a bit “off”. I’ve already bought (and read several times) Shamisen of Japan as well as watched several hours of instructional videos, in both English and Japanese, on Youtube. The latter is where this biggest question comes into play.
Initially, I assumed that tablature may be the standardized format for shamisen sheet music. Aside from guitar and piano (both western instruments) I had no prior experience in reading music originally produced in Japan, so it seemed plausible. However, watching the Japanese videos clearly shows that standard music notation is the normal, with tablature being transcribed from that.
Therefore, I’m curious if there is some sort of guide to how this carries over to the use of the fujaku. On guitar/banjo, it’s easy enough to figure out what note each position (fret) will play as long as you know the tuning of the open string. I have no idea if the same applies to the shamisen positions.
Next is the marking of the fujaku. There is appears to be a b (assuming this is a musical flat) between the 9th and 10th positions. Being used to western instruments makes this confusing as it would normally just be implied to be the half tone between the notes. For lack of a better way of asking… WHY???
While my next question hasn’t been asked anywhere else, because I just realized it this morning while putting my order together, I’m curious about the use of piezo pickups on shamisen. I’ve seen the various electric shamisen on the market in the past (and even regularly listen to a couple of professionals with custom electric shamisen) The idea of putting a piezo on a shamisen never occurred to me till putting my invoice request together in the store. I have several of similar design to the ones sold in the site store just laying around with no real intended purpose because I can never seem to find them when trying to amp up my acoustic instruments. I kind of want to try it on my shamisen once it arrives, so I’m curious if there is an optimal position for placement of the piezo which will limit feedback and prevent the percussive aspect from overpowering the sound of the strings. I can always mess with the pre-amp and EQ settings on my recording software to fix any slight problems, but if it’s creating too much percussion it becomes a massive (if not impossible) problem to correct.
If anyone is interested in knowing, the shamisen is a beginner shamisen ordered from the site store with hibiki skin.
For anyone that managed to stick with my exceptionally long-winded questions, I appreciate any advice or answers.