Hey! So I’m looking to get into the community and learn to play the Shamisen. Like many (I’m sure), I’m finding it hard to find the money to afford one to start! Instead, I’ve been thinking of buying an old used one and rebuilding it. So would any of you have advice as for what to look for in buying a good quality yet used Shamisen that all it needs is a little love and devotion? And also, how much price wise to expect when rebuilding one?
The biggest cost for shamisen rebuilding is getting it skinned professionally. If you can do that yourself, the rest is easy if you have some woodworking skills needed usually to shim the neck to the body. Inexpensive instruments can be found on eBay as well as parts.
For example I purchased an old nagauta shamisen missing a neck part which I was able to build and inert. Another great find was a high end Sao (which was strangely 2 piece) with a sawari at a nice price. Following that was a Dou with ayasugi and artificial skin still intact.
The parts had to be shaved to fit where the connections met -dou to sao. I carved a koma and bought strings and a nice bachi at Boro Ichi and am trying to learn to play shamisen a bit. The first older shamisen is still waiting for me to reskin it when I build up some courage and have time. If successful I can then redo the artificial skin myself. I purchased drum head vellum for this purpose.
The first shamisen was about $40 and the second one around $140 - this in Canadian dollars- with the extras being an unremembered cost purchased in Asakusa where I found a shamisen store. I ordered strings and yubikake from Kameya a great shamisen Store.
If after a Tsugaru shamisen, the price is much higher, but the smaller instruments such as nagauta are easier to find and at reasonable pricing. Ask the seller if they know the type of wood used and the age of the instrument and hope you are able to find or build what you need to play shamisen.