Shamisen: A Mindful Activity


As a beginner at shamisen, learning can be overwhelming and exhausting, but when I play for the sake of playing, it is mindful and fun. When I play a note or phrase to experience the notes, I feel the sao (neck) vibrating and feel the bachi (plectrum) strike the kawa (skin) each time. I am not thinking about what I have to do next or about problems. I just am “doing” shamisen. Occasionally I am mindful in group lesson. We frequently play a “game” where Kyle sets the rhythm and an initial melody. Every 12th count or so someone joins in or changes the sound by adding a new note or melody on top of what is being played. It is always new, it is always right, and it is mindful. It is so fun!

Our group lesson warming up by playing this game.

It’s a very neat feeling to be in the present moment making music with others; however, I am usually not able to be mindful in my group because I am human and am prone to distractions—my bachi slipped, I missed the string, I am suddenly hungry, someone changed the melody and I wasn’t ready. So when your mind does wander (and it will), gently guide yourself back to the sounds and feelings of your shamisen.


I usually start to listen to a new song first. And by listening I mean a lot! Like learning it by heart to get a feeling for melody and rhythm. After that my fingers and ears can rely on what I have in mind. And don’t tell anyone but when driving alone in my car I sing Min’yo to practice them :wink:


Martina, haha! You don’t tell anyone…but you just told all of here at bachido so now we know that you sing Min’yo in your car!

Kristine thank you very much for sharing your thoughts here! It’s great to get insight from a variety of people regarding Shamisen and music making.


:slight_smile: Yeah, but you’re all kind people here at bachido. And since everyone playing Shamisen is getting to mindfulness you’d never make fun of other Shamisen players. :wink:


Martina, good point!