A three-stringed Japanese musical instrument
, the shamisen is shaped like a banjo
but has no fret
s. 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 tuning
s. 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.