Thinking about making templates for Finale, Sibelius, and Dorico

Hi guys,

Having trolled around the interwebs the past few days looking for modern methods to engrave shamisen music, I stumbled across @threedaymonk and his LilyPond extension (awesome, btw: Making Tsugaru notation with LilyPond) and @JCBq with his musescore font (Musescore Shamisen Font)

Unless someone has already done this, I am planning on making some templates in Finale, Sibelius, and Dorico for shamisen notation. The bulk of my time is spent in these programs for my work, and I have not been able to find anything in these geared for shamisen–but I could be wrong. Since these are the three main engraving programs on the market, I think it would be awesome to see shamisen notation available in them.

Since I am still fairly new to shamisen and to its notation system, it would be a great help if there was a catalog of the symbols and their locations. If this exists, or if someone would like to assist with this, I would greatly appreciate it.

Here’s to making legible music!

There’s a pretty comprehensive overview in @Kyle_Abbott’s book (Shamisen of Japan). Based on that and my experience of other handwritten and commercially produced notation:

  • It’s a three line tablature with the lowest pitch, first string at the bottom.
  • Positions are marked as semitones (i.e. “fret” numbers) omitting the major 3rd and major 7th. These two are instead usually marked as ♯ and ♭ on neck stickers and can be marked as just ♯ or 3♯ or 4♭ etc. in notation depending on what makes more sense. This means that there are ten numbered positions in the octave, so 10 is the octave, 13 is an octave above 3, etc.
  • Most music is in 2/4 time, and the metre is usually written above the score along with the tuning
    • Sometimes the tuning is also written against each string at the start of the piece, in alphabet or katakana solfège (ド = C etc.)
  • The basic tuning, 本調子, is (from lowest to highest) C F C’. Other tunings are expressed with reference to this:
    • 二上り raises the second string by a tone: C G C’
    • 三下り lowers the third string by a tone: C F B♭
  • An unadorned number represents a crotchet or quarter note.
  • An underline halves the note duration, so one line is a quaver/8th note, two is a semiquaver/16th note etc.
  • A dash can be added after a note to lengthen it to a minim. There’s no apparent consensus on length indication beyond this (but the note has probably decayed by this point anyway).
  • A dotted note functions the same way as in Western notation.
  • A rest is a large central dot. The same duration rules apply as for notes.
  • Articulations marked by a single katakana character above or below the note (in my experience, below is more common):
    • ス sukui, upstroke
    • ハ hajiki, left-hand pluck
    • ウ uchi, hammer-on
    • ケ keshi, mute - I’ve seen this on a note to indicate staccato playing, or on a rest to indicate muting rather than letting the string ring.
  • When two notes are played in succession from a lower to a higher string by sweeping (oshibachi), this is indicated with a right-angled or curved line between them.
  • A slide or suri is indicated with a curved line exactly as a slur.
  • Fingering is notated with a roman numeral I II III above or below the note
  • Set phrases like 4300 or 0303 are often written with less space between notes, and sometimes with underlines joined together.
  • Sometimes people abandon the underlines and draw regular Western stems and bars on the tablature to indicate duration.
    • And sometimes Western rests are used.
  • Repeat marks are usually Western. Occasionally they’re more curved (like 〔: rather than |: ).

I think that’s more or less everything. I don’t think the existing body of shamisen music is particularly consistent, and a lot of it is very badly produced!

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I have made my own Finale template for my personal use. It’s not super organized but I don’t make notation often. Finale being itself, doesn’t make things very organized.
I once read a Japanese website talking about finale and Shamisen notation. It didn’t fit my use, likely because it’s for older version.
So it sounds like you are looking to produce template and to share as open resources? Or are you looking for readymade template for your personal use?