Recently, huge shifts have been occurring in the shamisen manufacturing society as the use of a certain traditional material is unable to continue. While many shamisen players and makers bemoan this change, I think it is a pivotal moment for the future of shamisen.
First, let’s set up some back story!
Don’t worry, it won’t take long!
What was the original shamisen skin?
When the ancestor of the shamisen (SanXian) first arrived in Japan, the dou (body) was covered in snake skin.
Soon after, the skin of snake was replaced with dog and cat. This remained the standard material in Japan until recently. Many shamisen players would swear by this skin even though public resentment was strong enough that natural shamisen skin couldn’t even be produced in Japan anymore.
However, as long as it was being made somewhere, there was very little motivation to develop a different material (availability of synthetic skins were few and not encouraged). Besides, many players refused to use anything other than what they were used to.
Those outside of this narrow aesthetic bubble either had to grudgingly accept the only natural skin choice or suffer with poor-sounding plastic skin, or simply refuse to play shamisen altogether. Truly, many who were interested in shamisen had very few options outside of this rigid paradigm.
A New Wave
Due to various reasons, leather-making shops were recently shut down and the manufacturing of these traditional skins have stopped, sending a much needed shakeup to the shamisen world.
Shakeups from this and other material shifts have inspired much change in recent years, breaking the mold of what was once deemed fixed and unchanging.
Just a few years prior, there was so little interest or acceptance of new materials, despite the rising tide for change. Now that reality has come, many have woken up and are desperately trying to find, in this case, a new skin for shamisen.
Of course, those of us at Bachido have already been enjoying FiberSen (Advanced Synthetic Skin) for many years!
With a resonant and amazing sounding alternative to natural skin already available, the future of shamisen is already well-within safety!
Fibersen can maintain great sound quality in the rain!
As resonant as synthetic skins are, many musicians would still like the natural warmth and tone of a natural drumhead.
For this, we have an exclusive look at the NEW natural skin for shamisen!
Goat Skin (Specially Prepared)
Goat skin is a very common material favored by thousands of players of djembe, doumbek and other drums (as well as banjos). However, a goat skin specially prepared for shamisen is something you won’t find it at your local drum circle.
What does that mean? Master craftsman who prepare goat skin for shamisen are using the exact same treatment process used for the traditional shamisen skins. The result:
Strength of skin is so high, even a shamisen harikae machine (used for stretching skin tightly on a shamisen) can’t break it.
Thickness is masterfully leveled to the same taper as traditional skin, which is thicker on one side and thinner on the other.
Tone is very warm and responsive, and the sawari rings clear as a bell. Not to mention, it’s loud!
Vintage Tone ™
The tone of shamisen has changed over the past 50 years, due to the growing aesthetic for tighter and tighter skin. (So tight, traditional wooden clamps are unable to stretch the skin far enough) This has resulted in the shamisen having sharp and almost-metallic tone.
When my partner Nitta-san heard the sound of this specially prepared goat skin, he was filled with nostalgia and excitedly said, “It has a vintage tone!”
The New Natural
Rather than wait until all the traditional materials have depleted, we have decided to give the world an exclusive first look at the new material and the opportunity to lead the shamisen world into the new age!
Ready for a Change?
If your shamisen needs a new skin, check out the Skin Replacement page of the Bachido Store! Both options professionally serviced in Japan.
If warm responsiveness is your ideal tone, outfit your shamisen with natural goat skin. Carefully prepared with the traditional process for shamisen skins, this goat skin is guaranteed to reward you with the warm vintage tone which once resonated from classic shamisen.
Waterproof and durable, this Advanced Synthetic Skin will give you a crisp flavor and booming sound!