A three-stringed Japanese musical instrument, the shamisen is shaped like a banjo but has no frets. A pick is used to strike the strings, and the instrument is almost always used as accompaniment for a singer. The shamisen's pitch depends on the range of the singer, but there are three standard tunings. The first, hon-choshi, consists of a perfect fifth and a perfect fourth. Raising the second string produces niagari-choshi, a fifth and a fourth, and lowering the third string results in san-sagari, two fourths.

Originally from China through Okinawa in the mid-sixteenth century, the shamisen developed its own style in Japan. It is commonly used to accompany Kabuki, folk songs (min-yo), and epic songs (naga-uta). Geisha also play the shamisen as part of the entertainment services they provide.