I am thinking of building a Japanese type instrument, 3 strings and wondering if anyone has tried to get the oriental sound. The tuning might be BEb or possibly CFc. I saw the group Yashida Brothers on a video playing 3 stringed instruments. Sounded very unique. Thanks for taking a look...Peter

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   Well, the most common tuning for the Shamisen is the so-called Honchosi tuning (Home tuning),

   the first and third string tuned an octave apart, the second tuned a fourth from the first: DGD, for

   instance. In other words, ADA, GCG, etc. But...you also see, for example, DAD and DGC,

   although DGD-type tuning is the core tuning.What's really important here is the style of playing,

   and the plectrum:


The plectrum looks large and I tried the tunings on a 3 string box that i had un-stringed. It sounded a bit high in overall tone. perhaps some larger strings and a lower tuning to get the oriental tone i saw on u-tube.  Have you used these plectrums and are the makable...P

   These days, most such instruments use nylon, as opposed to the traditional gut. Metal strings

   are uncommon. No reason you couldn't make a plectrum. I've got one a relative gave me... the

   edge is actually sharp!

I believe I will get some nylon strings. I saw the plectrums on ebay very expensive for what looks like a putty knife. I am going to draw a couple templates and try different materials. Can't believe what a retired guy will do to keep busy. At the end of the attempt a little Makers Mark might help...P

I remeber the first time i saw someone playing one of these! i looked at my friend and asked in all seriousness, "are they using ice scrapers as picks??!??" 

If you want the authentic sound it's going to be tough to purchase the hide used for the head...open can of tuna in a live trap left outside over night would sort that out.

no cat skins no dog skins just another box and faith...P

What and give up the only good use for a cat ever invented by man? :D

Thinking about this seriously though a box with the lid replaced by a piece of synthetic hide would probably get you close to the sound.

Are you going to make a plectrum?

Cow horn is easy to work and generally cheap.

Cut a piece out a little larger than the finished plectrum.

Even out the thickness a bit.

Heat in mineral oil for about ten minutes.(Hot but not boiling)

Place between two scrap pieces of wood and set a brick or two on top to flatten the horn.

Leave until cool.

Scrape to desired finished thickness.

Shape and give it a light polish with #0000 steel wool.

I have actually carved a plectrum from a scrape of hardwood and sharpened the blade part. It feels pretty good in my hand and I'm learning to use it on youtube...P

Well let us hear how it comes out when you get the hang of playing.


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