The shamisen or samisen (三味線), also sangen (三絃, both words mean "three strings"), is a three-stringed traditional Japanese musical instrument derived from the Chinese instrument sanxian. It is played with a plectrum called a bachi.
The Japanese pronunciation is usually shamisen but sometimes jamisen when used as a suffix, according to regular sound change (e.g. tsugaru-jamisen). It is samisen in western Japan and in several Edo-period sources.
The construction of the shamisen varies in shape, depending on the genre in which it is used. The instrument used to accompany kabuki has a thin neck, facilitating the agile and virtuosic requirements of that genre. The one used to accompany puppet plays and folk songs has a longer and thicker neck instead, to match the more robust music of those genres.