Using this website

Here you will learn everything about using the Sympathetic Resonances site. Don't let the page size intimidate you, the Getting started section only takes about 2-3 minutes to read.

You may want to keep this page open while working in another browser tab.

Table of contents

Getting started

Signing up

In order to store your own mbira pieces, please register as a user. Click on the "Login" button in the menu bar at the upper right corner, and choose "Sign up".
After completing the registration form, you will receive an email with a confirmation link. Please check the spam folder in your email app, too! The link will take you to the login screen, which can also be reached from the Login menu.

Browsing pieces

Logging in, or clicking the “Your Pieces” button in the menu bar gets you to your personal archive.
At the top of this page is a box to select the instrument type. The rest of the page shows three lists of pieces for the chosen type: Template pieces, your own pieces (not yet any, so this section is omitted at first), and a list of pieces shared with you. Click on a piece's name to open it (e.g. "Nhemamusasa").
Hint: With a growing number of pieces the web browser’s functions become handy: You can always open any number of pieces in different tabs, or search the page for a particular term.

Viewing pieces

The top of the page shows a number of form fields for the piece’s metadata, followed by a list of editable tables for the transcriptions:

Playback

You can audition a part with the ► (Play) button:
The ■ (Stop) button stops all playback.
Press the "+" button to play another part simultaneously.
Press the "-" button to stop a single part while keeping the others running.
This way you can play back any combination of parts. If some have their Hosho beats at different pulses, you can easily rotate a part to a different starting point.
Restart audio after changes
When you press the ► button, the web server synthesizes an audio file from the part and streams it to your browser. After editing a part, you need to stop and restart playback in order to hear your changes.
Generating a fresh audio file
Subsequent playbacks of an unchanged part re-use the audio file. On rare occasions something might go wrong, and the audio file would not sound as expected. Hold the Shift/⇧ key while clicking on ► or "+" to make the server generate an fresh audio file.

Choosing playback sound

You can choose the sound (the sampled instrument) next to the play buttons:
The lower part of the list shows all available instruments.
The three ‘default’ instruments at the top are placeholders. In the public pieces, Default #1 is chosen for Kushaura parts, #2 for Kutsinhira parts, and #3 for occasional third parts.

You can personalise these placeholders to hear all content in your preferred tuning (in a future version of the website; not yet implemented).

So unless a part only works with a particular instrument, it might be a good idea to save your piecess with the placeholders set according to their musical parts. (Later on you can always change the playback tuning ad hoc, without saving.)

Playback tempo

The current playback tempo can be determined (and stored per piece) in the according field:
The tempo is specified in PPM (pulses per minute). With three pulses per beat, 300 PPM equals 100 BPM (beats per minute).

If you leave this field empty, the instrument class's default tempo is used (e.g. 240 PPM for an mbira). In a later version of the app the default tempo will be a user preference, so unless you see a good reason for pinpointing a specific tempo, just leave the the field empty when storing pieces.

For playback and rehearsal just temporarily change the tempo of any piece as you like.

Visualization

Click the button to show an animated picture of the instrument (not yet available for all instrument types).
Click on the image to toggle colors which indicate the keys' pitch classes. Drag the handle in the lower right corner to resize the animation. Try it right here:
 
Hints:

Using another notation

If you have used tabular mbira transcriptions before, the tables may look familiar, but perhaps you wonder about the numbers. The example pieces use the numbers 1-7 to enumerate the seven pitch classes (scale degrees) in each register. This notation is called Pitch.

You can translate the piece to another notation by selecting a Translator from the "Other Notations" section and pressing the “Translate Now” button.

Choose “Pitch → Position” to translate the piece into a more widespread notation where the keys are enumerated according to their position within each manual.

Hint: Don't hesitate to experiment with the translators or any other feature. All changes are temporary unless a piece is saved. The translator mechanism can also be used to transform pieces in interesting ways, like transposing them or translating them to another type of instrument.

Editing a part

Creating a new piece

Click again on “Your Pieces” at the menu bar, to get to your list of pieces, then on "Create Empty Piece" in the Template Pieces section. This section contains templates which will automatically be copied before editing.
At the bottom of the new piece’s page is a single empty part:
Choose your preferred notation from the 'Notation' listbox. For mbira dzavadzimu pieces, Position is a widespread beginner's notation, which numbers keys by their position in each manual.
Hint (matepe/madhebhe/hera pieces): Even though there are no notes yet, you may have to translate the piece to the desired notation in order to get the correct row labels in the table.

Hint: If the table is wider than your browser window or screen, you can make editing easier by shrinking the browser’s font size.

Editing cells

Let’s first look at the tabular section in the lower half. It works a bit like spreadsheet app. Click on an empty cell, type “Hi” and hit the Enter key:
As you see, you can write any text into the cells. Only the playback and translation functions require the use of a notation. Hit the Delete key to delete the selected cell(s).

The cursor can be moved around with the arrow keys. Holding Shift/⇧ when pressing the arrow keys or clicking with the mouse selects a rectangular area.

Use the ⌘/Ctrl+A shortcut to select all notes.
You can also select multiple cells individually by holding the Ctrl/⌘ key and clicking with the mouse.
Entering or deleting a value always affects all selected cells:

Cut, Copy, Paste, Duplicate

Inside a table, use these shortcuts for familiar clipboard and editing operations.

Note: There are a couple of limitations for different browsers:

But don't worry, if the keyboard shortcuts do not work in your browser, there is a simple workaround.

Command MacOS shortcut Windows shortcut
Cut ⌘X Ctrl+X
Copy ⌘C Ctrl+C
Paste ⌘V Ctrl+V
Paste (overwrite all) ⇧⌘V Shift+Ctrl+V
Duplicate ⌘D Ctrl+D
Duplicate (overwrite all) ⇧⌘D Shift+Ctrl+D
Select All ⌘A Ctrl+A

The difference betwenn the regular and the "overwrite all" Paste and Duplicate commands is that the former only pastes notes from the clipboard, while the latter also pastes empty cells, thus overwriting the entire target area:

Duplicate:

Duplicate (overwrite all):

Copying notes from/to another piece or spreadsheet

The Cut and Copy commands copy notes into your computer's clipboard. You can paste them into any other part, even between browser tabs.

You can also copy & paste table data from spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers and Google Sheets.


Copy Paste

The clipboard data is in TSV format, a simple way to exchange tables as text, where each row becomes a line, and cells in each line are separated by a Tab character.

You can already see this data in the input field whenever multiple cells are selected. Copying and pasting data from or to the input field has the same effect as in the table itself.

Workaround for clipboard commands in all browsers
Since the input field always reflects the selected data in the table, you can use this simple method as a workaround if your browser does not support the Copy/Paste keyboard shortcuts:

Whenever you would normally press ⌘/Ctrl+X, C or V, press the Enter key first, then ⌘/Ctrl+X, C or V, and then Enter again.

This moves the focus to the input field and back to the table, and directs the clipboard command to the input field.

Footnotes

Each cell can also be annotated with a footnote. Simple select a cell, and type the note into the footnote field:
The little asterisk indicates the presence of a footnote.

Changing the dimensions of the part

So far we have only edited the content of the cells. In order to change the number of cells in both dimensions, use the two groups of buttons labelled "↔" and "↕".

Use the "↔" button group to change the number of columns ("pulses").

The "↕" button group allows to the change the number of rows ("tracks") in the table.
The “Insert” and “Append” buttons insert a new track or pulse at the cursor position, or at the end of the table. You can add several tracks or pulses at once by entering a higher number than the “1” in the input field.

The remaining buttons, “Duplicate”, “Delete” and “Set Start” work depending on the selection, not the number input field. To duplicate a range of pulses, select the desired range (in any track) by holding Shift/⇧, then press “Duplicate” in the “Pulses” section.

Likewise, to delete a range or non-consecutive selection of pulses or tracks, select them holding the Shift/⇧ or Ctrl/⌘ key, and press the respective “Delete” button.

Rotating the part to a different starting point

The “Set Start” button in the "↔" section allows to cyclically shift the pulses so that the selected pulse becomes the new starting point. To cycle the whole part, all tracks need to be selected (for the sake of the example, the part is shortened to a few pulses):
To rotate just a single track, e.g. for setting the Hosho downbeat, just click on the desired starting pulse and press “Set Start”:

Part Layout

The “Layout” field next to the footnote determines the table's layout.
“12 12 12 12 page” means that the table contains four sections which 12 pulses each, and in case there are more pulses than 48, a new “page” of 4 sections is started. Currently "page" has no visual effect, and the numbers result in a little thicker division line between the cells every 12 pulses. In the future the parts will be broken down into multiple staffs at these points.

Managing multiple parts

Heading and Comments

A piece’s page may contain any number of parts (currently only limited by the increasing loading times of the page). Each part has a heading and comments field for additional information.

It’s a good idea to put some description into the heading field which uniquely identifies it in the context of the piece, so that you can refer to this particular part, e.g. as a background for other parts, or for a later cross-referencing feature:

A field for comments about the part:

The part list

Use the “Add Part” button on the right hand side to create a new, empty part underneath the current one.
“Duplicate" adds a copy, and “Remove" deletes the part from the list.

Unfortunately there is not (yet) an Undo function. Use the “Remove” function with care, and save the piece often, ideally after finishing every single part!

The Arrow up/down buttons change the position of the part in the list and exchange it with its upper or lower neighbor.

The moved part remains within the view, but sometimes this is not obvious unless you keep an eye on the position of the browser’s scroll bar.

Parts in the background of another

Parts can be shown in the background of another: All empty cells of the foreground part let the background shine through in a lighter color. You can stack up any number of layers. Simply select a background part from the dropdown box in the upper right of the part:
If the background part is shorter than the foreground, it is looped horizontally to fill up the number of pulses in the foreground.

Backgrounds are really useful to transcribe variations since only the changes have to be noted down. By changing the background you can also quickly try out the same variation on different parts. An underscore character (“_”) indicates an omission the background note.

Hint: When transcribing variations, it's generally a good practice to use a separate part for all notes which are meant to be played together. If there are many single-note variations, you can also put them into a single part and add a comment that can be played independently.

Merging and subtracting parts

The “Merge” button next to the background box merges all background notes into the foreground, i.e. all white notes become black.
Conversely, the “Subtract” button removes all notes from the foreground, which are equally present in both, foreground and background.

Saving & duplicating pieces

Saving new pieces

You can save a new piece with the button at the very bottom of the page, or drop it with the "Exit Without Saving" button - or by simply closing the browser tab.

Hint: No changes or additions become permanent until a Save button is hit, therefore it is good to save early and often.

Before saving a new piece you should give it a proper name, so you can locate it in the overview, and select the instrument and the used notation from the respective drop-down lists.
These settings are used to inform playback and translation, changing them has no effect on the numbers in the tables. Only translation changes the actual numbers (and can usually be reversed).

Saving existing pieces

Once a new piece is saved, you will see a different set of buttons at the bottom of the page.

Use "Save & Exit" to save changes and return to the list of your pieces.

Hit "Save" to save the piece on the server, and continue editing.
Duplicate pieces with the "Save As New Piece" button. The saved original remains unchanged, and the current state will be saved as a new piece.
"Exit Without Saving" simply returns to your list of pieces, without saving any changes you have made since opening the piece.
Hint: To discard any temporary or accidental changes to a piece and revert to its saved state, just use the browser's Reload button.

Checking a piece for typos

After you saved a new piece, you may want to check it for typos. Occasionally right numbers end up in the wrong row, so it is a good idea to do these checks routinely.

The simplest way to check a piece against a notation is to translate it to another (equivalent) notation, and then back. The translation process adds an [UNTRANSLATED] footnote to every cell it cannot translate.

Since you just want to see this error indication, and not save the piece in this state, it is best to open the same piece in two browser tabs. In the first tab you fix possible mistakes and later save the original piece, in the second tab you conduct the double translation and just close the tab when you are done.

Sharing pieces

You can share, as well as delete, piece using the links in the overview list. The app will ask for the recipient’s email address, and allows you to grant write or read-only access to the piece.
Currently sharing works only with other registered users, a later version will send notification emails to non-registered users.

Please use the sharing facility responsibly, and respect your teacher’s interests where appropriate!

Transforming pieces

Besides employing a different notation, the translator menu offers other options to transform a piece.

Transposition

You can transpose a piece up or down by 1-3 scale degrees. Choose a translator from the "Transposition" section, and press the "Translate Now" button.

(Note: This currently work only with the mbira dzavadzimu in Pitch notation, or matepe/madhebhe/hera in Pitch.4 notation. If you are using another notation, first translate to these notations, then transpose, then translate back to your preferred notation.)

Two methods for transposition are available, "Shift" and "Cycle".

Automatic transposition does not always deliver the most playable or musically satisfying results, but should provide a reasonable starting point for quick exploration and manual post-editing.

Sometimes more than one note ends up in the same playing area (see the "L" track in the picture below). This is no problem for the playback machinery, but impossible to play with one finger, so you may have to make the choices that the translator cannot provide.

Hint: Avoid repeated transposition. Rather start over with the original piece and a wider interval. In certain cases, multiple notes are mapped to the same target which changes intervals (e.g. the missing B2, key is substituted by B1 when shifting downwards).

Translating pieces to another instrument class

You can translate a piece to another instrument by choosing a translator from the "Other Instruments" section, and pressing the "Translate Now" button.
As of today, you can translate As instrument types differ in key layout, playing techniques and composition styles, sometimes more than one note may end up in the same playing area as the result of the automatic translation. Nonetheless it is a good starting point for exploration and manual post-editing.

Notations

A notation is a set of names for the keys of an instrument. This website supports different notations for most instruments, and users can translate their transcriptions to any other notation with a few clicks.

Key names have two parts: The row label and the cell content. In the picture below the cursor sits in a row RT on a cell with a 1. Both components are required to identify the key, so the full key name in the notation is RT1.

Key Aliases

Sometimes the same key can be played with different fingers, usually to maintain a motoric pattern for the player. We want to able to reflect this in transcriptions in a way that is compatible with translation of pieces to other notations. Therefore the same key can have multiple names, and can possibly be referred to in different rows (if rows represent different fingers or playing areas).

For instance, on the mbira dzavadzimu the right thumb occasionally plays the RI3-5 keys or even the L1 key. The RI3 can also be referred to as RT3'. (The names in this example are in Pitch notation.) The naming scheme for key aliases is different for each notation, and listed below.

If you miss a specific alias for your transcriptions, please let me know.

Mbira dzavadzimu

This instrument class represents the mbira dzavadzimu in its most widespread layout - seven keys in the lower left manual, seven (sometimes less) in the upper left). For mbiras with additional keys, see mbira dzavadzimu (with extra keys).

Currently there are six notations. They are called

All of them use a track for the Hosho downbeat (denoted by a dot "."), plus three or four tracks which correspond to the playing areas of the mbira:

  • RI: Keys played with the right index finger
  • RT: Keys played with the right thumb
  • L: Top left manual
  • B: Bottom left manual
The "Art of Mbira" notations are meant to facilitate entering parts from Paul Berliner and Cosmas Magaya's book The Art of Mbira.

Use Art of Mbira (notes) if you can read musical notes fluently. If not, you may want to try Art of Mbira (lines).

There are only three track captions; in case the right thumb and index finger play simultaneous notes, use a second R row, as in the picture below:

  • R: Keys played with the right hand
  • L: Top left manual
  • B: Bottom left manual

All notations are convertible to and from Pitch and Pitch+Octaves. If a direct translation between two notations is not available, use two translation steps across on of these.

Click on the tabs below for a description of each notation:

RT
RI
L
B
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
1
2
3
4
5
6
7

The numbers indicate the key's position within each of the three playing areas, from lowest to highest.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
RI45678910111213
RTL1123456
L1RT1324567
B1234567
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
L1RTL1L1 key played with the right thumb
RT1LRT1RT1 key played with the left thumb
RI4RT4RI4 key played with the thumb instead of the index finger
RI5RT5RI4 key played with the thumb instead of the index finger
RI6RT6RI4 key played with the thumb instead of the index finger
RT
RI
L
B
3
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
1
2
1
5
4
6
7
1'
2
1
3
4
5
6
7
2

Like Pitch+Octaves notation, but octave indication is ommited where can be deduced from the playing area. If a manual contains the same pitch class twice, the less frequently used key gets the octave indication.

Caveat: The notation uses two single quotes (''), not a double quote (") for the highest register.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
RI34567123''4''5''
RTL13123'45
L1RT345671'2
B1345672
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
L1RTL1L1 key played with the right thumb
RT3LRT3RT3 key played with the left thumb
RI3RT3'RI3 key played with the thumb instead of the index finger (Note the RT3', as there is also RT3)
RI4RT4RI4 key played with the thumb instead of the index finger
RI5RT5RI5 key played with the thumb instead of the index finger
RT
RI
L
B
3
1'
2'
3'
4'
5'
6'
7'
1''
2''
1
5
4
6
7
1'
2'
1,
3,
4,
5,
6,
7,
2

The numbers denote scale degrees (1-7) of the mbira's seven tone scale, starting with 1 as the lowest tone of both the L and B registers. Apostrophes and commas indicate the octave position relative to the middle register. e.g. 1, 1 1' 1''.

Caveat: The notation uses two single quotes (''), not a double quote (") for the highest register.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
RI3'4'5'6'7'1''2''3''4''5''
RT131'2'3'4'5'
L1345671'2'
B1,3,4,5,6,7,2
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
L1RT1L1 key played with the right thumb
RT3L3RT3 key played with the left thumb
RI3'RT3'RI3' key played with the thumb instead of the index finger
RI4'RT4'RI4' key played with the thumb instead of the index finger
RI5'RT5'RI5' key played with the thumb instead of the index finger
The Analytic notation can be used to analyze and transform the harmonic and rhythmic structure of mbira pieces, and to compose new music.

There are two kinds of tracks in this notation:

  • Tracks with notes (the first five rows of the table above)
  • Transposition tracks (the row at the bottom)
An equals sign (=) in a transposition track indicates repetition, making 1==3== the same as 111333. Each number (or repetition) in the bottom track transposes all notes in the respective column. The caption of the bottom track (4) in turn transposes the entire transposition track.
Playground for experimentation
The resultant piece in the picture is a well-known Nhemamusasa kushaura part. The bottom row contains the System of Mbira-style harmonic "standard" progression 135-136-146-246, which is lifted to the fourth degree by the 4 in the bottom left corner, thus 461-462-472-572. The = signs nicely visualize the harmonic rhythm of the piece.

With all harmonic information factored out, you can see how the remaining pattern merely contains unisons, fifths, and occasional thirds, and is repeated four times in near identical form. Looping backgrounds allow you to state this pattern only once.

On this level of abstraction, you can transform the entire piece simply by changing or moving a single number. Try it out and learn more techniques with this demonstration piece.

Adding degrees
All numbers in the table range from 1-7 and denote either scale degrees or transpositions. Since we are counting 1-7, not 0-6, the way two degrees a and b add up is not a plain addition. Therefore let us not use a+b, but a new symbol a°b, meaning "a lifted to the b-th degree".

Here is how ° works: Take a + b - 1, and subtract 7 if the result is bigger than 7.

°1234567
11234567
22345671
33456712
44567123
55671234
66712345
77123456
This way of adding degrees may be unfamiliar at first, but has the advantage of all numbers in the table being interchangeable.
Mapping notes
The Analytic notation works like an abstract mbira, with all degrees 1-7 available in all tracks.

Hosho.
RI1234567
RT1234567
L1234567
B1234567
On the real instrument, however, not all scale degrees are present in all manuals. E.g. the RT manual is made of degrees 1-3 only. Therefore, when playing back the piece, or when translating it to another notation, all notes must be mapped to existing keys.

When a note is not available in a manual, it can be either moved to another manual or octave, or get substituted, harmonically informed by the transposition tracks. There are a number of methods for this, each trying to retain a different aspect of the abstract mbira piece.

  • Retain Pitches.  Notes move to where they are found on the instrument. E.g. the non-present L3 key is moved to RT3 of the same pitch. This may result in pieces not being playable, e.g. if the right thumb is already busy with another key.
  • Retain Motor Pattern.  Each note not present in a manual is substituted by a harmonic equivalent, so that fingers keep playing the same motor pattern. This sometimes leads to large interval jumps, especially between RT and RI keys, and many note repetitions in the RT manual.
  • Retain Octaves:  Map notes so that they remain within three registers
    • All B keys → low register: B1-B7
    • All L keys → middle register: L1-L7 including B2 and RT3
    • All RT/RI keys → high register: RT1-RT7, transposing down RI1 and RI2
  • Retain Playability.  A mix of the above mappings, striving to maximize playbility of the resultant part - given that the abstract part itself is playable.
Hint: When composing pieces or exploring variations, it is generally best to start with the Retain Pitches method, and then trying the others for getting the result to the instrument.

For technical reasons, you choose the method via the Notation drop-down list. The same Analytic notation is listed four times, indicating the mapping method. To change the method, simply pick another "Analytic (...)" entry.

Transposition track rules
  • You can use any number of transposition tracks. They all add up.
  • An empty cell means that the track does not affect the transposition of that column.
  • If no number is found left of an = cell up to the beginning of a track (empty cells skipped), the lookup continues from the end of the track. This means you can always safely rotate transposition tracks along with the notes.
  • If a transposition track contains no number at all, but only =, the number 1 is substituted, allowing for purely graphical transposition patterns.

Miscellaneous
  • The L1' key is currently not reachable by Analytic notation. This means you cannot transcribe the popular RT1 L1' RT1 L1' RT1 L1'... figure in some mbira pieces, but have to use RT1 RT1 RT1 RT1... instead. This will likely change in a future update.
  • You can use any positive number, not just 1-7 in the tables. The general formula for combining degrees is a°b = 1 + (a-1 + b-1) mod 7.

This notation is meant to facilitate entering parts from Paul Berliner and Cosmas Magaya's book The Art of Mbira.

Simply enter the musical notes names and the register (e.g. g, g1, g2, g3 for g, g', g'', g''') in the respective tracks: Open oval notes in the B track, triangular notes in the L track, and closed oval notes in the R track.

When you are done entering parts, you can translate them to a different notation.

If you have trouble reading notes, try the Art of Mbira (lines) notation.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track.
Hosho.
Rb1g2a2b2c3d3e3f3g3a3b3c4d4
Lg1c2d2e2f2g2a2
Bgbc1d1e1f1a1

This notation is meant to facilitate entering parts from Paul Berliner and Cosmas Magaya's book The Art of Mbira, particularly if you have trouble reading musical notes. It works as follows:

  • Enter open oval notes in the B track, triangular notes in the L track, and closed oval notes in an R track.
  • Each note may either sit on a line, or above or below a line. If it sits on a line, just enter the line number. If it sits above a line, enter the line number and a +, or a - if it is below a line. For the five staff lines either option works.
  • If the note sits within or right above or below the 5-line staff, count the lines bottom up: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
  • If there are extension lines, just enter the total number of lines (regardless if the note is above or below the 5-line staff): Either 6, 7, 8 or 9. (The 6 is used in both the B and the R manual, otherwise the note names are unambiguous).

When you are done entering parts, you can translate them to a different notation.

If you can read notes fluently, you may want to try the Art of Mbira (notes) notation.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
R35+66+77+88+99+1010+11
L24-45-55+6
L3+4+
B7-6-61-12-3-
B1+2+
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
B1+B2-Above the first line = below the second line
B2+B3-Above the second line = below the third line
L3+L4-Above the third line = below the fourth line
L4+L5-Above the fourth line = below the fifth line
Comparison of notation styles
Each notation has specific advantages and disadvantages. Here is a comparison of some aspects which led to the choice of Pitch for the public content of the website:

Position Pitch+Octaves Pitch
+ Used in various publications and score books
+ Can be used with very little previous knowledge - Requires memorizing the octave layout
- Presence of an extra key (e.g. B2) shifts all subsequent numbers in the rank + Compatible notations for instruments with and without extra keys
+ Quick identification of groups of same pitches in different octaves
+ Easy identification of symmetries between a piece's sections
+ Easy calculation of scale intervals
- Lots of apostrophes and commas
+ Looks almost as 'clean' as the Position notation
+ Can transcribe "breach of the rules", like playing the L1, B1 or RI keys with the right thumb.
+ Uses only numbers - Needs octave indication
+ A dedicated track for each of the four playing areas reflects the motoric playing patterns and their symmetries (unlike a 2 or 3 track notation).

Pitch notation with four tracks provides considerable insight into the structure of a piece, even at a glance. This makes the music accessible even for non-players. For new students of the instrument, learning the octave layout quickly pays off.

One of the design goals of the app was to avoid an authoritative standard notation, and allow users to use their own preferred formats. A later version will provide custom formats and automatic translation of pieces according to users' preferences, wherever translation is possible without loss of information.

Mbira dzavadzimu (with extra keys)

This instrument class offers notations for the mbira dzavadzimu with all sorts of extra keys (most notably B2 and LI3), especially the ones shifting the numbering of the Position notation.

There are the same three notations as for the mbira dzavadzimu without extra keys

but with an additional LI track:
  • RI: Keys played with the right index finger
  • RT: Keys played with the right thumb
  • LI: Left index finger
  • L: Top left thumb manual
  • B: Bottom left thumb manual
All notations are convertible to and from Pitch. If a direct translation between two notations is not available, use an intermediate step across Pitch.

Click on the tabs below for a description of each notation:

The numbers indicate the key's position within each of the three playing areas, from lowest to highest.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
RI45678910111213
RTL11-1023456
LI1
L1RT1324567
B12345678
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
L1RTL1L1 key played with the right thumb
RT1LRT1RT1 key played with the left thumb
RI4RT4RI4 key played with the thumb instead of the index finger
RI5RT5RI4 key played with the thumb instead of the index finger
RI6RT6RI4 key played with the thumb instead of the index finger

Like Pitch+Octaves notation, but octave indication is ommited where can be deduced from the playing area. If a manual contains the same pitch class twice, the less frequently used key gets the octave indication.

Caveat: The notation uses two single quotes (''), not a double quote (") for the highest register.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
RI34567123''4''5''
RTL1367123'45
LI3
L1RT345671'2
B12,345672
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
L1RTL1L1 key played with the right thumb
RT3LRT3RT3 key played with the left thumb
RI3RT3'RI3 key played with the thumb instead of the index finger (Note the RT3', as there is also RT3)
RI4RT4RI4 key played with the thumb instead of the index finger
RI5RT5RI5 key played with the thumb instead of the index finger

The numbers denote scale degrees (1-7) of the mbira's seven tone scale, starting with 1 as the lowest tone of both the L and B registers. Apostrophes and commas indicate the octave position relative to the middle register. e.g. 1, 1 1' 1''.

Caveat: The notation uses two single quotes (''), not a double quote (") for the highest register.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
RI3'4'5'6'7'1''2''3''4''5''
RT13671'2'3'4'5'
LI3
L1345671'2'
B1,2,3,4,5,6,7,2
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
L1RT1L1 key played with the right thumb
RT3L3RT3 key played with the left thumb
RI3'RT3'RI3' key played with the thumb instead of the index finger
RI4'RT4'RI4' key played with the thumb instead of the index finger
RI5'RT5'RI5' key played with the thumb instead of the index finger

Matepe / Madhebhe / Hera

This represents the class of instrument called matepe, madhebhe or hera. Currently there are six notations. They are called All of them employ an additional track for Hosho [down]beats (denoted by a dot "."). The number of tracks varies, the Pitch notations have the most fine-grained division of playing areas:
  • RX: Keys played with the right thumb, alternatively to the RT manual
  • RI: Keys played with the right index finger
  • RT: Keys played with the right thumb
  • LI: Left index finger manual
  • L: Top left thumb manual
  • B: Bottom left thumb manual

All notations are convertible to and from Pitch.4. If a direct translation between two notations is not available, use an intermediate step across Pitch.4.

Click on the tabs below for a description of each notation:

Scale degrees are numbered from 1 to 7; 4 being the lowest key of the instrument. It is the same as the Pitch+Octaves.4 notation, with all octave indication omitted where it can be deduced from the playing area. Only the 5, and 5 keys in the L manual need to be distinguished.

Some instruments and transcriptions employ right index finger keys up to RI4 and RI5.

Comparing this notation with Pitch of the mbira dzavadzimu reveals similarities in the key layout, e.g. the characteristic sequence L1 L5 L4 L6 L7 L1' on the mbira matching the L1 L5 L4 LI6 LI7 LI1 keys on the Hera.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
RX2345671
RI4'5'6712345
RT4/5/6712345
LI67123
L5,1456
B46723
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
RT4RI4'RT4 key played with the index finger instead of the thumb
RT5RI5'RT5 key played with the index finger instead of the thumb

Same numbers as the Pitch.4 notation, but full octave indication.

Some instruments and transcriptions employ right index finger keys up to RI4'' and RI5''.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
RX2''3''4''5''6''7''1'''
RI4'5'6'7'1''2''3''4''5''
RT45671'2'3'4'5'
LI671'2'3'
L5,1456
B4,6,7,23
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
RT4'RI4'RT4' key played with the index finger instead of the thumb
RT5'RI5'RT5' key played with the index finger instead of the thumb

This is the same as the Pitch.4 notation, with 1 as the lowest key on the instrument.

Some instruments and transcriptions employ right index finger keys up to RI1 and RI2.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
RX6712345
RI1'1'2'3456712
RT1/2/3456712
LI34567
L2,5123
B13467
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
RT1RI1'RT1 key played with the index finger instead of the thumb
RT2RI1'RT2 key played with the index finger instead of the thumb

This notation is based on James Kamwaza's numbering scheme described in Jocelyn Moon's Yelloweaver blog. The seven scale degrees are numbered top-down, 1 being the highest pitch of a Hera's left thumb area, which James considers as the core of each piece.

For the matepe I've added the LT0 key which is not found on this Hera.

Some instruments and transcriptions employ right index finger keys up to RI2 and RI1.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
RX4321765
RIRT2RT17654321
RT987654321
LI76543
LT9876543210
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
RT2RIRT2RT2 key played with the index finger instead of the thumb
RT1RIRT1RT1 key played with the index finger instead of the thumb

This positional notation is based on a handwritten transcription by Chaka Chawasarira. Even though most keys have their individual number, the playing areas of the both hands (L, L, B and RT, RI, RX) are distinguished, to avoid two numbers in the same table cell, e.g. 11/20 if right thumb and index play together.

I've also added the RX keys to Mr. Chawasarira's original numbering to achieve a complete mapping between the different notations.

Some instruments and transcriptions employ right index finger keys up to RI23 and RI24.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
RX1234567
RI161718192021222324
RT11B11A12141113151617
LI25242323A23B
L97351
B108642
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
RT16RI16RT16 key played with the index finger instead of the thumb
RT17RI17RT17 key played with the index finger instead of the thumb

This notation is based on the one used by Joel Laviolette in his Rattletree forum. The keys in each playing area are numbered bottom-up according to their pitch.

Joel only uses R for the right hand), but this notation also distinguishes the playing areas of the right hand (RT, RI and RX), to avoid two numbers (e.g. 3/10) in the same table cell if right thumb and index play together.

Some instruments and transcriptions employ right index finger keys up to RI13 and RI14.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
RX1234567
RI67891011121314
RT1B1A1234567
L12345
B1234567899A
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
RT6RI6RT6 key played with the index finger instead of the thumb
RT7RI7RT7 key played with the index finger instead of the thumb

Karimba

This instrument class represents what Andrew Tracey in his article The Original African Mbira? calls the 'south bank karimba' type. Most instruments cataloged at ILAM originate from the Sena/Nyungwe or Sena/Tonga people in Mozambique.

Currently there are four notations. They are called

All of them employ an additional track for Hosho [down]beats (denoted by a dot ".").

There are five playing areas:

  • LU: Left thumb upper manual
  • LL: Left thumb lower manual
  • RI: Keys in the right upper manual, played with the index finger Depending of the type of Kalimba, these keys are either struck downwards or plucked upwards.
  • RT: Keys played with the right thumb
    On certain karimbas, the outer keys of the right lower manual are also plucked with the index finger
  • B: Bottom keys, played with the right thumb.
    For some keys, the right thumb then reaches across the lowest key of the instrument. When played with the left thumb, these notes become part of the LL row - see pictures below.
All notations are convertible to and from Pitch.4. If a direct translation between two notations is not available, use an intermediate step across Pitch.4.

Click on the tabs below for a description of each notation:

Scale degrees are numbered from 1 to 7; 4 being the lowest key of the instrument. It is the same as the Pitch+Octaves.4 notation, with all octave indication omitted where it can be deduced from the playing area.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
LU1234567
LL4,5,6,7,4567123
RI7/1234567
RT1234567
B4567
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
B4LL4,B4 key played with left thumb
B5LL5,B5 key played with left thumb
B6LL6,B6 key played with left thumb
B7LL7,B7 key played with left thumb

Same numbers as the Pitch.4 notation, but full octave indication.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
LU1'2'3'4'5'6'7'
LL4,5,6,7,45671'2'3'
RI71'2'3'4'5'6'7'
RT1234567
B4,5,6,7,
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
B4,LL4,B4, key played with left thumb
B5,LL5,B5, key played with left thumb
B6,LL6,B6, key played with left thumb
B7,LL7,B7, key played with left thumb

This is similar to the Pitch.4 notation, just with 1 as the lowest key of the instrument.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
LU5671234
LL1,2,3,4,1234567
RI4/5671234
RT5671234
B1234
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
B1LL1,B1 key played with left thumb
B2LL2,B2 key played with left thumb
B3LL3,B3 key played with left thumb
B4LL4,B4 key played with left thumb

Same numbers as the Pitch.1 notation, but full octave indication.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
LU5671'2'3'4'
LL1,2,3,4,1234567
RI45671'2'3'4'
RT5,6,7,1234
B1,2,3,4,
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
B1,LL1,B1, key played with left thumb
B2,LL2,B2, key played with left thumb
B3,LL3,B3, key played with left thumb
B4,LL4,B4, key played with left thumb

15-key Karimba 'Nyunga Nyunga'

This instrument class represents the 15-key, 6-tone scale karimba, developed at Kwanongoma College of African Music in Bulawayo in the 1960s. Following the lead of Dumisani Maraire it later came to be called nyunga nyunga mbira. Despite the similar name, it is a very different instrument than the nyonganyonga of Mozambique, a close relative of the matepe.

Its layout is an extension of Jege Tapera's karimba which originates from Tete province of Mozambique, with two keys added in the upper manuals (see Andrew Tracey's article Mbira Music of Jege A. Tapera).

Currently there are five notations. They are called

All of them employ an additional track for Hosho [down]beats (denoted by a dot "."). The Pitch... notations distinguish four playing areas:
  • LU: Left thumb upper manual
  • LL: Left thumb lower manual
  • RI: Right index finger upper manual
  • RT: Right thumb lower manual
The Berliner notation uses only two playing areas. In case both right hand fingers play a key in the same pulse, use two rows labelled R:
  • L: Keys played with the left thumb
  • R: Keys played with the right thumb or index finger

All notations are convertible to and from Pitch.4. If a direct translation between two notations is not available, use an intermediate step across Pitch.4.

Click on the tabs below for a description of each notation:

Scale degrees are numbered from 1 to 6; 4 being the lowest key of the instrument. It is the same as the Pitch+Octaves.4 notation, with all octave indication omitted where it can be deduced from the playing area.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
LU1234
LL6,456
RI1234
RT4123
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
RI4LU4Highest key in the center, either played with the left thumb or right index finger

Same numbers as the Pitch.4 notation, but full octave indication.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
LU1'2'3'4'
LL6,456
RI1'2'3'4'
RT4,123
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
RI4'LU4'Highest key in the center, either played with the left thumb or right index finger

This is similar to the Pitch.4 notation, just with 1 as the lowest key of the instrument. The six scale degrees are numbered from 5 to 6 and from 1 to 3.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
LU5671
LL3,123
RI5671
RT1567
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
RI1LU1Highest key in the center, either played with the left thumb or right index finger

Same numbers as the Pitch.1 notation, but full octave indication.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
LU5671'
LL3,123
RI5671'
RT1,5,6,7,
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
RI1'LU1'Highest key in the center, either played with the left thumb or right index finger

This is a positional notation which Paul Berliner uses this book "The Soul of Mbira". Keys in the upper row are marked with apostrophe. If right thumb and index finger play keys simultaneously, transcriptions need two rows labelled R.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
L12342'3'4'1'
R12342'3'4'1'
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
R1'L1'Highest key in the center, either played with the left thumb or right index finger

Nyonganyonga / Malimba

This instrument class represents the nyonganyonga or malimba, mostly found among the Barwe, Gorongozi, and Sena people in Mozambique, according to Andrew Tracey's article The Original African Mbira?. Other than the similar name it has little in common with the popular 15-key karimba called nyunga-nyunga.

The nyonganyonga is a close relative of the matepe / madhebhe / hera. Compared to the matepe, the right-hand side is lowered, and the left-hand side raised by one octave each. Other than that, the LI manual is extended to 5, sometimes up to 7 keys, and the two lowermost left hand keys are missing, so that the LU manual (in Pitch.1 notation) starts with the scale degree 1, and follows the characteristic 1-5-4-6-7-1' sequence (from bottom up) which is also found on the mbira dzavadzimu and partly on the matepe

Currently there are two notations. They are called

All of them employ an additional track for Hosho [down]beats (denoted by a dot ".").

There are five playing areas:

  • LI: Keys played with the left index finger
  • LU: Left thumb upper manual
  • LL: Left thumb lower manual
  • RI: Keys played with the right index There is no fixed transition point between keys played with the right thumb and index finger. It varies from instrument to instrument (possibly from player to player, or piece to piece). On the instruments of the ILAM collection, the thumb goes up to the 7th scale degree, the index finger down to the 5th.
  • RT: Keys played with the right thumb
    The number of keys on the right hand side of the instrument is variable on both ends. Among the instruments of the ILAM collection, the lowest thumb note is the 6th scale degree (others are 7th and 1st).
All notations are convertible to and from Pitch.1. If a direct translation between two notations is not available, use an intermediate step across Pitch.1.

Click on the tabs below for a description of each notation:

Scale degrees are numbered from 1 to 7; 1 being the lowest key of the instrument. It is the same as the Pitch+Octaves.1 notation, with all octave indication omitted where it can be deduced from the playing area.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
LI5671234
LU145671'
LL6723
RI4,5,67123456/
RT67123456,7,
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
RT4RI4,RT4 key played with the index finger, not the thumb
RT5RI5,RT5 key played with the index finger, not the thumb
RI6RT6,RI6 key played with the thumb, not the index finger
RI7RT7,RI7 key played with the thumb, not the index finger

Same numbers as the Pitch.1 notation, but full octave indication.

Key Overview
The table below shows all notes of the notation, from lowest to highest. Each row contains all possible notes for that track. Multiple entries in the same column are aliases for the same key. Main key names are shown in black, alias names in red.
Hosho.
LI5671'2'3'4'
LU145671'
LL6,7,23
RI4,5,6,7,123456
RT6,,7,,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,
Aliases
The table below lists all alias keys. Row names are shown in black, cell content in red.
KeyAliasNotes
RT4,RI4,RT4, key played with the index finger, not the thumb
RT5,RI5,RT5, key played with the index finger, not the thumb
RI6,RT6,RI6, key played with the thumb, not the index finger
RI7,RT7,RI7, key played with the thumb, not the index finger