Five Bachi

6 • A Collection of Five Bachi

Japan, 19th century
Between 19 cm and 26 cm
Ivory, whalebone, tortoiseshell, wood

Bachi are Japanese plectrums, used for playing both the biwa (see no. 5) and the shamisen. Their shape, size and material vary depending upon the type of music played as well as the technical ability of the musician; softer, more flexible materials tend to be easier to use, whereas harder materials produce a stronger sound, but require greater skill. Those with the greatest skill will use a bachi with two, three or sometimes even four different materials, each of which elicits a different sound from the strings. They are as functional as they are elegant, perfect symbols of Japanese culture.