What's Nagauta ?



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Structure of the instruments

We’ll explain the structures of the instruments!


There are the story in the music of nagauta.


Yes. I understand there are some musics came from noh and made for kabuki, nagauta is related to other traditional performing arts.


Me too. At last, I want to know what kind of instruments are used in nagauta.


I see. Let’s look about it.


↑taken from “やさしく学べる 三味線入門”

Outline : It’s a plucked string instrument. Shamisen in China went to Osaka in 16th centry via Okinawa and converted. Long neck stick to square body, and three strings that twist silk thread together are stretched. For body skin, cat skin or dog skin are used. Incidentally, in nagauta, thin neck shamisen(in Japanese hosozao-shamisen) is used.

How to play : put body on the lap, support neck with left hand and play with plectrum in right hand. Sometimes we play with Tsume-biki (hajiki) (play by nails) by Sashiyubi.



It’s one of a membranophone, shimedaiko which’s surface of skin 36 centimeters in diameter, length of body about 15 centimeters and has a frame are used.

Put skin on the both side of body which is made of zelkova and shape is cylinder, tie a hemp string called tateshirabe into a hole called shirabeana both skin have, put a string called uwashirabe on the tateshirabe, put them on the standand hit them by two drumsticks. We can adjust tension of skin by the way to tie.

Basically, drum’s sounds are “Tsuku-Tsuku” which is covered sound and “Ten-ten” which is echoed sound, there are ingenuity of playing that be more gorgeous in gorgeous scene, emphasize silent scene.


It’s one of Japanese percussion, the skin stretched both side of the thin and pinched body which is made of wood. There are two size of tsuzumi, the big one called “Otsuzumi” and the little one called “kotsuzumi”.


It’s one of the membranophone, small tsuzumi which’s surface of the skin is 20 centimeter in diameter and length of the body is about 25 centimeter. We often say “tsuzumi” means this.

The sounds are kan which is shrill sound, and otsu which is low and soft sound. Each sounds have small sound and big sound, it can play four sounds “ti, pu, ta, po” by the way of playing.

While in the playing, we adjust humidity by breathing to skin and by sticking on small wet Japanese paper. Hold with left hand, put on right shoulder and hit with right hand.


It’s little big tsuzumi, surface of the skin in about 23 centimeters in diameter, length of the body is about 29 centimeters. It sometimes called “okawa”.

Put the skin which was dried by charcoal fire for 1 or 2 hours in before the play on the body, and fasten strings. By this operation, strong and shrill unique sound sound different with kotsuzumi’s soft sound. We express by dynamics “don, chon” and sound.

When we play it, hold with left hand, put on the left lap and hit with right hand.



It’s one of the wind instrument. “shinobue” and “noukan”.


It’s a flute made by bamboo and it called “shino” for short and “takebue”. Because the tube of shinobue was made of naked body “shinodake” and “medake”. The mouthpiece is near from kanto, usually it has seven holes but in folk entertainment they use six hole one. Most of the flutes use in nagauta roll both of the end by birch, covered with lacquer and protect from breaking. And it’s necessary to adapt for song’s and shamisen’s pitch, so it’s usual to prepare many pitch flutes. We usually say “fue” (flute in Japanese) means this.


It’s flute made of bamboo, and it has seven holes. The shape is similar as “ryuteki” of gagaku, but there are short tube called nodo in the between mouthpiece and 1st hole, so pitch of the sound is not constant, and it made it can make a sharp sound and unique rhythm.

Total length is about 39 centimeters, the parts without mouthpiece and holes are covered with lacquer and inside of the tube and mouthpiece and around of the mouthpiece are covered with red lacqer.


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