Shamisen skin stretcher


Hi, from Oz, can anyone tell me if Kangaroo has ever been tried on a shamisen? We make a variety of drums, and on most, except larger bass style hand percussion, we have used kangaroo successfully. We are re-skinning a shamisen, will probably use a bleached, white goat skin, as we do not have carnivores to hand either. But presume that an omnivore, like a goat would be a reasonable substitute. Roo is a very strong skin, higher tensile strength than goat etc, and a medium weight skin will have a deeper sound. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Hi Kerrie!

Welcome to the Bachido Forum! :slight_smile:

Interesting. Yeah, roo sounds good to me! :slight_smile: Definitely worth trying, as it will allow you to stretch it tighter.

Good luck!
Kyle Abbott


re: using goat or calfskin, do you folks have any thoughts on whether one or the other is the better choice? the same? etc. thanks! Cath


Well after having bought both skins for my shamisen, I can say that the calfskin is much thicker and stiffer than the goat, almost feels like plastic. I am currently in the process of skinning my nagauta in calfskin, so once it’s done I can post a proper sound comparison with my goat skinned tsugaru.


kyyylllle! I summon you to the gaveyard of bachido posts! (not that far back but still from quite awhile ago!) oooOoooOOOOoooo

Well now that the intro is done, my idea! Kyle as both you and I come from having Banjo experience. I am sure you have at some point thought of using a tension hoop type design for a shamisen with tension hooks… like a banjo. It wouldnt require glue for one… and both front and back of the doe can be done up on the same hoop contraption. It would also allow to adjust the skin as needed, AND!! it would be easier to replace the skin as all you need to do is get a skin and stick it into the contraption and adjust it with the hooks an such.


I purchased a samisen in Japan in 2001. The skin has split. I have had no success finding someone who can repair it. I live in Nebraska, but will be in the Santa Monica, CA area in March and could deliver the instrument, picking it up a week later. Does anyone know of a repair person to replace the skin?


Sounds like a job for Kyle Abbott~ hes in Santa Cruz but hes the only kawahari person in the US (that I can think of~)


Dredging up this skinning discussion again - I’m really thinking of skinning this sweet lil nagauta that I got myself …

I’ve collected all the photos of the rigs, and Dan’s rig (the circular one) looks really interesting, but Cody’s rig looks easy. I’m familiar with the taiko way of skin stretching - but what is the banjo way - Cana, can you explain the “hoops” to me? (or - is there a photo somewhere?)

Why don’t people stretch shamisen skins the taiko way? Putting bolts in the skin (smaller ones, of course), and then stretching it like that? (using a jack to lift the dou up into the skin …)


Well I dont think this has been attempted yet but a banjo and a shamisen dont really have that much difference in shape of the dou. what you would need is 2 Squircle shaped rings to go over the dou, with tensionhooks or a likeminded clamp type of mechanism. thats a openback banjo it is a good example of what I am trying to explain.

what you would need to do is design/ fabricate a ring to go over the dou, with adjustable hooks of some sort~

This is all experimental though, but as the design for a banjo hasnt changed all that much since the 1600’s really I would imagine this design to work quite well. maybe with tension “keys” that turn up the tightness on the skin on 4 sides (or 3 as the sao may pose a problem) that can turn and flip down.


So I had a chat with someone who said he skinned a drum ages ago just punching holes into the leather and using thin ropes to stretch without reinforcing the holes in the leather PLUS applying some chemical lotion to the leather that makes it temporarily very loose / stretchable thus requiring less mechanical pull for a good stretching until the glue dries as the leather then also tightens further on its own when the lotion dries up or so … Anyone heard of such a method?


Oh, Cana, I see what you’re talking about! That is very similar to the method that Dan was using in the first post, with the two wooden rings and the skin sandwiched in between them! With two “Hoops”, though, maybe you could just sandwich the skin between the hoops without all the nuts and bolts? Kind of like stretching fabric into an embroidery hoop? What do you guys think? Or is there so much tension that the skin would pop out?

Where is Amanda? Amandaaaa!

BH - that’s pretty close to the way we skin taiko drums, without the “special chemical”.

I have a Tandy Leather Store that’s really close to me, I ought to take all these ideas over there and see what they say.


I don’t think skinning will be a big problem for me. I live in Alabama where there are tons of Banjo Players so if my Shamisen skin ever breaks, I can get some calf skin and reskin it myself. But if there is the event where mine will have to be reskinned, when I get the money I will send it to be reskinned with fibersen. Speaking of Fibersen, with the new Fibersen invention, is it possible to have designs on the skin, like I could put a Hatsune Miku (I’m so Asian haha) design on my dou with the fibersen?


O, you’re making me want to stretch a skin just to henna on it now…


Ooo, Amanda, what a good idea! David, I always wondered why non-Okinawan shamisen were made mostly without ornamentation. Maybe because we hit the dou and the paint would scratch off? ( like in the big Odaiko in taiko - the hatsune miku always has a “hole” in it where they hit it.)


I do know that Asoviva Sanshins are beautifully decorated. Then again, Asoviva Sanshin is Okinawa based, haha. Also their Sanshin are completely made of wood but if you listen to someone playing them, they sound completely normal. Perhaps someone should make static stickers with designs to put on Shamisen Dou. That way no paint will come off, and designs can be switched easily. Also it might provide extra skin protection. If it’s still impossible, I’ll settle having Miku on a Shamisen Doukake.


What would be best is to draw/ print a design onto bachigawa and stick the bachigawa on the shamisen ^^

itll add that layer of protection without damaging sound.

“Bachido Bachigawa” would be cool cough cough kyle cough :smiley:


Sanshins skinned with synthetic skins have drawings printed on them. Maybe fibersen with drawings on it?


I finally got around to making a skin stretching rig - I’ve only tested it with cloth so far - I have 2 goat skins to try on it (probably tomorrow).

I ended up using a semi-traditional shamisen method, combined with a taiko method, but with the idea of “lifting” the dou up to make the stretch. The dou is on a pedestal that I can crank up, using that nut and bolt set-up in the middle, and reaching in from the outside with a wrench. It’s a little awkward, but the pedestal will go up about 4 inches. I was thinking of making a “prestretch” form that had a higher middle so that I could get a more uniform stretch. (Maybe like a wooden dome?) The photo shows the dou with my polishing cloth on top of it.

I used tarp clips for the kisen. (The thought of making 20 individual kisen gave me such a headache, lol). I found about about tarp clips on the taiko building board on Facebook, and they seem to work pretty well, so I thought I’d give them a try. The harder you pull on them, the tighter the grip.

Anyhow, I’ve only cloth tested it so far - I’ll let everyone know how it goes!


It WORKED!! does the Dance of Joy I am a happy camper. :slight_smile:

Soo, I made a couple of mistakes :frowning: after I clipped everything, and flipped the skin, I ended up putting it on rough side up. sigh - oh well.

So now I’m going to mark the clips “This side up” and “NO!!” (I’m serious) for next time. My stretching rig ended up looking like this …

I used EasyKlips, with S hooks hanging off them for easy threading.

To tighten the skin, I used the taiko shime tightening method of winding the rope around and pulling (my husband helped me with that - you can see the first loop in the photo). Since the rig is so tall, this worked just fine.

I got a decent tone out of it. :slight_smile:

I think once I get a doukake on it, and finish up the surface, this is going to be a really sweet little nagauta (kouki wood with ivory and bone itomaki)! Here it is with one head (I still need to do the back).

So I’ll never need to send my shamisen to Japan to be re-headed! Thank you, Kyle, and Dan, and everyone for great advice!


Oh, P.S. - I used hide glue … HALF AN OUNCE - a little went a looooong way …