The classical instrument Shamisen is a Japanese 3-string musical instrument derived from the Chinese Sanxian instrument of the thirteenth century Yuan dynasty, it came to Japan through the Okinawa islands, and thus the Sanshin was born which would later evolve into the Shamisen In the rest of Japan. It is constructed of wood, goat leather, 3 strings and we have adapted a microphone. The strings are played with plectrum of wood (at the moment exist of several materials) which gives a very particular and recognizable sound in the traditional Japanese music.
At the outset this ancient three-stringed musical instrument was only within reach of the Ryukyuan nobility, the sanshin (the ancestor of the Shamisen) gradually transformed itself until it was finally within reach of the common people around the 19th century. Usually in the films of Samurais one usually hears the melodies of the Shamisen. Formerly the Shamisen was used principally accompanying plays as the kabuki, bunraku, also could be considered that would replace replacing the biwa due to the interpretative advantages that the Shamisen offered. It can be seen accompanied by the flute shakuhachi and a koto (Japanese zither) this trio is called SanKyoku.
How it looks:
The Shamisen is a musical instrument of pulsed string of the type Laud, like the banjo or the ukuelele, to give a few examples; also it seems a guitar in its form as in the technique used to play. Both Sanxian and Sanshin and Shamisen have very similar characteristics, the Shamisen as a lute that is, has a peg, a body or a box and a particularly thin neck or neck because it has only three strings.
Its predecessor the sanxián like the sanshin of Ryukyu was a construction with leather of snake of India, later for the Shamisen other types of leathers were used like the skin of cat or dog and at the moment one uses goat leather or some synthetic material, we have built it with goat leather and we fit a microphone inside. The strings are suspended in the said leather cap through a small wooden bridge.
The three nylon strings, cedar or tetron supported from the base of the instrument box with a typical knot and typical Jampones knot. Having the same length from the base to the peg and having each string it’s tuning; Their diameters are different, the most serious rope at the top and the finest and sharpest rope at the bottom
Another characteristic of the Shamisen is that it does not have frets so it is an uncured instrument. The coarse string gives the tonic of the instrument; the second string is tuned to a 4th or 5th of the tonic and the sharpest string in the 7th minor or octave of the tonic. So we can find different tunings like for example (from severe to acute) A, D, A the other variant is A, E, A, another possibility A, D, G. For other Shamisen it can be C, G, C or also C, F, C and C, G, Bb.
How to play:
To play it is used a plectrum or pick, concretely it is called “Bachi” and it looks like the handle of a spatula. This technique is one of the main differences between the Shamisen and the Sanxian, since this one was touched with a species of stick, whereas the Shamisen inherited the technique used in the Biwa, Japanese instrument also of pulsed but older rope. The strumming technique has variants, if you hit with the bachi down you will also hit the body, however strumming upwards is a softer sound.