Hi Catherine - I am indeed working through Kyle’s excellent book! I just started cutting blanks for the dou pieces.
I was hoping to adapt the skinning method described to a synthetic material since I have ethical concerns with the use of animal skins. I am going to do a little more research and decide if I think trying to adapt a synthetic banjo or drum head is practical. If not then I’ll use cedar or spruce tonewood.
Either way, I’ll end up with something that looks and plays shamisen-y, even if it doesn’t sound very traditional. That is good enough for me right now. If it turns out I can’t live without a more authentic shamisen, well then I guess I’ll have to take a trip to Japan (which would be totally cool)!