Biwa, is a Japanese short-necked lute, distinguished by its graceful, pear-shaped body. The biwa has a shallow, rounded back and silk strings (usually four or five) attached to slender lateral pegs. The instrument is played with a large wedge-shaped plectrum called a bachi. The strings are tuned in fourths, and the melody is played almost exclusively on the highest pitched string.The biwa may be used to accompany various types of narrative, as part of a gagaku (court music) ensemble, or as a solo instrument. The origin of biwa is Chinese pipa. It arrived in Japan in two forms. Since that time, the number of biwa types has more than quadrupled. Guilds supporting biwa players, particularly the biwa hoshi, helped proliferate biwa musical development for hundreds of years. Biwa hōshi performances overlapped with performances by other biwa players many years before heikyoko and continued until today. This overlap resulted in a rapid evolution of the biwa and its usage and made it one of the most popular instruments in Japan.