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date: 13 November 2019


  • Henry Johnson


Spike lute of Japan. It resembles the shamisen, except that the softwood box resonator has a sound-table and back made of wood (usually cedar) instead of dog- or cat-skin. The meaning of gottan is unclear, and the instrument is also known by other names, including ita shamisen (‘board shamisen’) and hako shamisen (‘box shamisen’). It is about 75 to 95 cm long. The neck passes through the resonator, and the three silk (nowadays commonly nylon) strings are attached to the protruding spike. The strings run over a movable bridge and along the fingerboard to three lateral tuning pegs at the end of the neck. The player normally stands or kneels, and plucks the strings with the right-hand finger tips or finger nails, or with a small spatula-shape plectrum. The gottan is used in folk music, especially in the south of Kyūshū in Kagoshima and Miyazaki prefectures.

H. Johnson: The Shamisen: Tradition and Diversity...

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