"Stratocaster Edition" Shamisen!

I started building this shamisen using Kyle’s book in ~2011 with my dad, while I was finishing up high school. Upon graduating HS in 2013, I moved from Montana to Northern California to attend college, and we unfortunately put the project on hold. This summer I started working on it again though, and it’s finally nearing completion! The wood we’re using is African Padauk, a really hard wood that looks awesome IMO.

As you can see, we made a pretty bold design change. We decided to go for a Stratocaster-esque headstock design, which of course strays away from the traditional Shamisen design, especially with the tuning pegs… I like its weirdness though. :slightly_smiling_face: The main thing I still need to tackle is the skin stretching, which is another construction aspect we decided to experiment with. Instead of using the kisen clips, I’m going to first try fashioning just four long clamps for each side of the skin… I’ll post updates here this month!

Below are photos of the build so far. Pictured in the left side of the third photo is an Elk hide, which seemed way too thick to use, so I ended up acquiring some much thinner (~0.5mm) calfskin. I’ll be using canvas material for my first attempts with our four-clamp concept, so I don’t waste actual skins in the event that I mess up.

Should I varnish it to give it a glossy look, or keep it matte?

  • Glossy
  • Matte

0 voters


Yo, I usually don’t come out and talk like this but no cap, this looks cool as all hell. I’d totally play this so hard.


Looks cool! I’m looking forward to seeing the finished pics. I missed the deadline on voting but I think the finish should be glossy.

1 Like

Will look like a cool banjo👌