The Japanese Koto: A Beginner's Textbook, Erika Trent, Mizuyamasangyo Co. Ltd. (new)
Well-written book, clearly illustrated with cute, friendly-looking pictures and graphics, this very complete book is perhaps the best English-language koto how-to text published to date. It is the author's answer to having learned koto the hard way herself in Japan as a school-girl, with no access to English answers to her many questions. (Read her personal story here.)

Shamisen of Japan — a step-by-step guide on how to build and play Tsugaru shamisen, Kyle Abbott (new)

The first English how-to book for Tsugaru shamisen. The first part is a step-by-step construction guide for building your own instrument with pictures, measurements and traceable templates. The second section contains photos and explanations of basic Tsugaru playing techniques, as well as sheet music for sixteen Tsugaru and min'yō (folk) pieces.Although Tsugaru techniques differ from other shamisen styles, a number of techniques are common to all shamisen genres. Also, Tsugaru sheet music is written in the "bunka-fu" (3-line staff notation) style. So although this book is specifically for Tsugaru shamisen playing, in the absence of a teacher, it may also be helpful to get someone started playing nagauta, kouta, min'yō, and any shamisen style that uses bunka-fu sheet music

Basic Skills and Advanced Methods, Chieko Mori (new)
Another very helpful koto how-to book with good photos and descriptions in both English and Japanese. Covers the playing techniques and reading skills, as well as some basic theory of Japanese music. The sheet music included in the book incorporates Mori's own original scales and composition style.

Ikuta ryū no sōkyoku (new)
The most comprehensive book on koto playing that we have seen to date. Japanese language only. This book contains everything and anything: history, construction, theory, how to string a koto (several ways), how to make tsume, tuning, posture, notation, playing techniques, how to sing the classical repertoire (yes, it describes how to make all those "warbles") and much more. Great photographs, showing detailed "action" shots, with clear pictorial demonstrations of both correct and incorrect versions of everything. If you can read Japanese and want a terrific reference book on koto playing, this is it.

The Posture of Koto (new)
A Japanese-language koto how-to book that includes a little of everything - history, koto construction and set-up, tuning, playing techniques, stage layouts for performance, and more. Illustrated.

The Annals of the International Shakuhachi Society Vol 1 (new)
An excellent 196-page, hard cover edition containing a great wealth of information drawn from distinguished members of the shakuhachi community. Contributors include Christopher Yohmei Blasdel, Ralph Samuelson, Riley Lee, John Kaizan Neptune, Norman Stanfield and others. Broad topics include shakuhachi history, notation and fingering charts for various shakuhachi schools, shakuhachi making, personal shakuhachi stories and more.

The Annals of the International Shakuhachi Society Vol 2 (new)
This 200-page hard cover edition continues where the first left off and is equally packed with great information. The topics listed in Volume 1 are covered in more depth with additional essays and articles. In addition, this book also has a large section on shakuhachi performance and a book review section. Contributors include Monty Levenson, David Wheeler, Masayuki Koga, James Nyoraku Schlefer, John Singer, and Yoshinobu Taniguchi, among others.

Anthology of Sokyoku and Jiuta Song Texts, compiled and translated by Gen'ichi Tsuge, Academia Music Ltd. (used)
An excellent resource for those studying these types of classical songs. Each piece includes brief information about the song, its structure, and the story behind it. The Japanese text is written in romaji and the English translation runs beside the transcription. At the back of the book, all the song texts are shown in the original Japanese characters. Contains most of the important pieces of Yamada and Ikuta styles.
(Out of print; extremely limited availability.)

L'aspect mélodique de la musique de syamisen, Yoshihiko Tokumaru, Peeters Publishers (new)
The first detailed ethnomusicological study of shamisen music. Starts with some brief historical insight and a description of different types of shamisen. Then, based on his own analysis of representative contemporary practices, Tokumaru proposes a new theory on the tonal system of shamisen music.

The Ear Catches the Eye, Magda Kyrova, Hotei Publishing (new)
A gorgeous catalogue that you'll enjoy looking at again and again. Presents a clear overview of the diversity of Japanese musical instruments, their use in the Kabuki and Noh theatres during various festivals, and within the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter. The 150 prints of musical instruments are described at length; photographs of the actual instruments are accompanied by detailed explanations of their shape and use.

Introduction to Shamisen Kumiuta, Willem Adriaansz, Frits Knuf: Buren (new)
Scholarly work on the two remaining schools of shamisen kumiuta, the Nogawa school in Osaka and the Yanagawa school in Kyoto. All compositions in the text are written in Western score notation, with their song texts in both romaji and an English translation.

Traditional Japanese Music and Musical Instruments, William Malm, Kodansha International (new)
The first book on this topic to be brought out in a Western language in the 20th century. The book covers the following topics: history of Japan's musical life, religious music, Court music, music of Noh theatre, biwa, shakuhachi, koto, shamisen, Kabuki music, folk music, popular musical arts, and the music of other ethnic groups in Japan.

The Koto: A Traditional Instrument in Contemporary Japan, Henry Johnson, Stylus Publishing LLC (new)
If you're serious about koto, you want to have this book in your library. It is not a "how-to" book, but rather a text about the instrument itself. The author examines the koto's physical form, construction and instrument types, its performance traditions and social organizations, and its contexts of performance. Each aspect is explored in detail, providing ways of understanding the place of this traditional instrument in contemporary Japan. Well-illustrated, and the first book in English to examine the koto in such depth.

Ko-uta: Little Songs of the Geisha, Liza Crihfield Dalby, Tuttle Publishing (new)
Dalby is an anthropologist who trained as a geisha for a year as part of her thesis. During that year, she learned to play shamisen in the geisha style, known as ko-uta, or "little songs". Dalby presents twenty-five traditional ko-uta, each shown in beautiful Japanese calligraphy, in romaji, and in English translation. Notes on meanings and inferences specific to Japanese culture, as well as pointers on Japanese symbolism, make this a useful reference.

The Kumiuta and Danmono Traditions of Japanese Koto Music, Willem Adriaansz, University of California Press (used)
For the serious koto teacher, player or researcher. Contains some of the most detailed information available in English about koto music. Contents include history of the instrument, some specifics regarding koto construction in both Ikuta and Yamada styles, information on the various styles of koto notation, detailed descriptions of classical and modern techniques for both hands, the structure of danmono and kumiuta pieces, transcriptions of a number of important pieces in Western score with romanized lyrics and English translations, details of the different koto tunings, and charts classifying all the pieces by tunings/number of songs/type of piece, plus a huge bibliography.
(Out of print; limited availability.)

Musical Instruments in Ukiyo-e (new)
A special catalogue published by the Ota Museum in Tokyo for their "Musical Instruments in Ukiyo-e" exhibition in fall of 2005.
(Very limited quantity available.)

The Spirit of Tsugaru: Blind Musicians, Tsugaru-jamisen, and the Folk Music of Northern Japan, Gerald Groemer, Harmonie Park Press (new)
This expanded version of the 1991 edition adds a discussion of poor blind musicians since the start of the Edo period, an outline of the musical history of Tsugaru, and an analysis of the development of the Tsugaru-jamisen style. Also includes Takahashi Chikuzan's autobiography translated into English with footnote and orthographic revisions.

Studien zur Koto-Muzik von Edo, Peter Ackermann, Kassel : Bärenreiter (used)
A 2-volume, German-language study of the koto music of the Edo period. One volume is the text and the second volume contains the music under discussion.

Tegotomono: Music for Japanese Koto, Bonnie C. Wade, Greenwood Press (used)
Wade studied koto in both the Yamada and Ikuta traditions. This text is a revision of her thesis for her M.A. in music at UCLA. It is a selective comparison of five compositions "chosen because they span most of the nineteenth century and because they reflect some of the changes in composition for a traditional instrument in a decisive period of the history of music in Japan". Transcriptions are presented in Western score, and the large bibliography is useful for further studies.