I just bought a nagauta shamisen and a donner guitar clip for tuning. It has many options for tuning: Chromatic, Guitar, Bass, Violin, Ukulele, Banjo and Wind Instrument of Key F, Bb, Eb. Which mode should this be set to? Thanks!


Welcome to Bachido!

In shamisen playing, there are three common tunings, called

本調子 (Honchoushi), tuning the strings the outside strings to the same note, and the middle string to relative fourth of that note, for example C-F-C

二上がり (Niagari), tuning the strings in fifths, for example C-G-C

and 三下がり (sansagari), tuning the thinnest string down three semitones from Honchoushi, for example C-F-Bb.

There isn’t a specific register you have to tune to though - you can pick basically any note within a reasonable range and tune your low string to that, and tune the others to it. I used C as an example since C and D are probably the most common since it isn’t overly low or so high as to stress/slacken the strings too much, but really it’s up to the player. A lot of older recordings that I’ve heard are in B because it makes for a warmer tone and the strings last a bit longer when they’re tuned lower.

So, that tuner’s specialized settings won’t necessarily apply, just pick a note and tune according to the tuning style you’re going for.


^ this page gives great explanations and audio examples of these, so you can tune to those or tune to whatever key you’d like and just use the same intervals.
Hope this helps!


Thanks for the help. My question was more on the line of if i’m trying to play Niagari, tuning my shamisen using the guitar setting may say C but it may say D in the chromatic setting or G in Ukulele. So how do i know which setting is the correct C for the shamisen.


You’re welcome!
If I’m understanding, it gives one note while you’re in one setting, but a different one in another? Since those modes are programmed to tune for specific instruments I’m guessing they’re preprogrammed to expect certain notes, and tell you how far from it you are. For just a straight C go with the chromatic setting, since it’s not thinking it’ll be anything different and trying to correct for it.


Hey there,

I use a generic Korg tuner to get in tune when my ears don’t suffice. Looking at the amazon page on the Donner tuner, you’re best off setting it to Chromatic.

If you can adjust the frequency, set it to 442 hz - but if you can’t don’t stress it. The most important thing is the relative tuning between the strings.

If you happen to be a little sharp or a little flat, as long as your other strings match it you’ll be fine~


Good to set at 440 if you are playing with other people.

I can’t tune my nagauta to D. Inevitably, I will break a string.


Good to set at 440 if you are playing with other people.

That’s probably the frequency that the chromatic tuner setting starts at, since it’s the western gold standard. Which is fine.

I got the 442 number from playing with a min’yo group (shamisen, kokyuu, fue, kane, sasara, and kokiriko).

I can’t tune my nagauta to D. Inevitably, I will break a string.

Maybe you’re over tightened? You should be able to hit D. It’s a relatively common key (6本).