Category Archives: Chordophones

Chordophones

Shamisen

Name: Shamisen.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.6
Country: Japan.
Region: Far East Asia.

Shamisen
Shamisen maker with a customer, 1909 ;

Description: The shamisen or samisen [in Japanese: 三味線 shamisen or samisen], also sangen [三絃, both words mean “three strings”], is a three-stringed traditional Japanese musical instrument derived from the Chinese instrument sanxian. It is played with a plectrum called a bachi.

Shamisen
Tokyo Geisha Performs with Shamisen 1870s [Public Domain] ;
Etymology: The Japanese pronunciation is usually shamisen but sometimes Jamison, when used as a suffix. This is according to regular sound change [e.g. Tsugaru-jamisen] It is samisen in western Japan and in several Edo-period sources.

Construction: The construction of the shamisen is influenced by the genre it is played in. The shamisen varies in shape, and length of neck depending on the genre in which it is used. The instrument used to accompany kabuki has a thin neck, facilitating the agile and virtuosic requirements of that genre. The one used to accompany puppet plays and folk songs has a longer and thicker neck instead, to match the more robust music of those genres.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites:

Sanxian

Name: Sanxian.
Type: Chordophones > Lutes.
Hornbostel-Sachs No#: 321.321.6
Area: 
Country: China.
Region: Far East Asia.

Description: The sanxian [in Chinese: 三弦, literally “three strings”] is a Chinese lute—a three-stringed fretless plucked musical instrument.

Sanxian Tunings
Size Cm / In Tuning
Small 95 cm / 37 in A D a
Large 122 cm / 48 in G D g

Construction: It has a long fingerboard, and the body is traditionally made from snake skin stretched over a rounded rectangular resonator. It is made in several sizes for different purposes and in the late 20th century a four-stringed version was also developed.

The northern sanxian is generally larger, at about 122 cm [48 in] in length, while southern versions of the instrument are usually about 95 cm [37 in] in length.

Citations: Bibliography: Websites: