The bachi is the most important part of the shamisen. To safely execute solid bachi technique, you should have a bachi that fits your hand comfortably without struggle. Of course, the bachi is initially awkward to use, but once you get accustomed to it, it should feel comfortable. If it is still uncomfortable, it could either be caused by tension in your hand, or the bachi is just not properly sized for your hand. If so, it should be fixed.
In 2010, I invested in a heavy, flexible bachi. The flexibility felt great and produced great tone, but for some reason, something about it always felt cumbersome. Not really considering why it was uncomfortable, I continued using it figuring it’d get comfortable ‘eventually’. Though my bachi technique improved over the years, it still never felt comfortable.
During the Team Bachido Tour of 2013, I decided to buy another bachi at the Hirosaki Taikai. After trying out all the heavy flexible bachi, I found one that felt great to hold and it made me realize why my 2010 bachi felt awkward. The handle was too thick! The 2010 bachi was only 3mm thicker, but that made a huge difference.When returning to California, I decided to shape my bachi handle to the width of the new bachi. It's very easy to do. I simply traced the thinner handle onto the thicker handle. Then, I sanded the handle with broad strokes, checking frequently and sanding slowly to be safe (15 minutes to shave one side) As you get close to the mark, switch to higher grit sandpapers and finally polish.
After slimming the handle, the bachi instantly felt better to hold, playing was a far more comfortable experience and it looked good as new!
Even if you don’t have another bachi to trace it to, you can still successfully shape the handle by working slowly and carefully. As you gradually slim the handle, repeatedly hold it in playing position to check the feeling.
I repeat again; work slowly and constantly check the feeling. It’s easy to quickly remove material, but it’s difficult to put it back on. But by working slowly, you can safely shape the handle to what feels best for you.
Once it starts to feel very comfortable to hold and spread your fingers, switch to higher grit sandpapers and then polish!
It’s now ready to play! If it still feels a little thick, you can always shave more off later. Enjoy the new size!