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spotlight: koma

Koma come in different shapes, materials, and sizes. Although the koma is such a small item, the right koma can dramatically change the sound of your shamisen. Depending on how your shamisen sounds (harsh/bright/warm/quiet) you can tweak the sound by counteracting against or emphasizing certain sound characteristics of your instrument. 

If you’re aiming for a bright and loud sound, look for a smaller koma (length and/or width) made from hard materials (e.g. full-bone saddle). You can counteract a not-so-tight skin this way or achieve an extra shabam in solo performances. 

If you want to have a warm and more quiet sound (for singing accompaniment or in certain ensembles) you should try out a larger koma (length and/or width) with softer material. That could be a full-bamboo koma or with a saddle made of or inlayed with bekkou

Every koma will sound a bit different on every instrument, because every shamisen has its own original sound personality. The best way to find out what sounds best on your shamisen (which is always highly subjective) is to try out different koma whenever you get the chance.

The height of the koma differs between different playing styles. There are variations within the groups though. Slight differences in koma height will make quite the difference in playing. If your strings are lifted up too high, it will feel more tiresome to strike the strings. If the strings are too low, it might feel slippery and even cause unwanted noises. 

Every instrument has a sweet spot for the koma. As a rule of thumb. the koma is placed roughly 2-3 fingers away from the neo. But your ears will have to guide you to the perfect spot. ShamiLifeHack: If you find the best spot, mark the position on the skin with a fine pencil line. 

KOMA ON SKIN | shami-shop.com