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Encyclopedia > Shamisen
Kitagawa Utamaro, "Flowers of Edo: Young Woman's Narrative Chanting to the Samisen", ca. 1880
Kitagawa Utamaro, "Flowers of Edo: Young Woman's Narrative Chanting to the Samisen", ca. 1880
A Japanese man playing a shamisen while another sings
A Japanese man playing a shamisen while another sings

The shamisen or samisen (Japanese: 三味線, literally "three taste strings"), also called sangen (literally "three strings") is a three-stringed musical instrument played with a plectrum called a bachi. The pronunciation in Japanese is usually "shamisen" (in western Japan, and often in Edo-period sources "samisen") but sometimes "jamisen" when used as a suffix (e.g. Tsugaru-jamisen). Kitagawa Utamaro, Flowers of Edo: Young Womans Narrative Chanting to the Samisen. ... Kitagawa Utamaro, Flowers of Edo: Young Womans Narrative Chanting to the Samisen. ... Year 1880 (MDCCCLXXX) was a leap year starting on Thursday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a leap year starting on Tuesday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar). ... Download high resolution version (902x541, 472 KB) A Japanese man plays a shamisen while another man sings. ... Download high resolution version (902x541, 472 KB) A Japanese man plays a shamisen while another man sings. ... A musical instrument is a device constructed or modified with the purpose of making music. ... Various guitar picks A plectrum is a small flat tool used to pluck or strum a stringed instrument. ... Bachi (æ¡´, æž¹) (also batchi or buchi) is the name for the wooden sticks used to play Japanese taiko drums, and also (written æ’¥) the plectrum for stringed instruments like the shamisen. ... Rendaku (連濁, lit. ... Tsugaru-jamisen (津軽三味線) is a genre of shamisen music originating in Aomori prefecture in the northernmost area of the Japanese island of Honshu. ...

Contents

Construction

The shamisen is similar in length to a guitar, but its neck is much slimmer and without frets. Its drum-like rounded rectangular body, known as the , is covered front and back with skin in the manner of a banjo, and amplifies the sound of the strings. The skin is usually from a dog or cat, but in the past a special type of paper was used and recently various types of plastics are being tried. On the skin of some of the best shamisen, the position of the cat's nipples can still be seen. [1] For other uses, see Guitar (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Banjo (disambiguation) The banjo is a stringed instrument developed by enslaved Africans in the United States, adapted from several African instruments. ...


The three strings are traditionally made of silk, or, more recently, nylon. The lowest passes over a small hump at the "nut" end so that it buzzes, creating a characteristic sound known as sawari (somewhat reminiscent of the "buzzing" of a sitar, which is called jawari). The upper part of the dō is almost always protected by a cover known as a dō kake, and players often wear a little band of cloth on their left hand to facilitate sliding up and down the neck. This band is known as a yubikake. There may also be a cover on the head of the instrument, known as a tenjin. For other uses of this word, see Silk (disambiguation). ... Diagram of some sitar parts. ... Jivari In Indian classical music culture and thought, this term refers to the special overtone-rich buzzing sound characteristic of classical Indian string instruments such as the tanpura, sitar, veena, and others. ...


Playing

A busker playing a shamisen in Sydney, Australia
A busker playing a shamisen in Sydney, Australia

In most genres the shamisen is played with a large weighted plectrum called a bachi, which was traditionally made with ivory or tortoise shell but which now is usually wooden, and which is in the shape likened to a ginkgo leaf. The sound of a shamisen is similar in some respects to that of the American banjo, in that the drum-like skin-covered body, known as a , amplifies the sound of the strings. As in the clawhammer style of American banjo playing, the bachi is often used to strike both string and skin, creating a highly percussive sound. Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 450 × 600 pixel Image in higher resolution (2304 × 3072 pixel, file size: 2. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Size of this preview: 450 × 600 pixel Image in higher resolution (2304 × 3072 pixel, file size: 2. ... A street musician with accordion in Bremen A performance comprises an event in which generally one group of people (the performer or performers) behave in a particular way for the benefit of another group of people (the viewer or viewers, or audience). ... This article is about the metropolitan area in Australia. ... Various guitar picks A plectrum is a small flat tool used to pluck or strum a stringed instrument. ... Bachi (桴, 枹) (also batchi or buchi) is the name for the wooden sticks used to play Japanese taiko drums, and also (written 撥) the plectrum for stringed instruments like the shamisen. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Tortoiseshell can refer to: a Tortoiseshell cat a pattern used in clothing and jewellery the Small Tortoiseshell, a butterfly the Hawksbill turtle Tortoiseshell, a song by The Boo Radleys which appeared on their EP Every Heaven This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists pages that might otherwise... This article describes the wood that comprises trees and boards. ... Species G. biloba L. The Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba; 銀杏 in Chinese), frequently misspelled as Gingko, and also known as the Maidenhair Tree, is a unique tree with no close living relatives. ... For other uses, see Banjo (disambiguation) The banjo is a stringed instrument developed by enslaved Africans in the United States, adapted from several African instruments. ... Clawhammer and frailing describe a class of fingerpicking techniques used by banjo and, rarely, guitar players. ...


In kouta (小唄; literally "short song") and occasionally in other genres the shamisen is plucked with the fingers.


History and genres

The shamisen derives from the sanshin (三線, a close ancestor from the southernmost Japanese prefecture of Okinawa in the 16th century and one of the primary instruments used in that area), which in turn evolved from the Chinese sanxian, itself deriving ultimately from Central Asian instruments. An Okinawan sanshin The sanshin (三線, literally meaning three strings) is an Okinawan musical instrument, and precursor of the Japanese shamisen. ... “Okinawa” redirects here. ... (15th century - 16th century - 17th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 16th century was that century which lasted from 1501 to 1600. ... Chinese postage stamp depicting a sanxian The sanxian (Chinese: 三弦, pinyin sānxián, Wade-Giles san1-hsien2, lit. ... The music of Central Asia is as vast and unique as the many cultures and peoples who inhabit the region (that is, not particularly vast or unique). ...


The shamisen can be played solo or with other shamisen, in ensembles with other Japanese instruments, with singing such as nagauta (長唄), or as an accompaniment to drama, notably kabuki (歌舞伎) and bunraku (文楽). Both men and women traditionally played the shamisen. Nagauta (長唄; literally long song from Japanese) is a kind of traditional Japanese music which accompanies the kabuki theater. ... The oldest Kabuki theatre in Japan: the Minamiza in Kyoto The Kabukiza in Ginza is one of Tokyos leading kabuki theaters. ... Bunraku ), also known as Ningyō jōruri (), is a form of traditional Japanese puppet theater, founded in Osaka in 1684. ...


The most famous and perhaps most demanding of the narrative styles is gidayū, named after Takemoto Gidayū (1651-1714), who was heavily involved in the bunraku puppet-theater tradition in Osaka. The gidayū shamisen and its plectrum are the largest of the shamisen family, and the singer-narrator is required to speak the roles of the play, as well as to sing all the commentaries on the action. The singer-narrator role is often so vocally taxing that the performers are changed halfway through a scene. There is little notated in the books (maruhon) of the tradition except the words and the names of certain appropriate generic shamisen responses. The shamisen player must know the entire work perfectly in order to respond effectively to the interpretations of the text by the singer-narrator. From the 19th century female performers known as onna-jōruri or onna gidayū also carried on this concert tradition. Bunraku ), also known as Ningyō jōruri (), is a form of traditional Japanese puppet theater, founded in Osaka in 1684. ... For other uses, see Osaka (disambiguation). ...


In the early part of the 20th century, blind musicians, including Shirakawa Gunpachirō (1909-1962), Takahashi Chikuzan (1910-1998), and sighted ones such as Kida Rinshōei (1911-1979), evolved a new style of playing, based on traditional folk songs ("min'yō") but involving much improvisation and flashy fingerwork. This style - now known as Tsugaru-jamisen, after the home region of this style in the north of Honshū - continues to be relatively popular in Japan. The virtuosic Tsugaru-jamisen style is sometimes compared to bluegrass banjo. Takahashi Chikuzan (born Takahashi Sadazō in 1910, died 1998) is a renowned Japanese Tsugaru-jamisen performer and composer. ... Minyo (Japanese: 民謡 minyō) is a genre of traditional Japanese music. ... Improvisation is the practice of acting and reacting, of making and creating, in the moment and in response to the stimulus of ones immediate environment. ... Tsugaru-jamisen (津軽三味線) is a genre of shamisen music originating in Aomori prefecture in the northernmost area of the Japanese island of Honshu. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Tsugaru-jamisen (津軽三味線) is a genre of shamisen music originating in Aomori prefecture in the northernmost area of the Japanese island of Honshu. ... Bluegrass music is a form of American roots music. ... For other uses, see Banjo (disambiguation) The banjo is a stringed instrument developed by enslaved Africans in the United States, adapted from several African instruments. ...


Kouta (小唄) is the style of song learned by geisha and maiko. Its name literally means "small" or "short song," which contrasts with the music genre found in bunraku and kabuki, otherwise known as nagauta (長唄) (long song). Typical nape make-up Geisha ) or Geigi ) are traditional, female Japanese entertainers, whose skills include performing various Japanese arts, such as classical music and dance. ... Maiko (apprentice geisha) in Kyoto, Japan Geisha (芸者) are traditional Japanese artist-entertainers. ... Nagauta (長唄; literally long song from Japanese) is a kind of traditional Japanese music which accompanies the kabuki theater. ...


Jiuta (地唄), or literally "earthen music" is a more classical style of shamisen music.


Shamisen in non-traditional genres

One contemporary shamisen player, Takeharu Kunimoto, plays bluegrass music on the shamisen, having spent a year studying bluegrass at East Tennessee State University and performing with a bluegrass band based there. Another player using the Tsugaru-jamisen in non-traditional genres is Michihiro Sato, who plays free improvisation on the instrument. The Japanese American jazz pianist Glenn Horiuchi played shamisen in his performances and recordings. A duo popular in Japan known as the Yoshida Brothers developed an energetic style of playing heavily influenced by fast aggressive soloing that emphasizes speed and twang ; which is usually associated with rock music on the electric guitar. The American Tsugaru-jamisen player and guitarist Kevin Kmetz leads a rock band called God of Shamisen, which is based in Santa Cruz, California, and also plays the instrument with the band Estradasphere. East Tennessee State University (abbreviated ETSU) was founded on October 2, 1911. ... Free improvisation or free music is improvised music without any rules beyond the taste or inclination of the musician(s) involved; in many cases the musicians make an active effort to avoiding overt references to recognizable musical genres. ... Glenn Horiuchi (d. ... The Yoshida Kyōdai are Japanese musicians and have released several albums under the Domo label internationally as the Yoshida Brothers. ... Kevin Kmetz is a talented guitarist and shamisen master. ... For other uses, see Santa Cruz. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ...


Variations in construction and playing style

Shamisens vary in shape and size, depending on what genre the shamisen is used in. For example, the futozao (lit. "Thick Neck") of Tsugaru-jamisen is quite a recent innovation, and is purposefully constructed much larger than traditional style shamisens. Its body is much larger, and its neck is much longer and thicker than the traditional nagauta and/or jiuta shamisens.


Generally, the thin-necked hosozao is used in nagauta, the shorter and thinner neck facilitating the agile and virtuosic requirements of Kabuki. The hosozao is often used in kouta, where it is plucked with the fingernails. The chuzao is favoured for jiuta, with a broader, more mellow timbre. Finally, the thick-necked futozao is used in the robust music of Gidayubushi (the music of Bunraku), Joruri and Tsugaru-jamisen. In these genres, the thicker neck facilitates the greater force used in playing the music of these styles.


The bachi or plectrums used to play the shamisens also differ in shape. The bachi used for nagauta and jiuta shamisens are very triangular in shape, often having very sharp points. The Gidayu shamisen uses a very slender bachi, having a more subtle triangular shape. The bachi used in tsugaru-jamisen has a noticeable triangular shape, but is still less pronounced than the bachi used in nagauta and jiuta.


The width of the bridge (koma) also varies between genres, and even between schools of playing, such that a jiuta performer of the Ikuta-ryu plays with a different sized koma from that of a Yamada-ryu musician.


Shamisen used for traditional genres of Japanese music, such as jiuta, kouta, and nagauta, adhere to very strict standards. Purists of these genres demand that the shamisens be made of the correct wood, the correct skin, and are played with the correct bachi. There is little room for variation. The tsugaru-jamisen, on the other hand, has lent itself to modern use, and is used in modern genres such as jazz and rock. As a more open instrument, variations of it exist for show. The tuning pegs and bachi, which are usually fashioned out of ivory or turtle shell, for example, are sometimes made of acrylic material to give the shamisen a more modern, flashy look. Recently, avant-garde inventors have developed a Tsugaru-jamisen with electric pickups to be used with amplifiers, like the electric guitar: the electric tsugaru-jamisen has been born.[citation needed]


External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Shamisen
  • About Shamisen
  • God of Shamisen is a progressive/metal band that has implemented the acoustic and amplified sound of the tsugaru-jamisen

Image File history File links Commons-logo. ...

Audio

  • Play with a shamisen
  • Listen to a shamisen (in modern times)
  • Listen to arrangements with shamisen of nagauta pieces Kokaji, Tsurukame, Echigo Jishi and Musume Dojoji

Video

  • Shamisen Player - Public Performance #2
  • Shamisen Player - Public Performance

See also

Chinese postage stamp depicting a sanxian The sanxian (Chinese: 三弦, pinyin sānxián, Wade-Giles san1-hsien2, lit. ... Tsugaru-jamisen (津軽三味線) is a genre of shamisen music originating in Aomori prefecture in the northernmost area of the Japanese island of Honshu. ... The Yoshida Kyōdai are Japanese musicians and have released several albums under the Domo label internationally as the Yoshida Brothers. ... Hiromitsu Agatsuma (上妻 宏光 Agatsuma Hiromitsu, born July 27, 1973) is a Japanese J-Pop artist. ... Sankyoku (三曲, often romanized sankyōku) is a three-member Japanese traditional musical ensemble. ... Gagaku (雅楽, literally elegant enjoyment) is a type of Japanese classical music that has been performed at the Imperial court for several centuries. ... Image:Http://www. ... An Okinawan sanshin The sanshin (三線, literally meaning three strings) is an Okinawan musical instrument, and precursor of the Japanese shamisen. ... For other uses, see Biwa (disambiguation). ...

  Results from FactBites:
 
Shamisen (318 words)
On-stage shamisen music became a constant feature of the kabuki stage from the middle of the seventeenth century.
    The shamisen is three-stringed instrument that developed from the classical Japanese stringed instrument, the biwa.
When a shamisen player in kabuki theater plays in both nagauta and joruri styles, this mixture of genres is called kake ai performance.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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