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I initially wanted to build this just for the challenge, and to prove it that it is possible. It was crazy, but I did it. Shamisens are hard to get by, especially Tsugaru ones. There are many nagauta ones that are too small for the style of Tsugaru playing, which is a lot more aggressive and exciting.
Therefore, the purpose of this PVC shamisen is to recreate a similar sized neck (sao), and to enable plucking. Only the strings used were shamisen strings. The result was quite successful; it fulfills my initial goals.
However, I would not recommend learning shamisen from just this PVC shamisen, because one cannot get the feel out of playing a real shamisen. A surprise use of this PVC shamisen is that it is tough to break, and childproof. Last summer, I have traveled with one for 3 months, had no problems checking it on flights. My 7 year-old nephew played around with it, I can’t imagine letting him play with my real shamisen.
All that says, I am very please with the result. But I don’t know how it would move forward. It is relatively cheap but complicated to build; I have built 3 of this sort, each with that own enhancements. I think they could be useful in extremely low-budget classroom settings; but since Bachido is also making low cost Tsugaru shamisens now, maybe PVC shamisen is really just a crazy fun experiment.
I have also made DIY Bachi, which is also quite difficult. But for budget beginners, this might be a way to acquire something more flexible than wood and plastic before one can afford a tortoise shell one! Check out this blog post. If you have shattered your plastic bachi like I did, here’s a way to bring it back to life!