Strings keep breaking for no apparent reason

I bought a shamisen almost a month ago and so far I had to change the thinnest string around five times because it keeps breaking for no apparent reason.
It broke only one time while playing, the other four times I found the strings broken even if I stored the shamisen in its bag or left it on my desk without putting it in its bag.

I thought it could be because I keep removing the koma after playing it, but it happened even when the string was new or after two or three days I had changed it. I don’t even play it violently.

Do you know by chance what could be the reason and how to prevent the strings to break again, or at least not this often?

(I hope I didn’t many mistakes, I don’t speak English as first language)

Hmm, what material are your strings? I have had several san no ito strings (the smallest string) break both while playing and while in storage since I first got my shamisen. I think that silk strings are more likely to break faster than nylon. Is your shamisen stored somewhere that has dramatic changes in temperature or humidity? The only other thing I can think of is that the strings are too tight which is reducing their life. Maybe Big Kyle or Brown-san can offer their better informed opinions.

Thanks for the tag, Brian. You and I generally share the same concerns. Silk strings are much more delicate, doubly so if you make tighten them too much.

Beyond that, I would ask:

Are the strings old?

Older strings become brittle and break more rapidly, whatever their material.

Is there a sharp edge on your bachi or koma?

These can cause damage to the string, leading to a shorter life span. Check to see if the strings break in the same area regularly.

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The strings I have are made of silk but I must add that they might be old, as they were included with the sacond hand shamisen I’ve bought. They were not stored in the orginal packaging as well.

For what concerns temperature and humidity, in those days when the strings broke there were not any dramatic change of temperature. It happened that they broke after some minutes I hopened the window to airate the room, but that happened in September when the temperature was rather stable and hot.

The strings might be old as they were inclued with the second hand shamisen that I bought.

They mostly break on the itomaki but it happend that they broke on the “knot” that you make on the neo.

I was considering to buy nilon strings but I am afraid that the material would affect the sound…

I haven’t used any silk strings on my shamisen so I can’t speak from personal experience, however, I believe that nylon strings are commonly used on ichi no Ito and ni no ito by professional players. I would recommend at least switching out those strings to nylon and see if it helps with the breakage issue. Personally, I have nylon strings on my shamisen and I think the sound is ok for a beginner level instrument. Good luck!

Here in Japan, most people use silk for their first string - whatever their genre is!

In regular min’yo, we usually use silk for the second string. The third string varies between individuals. Some people reserve silk strings for performances but practice with nylon or tetoron. Others use nylon or tetoron full time.

In Tsugaru min’yo, my teacher and I use silk for our second string. Some people use tetoron. The third string is usually nylon, sometimes it is tetoron. Chikuzan style players occasionally use silk for all three.

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