Using this website

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, and choose "Register".
After filling in the registration form, an email with a confirmation link is sent to you. 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 for which transcriptions are shown below. The rest of the page shows three lists of pieces: 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.

If you have not yet done so, you may want to keep this Help page open in another browser window or tab.

Viewing pieces

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

Playback

You can audition a score with the “Play” button:
The "Stop" button stops all playback.
Most modern browsers support simultaneous, looped playback of multiple scores (e.g. Kushaura and Kutsinhira parts). Simply press the "+" button of another score to play it on top.
Press the "-" button to stop the single score, while the others keep on 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 score to a different starting point.
Generating a new audio file
When you press the "Play" button, the web server synthesizes an audio file from the score and streams it to your browser. This audio file is only generated once, unless the score changes. On rare occasions something might go wrong, and the audio file would not sound as expected. Holding the "Shift" key while clicking on "Play" or "+" makes the server generate an new audio file.

Choosing playback sound

You can choose the sound (the sampled instrument) next to the play buttons:
The lower part of the list contains individual instruments in a variety of tunings.
At the top of the the list are three "Default" entries which point to instruments below. In a future version of the website, this will allow you to change your preferred playback tuning for all scores, simply by changing this indirection.
So unless a score only works with a particular tuning, it is a good idea to save scores with the Default instruments chosen. (You can always change the playback tuning ad hoc, without saving.) In the public scores, Default #1 is chosen for Kushaura parts, #2 for Kutsinhira parts, and #3 for occasional 3rd parts.

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.

Using another notation

If you have used tabular mbira transcriptions before, the scores may look familiar, but perhaps you wonder about the numbers. The example pieces use the numbers 1-7 to enumerate the seven 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 rank.

Hint: Don't hesitate to experiment with the translators or any other feature. All changes are temporary unless a score 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 score

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 score:
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 rank.
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 the Shift key, or Shift-clicking with the mouse selects a rectangular area.

You can also select multiple cells individually by holding the Cmd/Ctrl key and clicking with the mouse.
Entering or deleting a value always affects all selected cells:

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 (they will be listed beneath the score in a later version of the app).

Changing the dimensions of the score

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 score.
The “Insert” and “Append” buttons insert a new track or pulse at the cursor position, or at the end of the score. 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/Cmd key, and press the respective “Delete” button.

Rotating the score 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 score, all tracks need to be selected (for the sake of the example, the score 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”:

Score Layout

The “Layout” field next to the footnote determines the score layout.
“12 12 12 12 page” means that the score 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 scores will be broken down into multiple staffs at these points.

Managing multiple scores

Heading and Comments

A piece’s page may contain any number of scores (currently only limited by the increasing loading times of the page). Each score 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 score, e.g. as a background for other scores, or for a later cross-referencing feature:

A field for comments about the score:

The score list

Use the “Add Score” button to add a new, empty score underneath the current one.
“Duplicate" adds a copy, and “Remove" deletes the score from the list. Unfortunately there is not (yet) an Undo function. Use the “Remove” function with care, and save the score often, ideally after finishing every single score!

Hint: Hit the “Save” button and then the browser’s back button to quickly save a score and continue editing it. The Arrow up/down buttons change the position of the score in the list and exchange it with its upper or lower neighbor.

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

Scores in the background of another

A score can be shown in the background of another. All empty cells of the foreground score let the background shine through in a lighter color. This even works with multiple layers. Simply select a background score from the dropdown box in the upper right of the score:
Backgrounds can be used to transcribe variations since only the changes have to be noted down. It also makes it possible to quickly apply the same variation to different backgrounds. The underscore character (“_”) indicates an omission the background note. (Side note: Sometimes lots of underscores confuse the issue more than the variation feature helps. I hope to solve this with a better visualization in the future.)

Hint: I came across a number of transcriptions in the past where it’s not clear whether and which varied notes are meant to be played together, or can be applied independently. I found it a good practice in this tool to generally create a separate score for all notes which are meant to be played together. Except in cases where this leads to lots of scores with just a single change, where I put them into a single score with a comment stating that all variations can be applied independently.

Merging and subtracting scores

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

You can save a new piece with the button at the very bottom of the page, or drop it with the "Discard New Piece" button - or by simply closing the browser tab. No changes or creations become permanent until a Save button is hit, therefore it is recommended to save early and often.
Existing pieces show an additional button to save a copy; in this case the original remains unchanged.
For shared pieces the “Save Changes” and “Save As New Piece” buttons depend on the access rights granted by the piece’s owner. For shared pieces with common write access the app checks whether a piece has been simultaneously edited by more than one user. In this case it suggests to save a copy, so nothing gets accidentally overwritten.

Before saving you should give the piece 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 by the app merely for playback and translation, changing them has no effect on the scores. Only translation changes the actual numbers (and can usually be reversed).

In case you want to use your own notation, simply choose "Other" in the notation chooser.

Checking a piece for typos

After you saved a new piece, you may want to check it for typos. Occasionally the 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 which it cannot translate. Footnotes can easily be located by an asterisk appearing in the respective cell.

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.

Backing up your data

Currently there is no way to directly export data from the web app (bulk export to a number of formats is on the roadmap for future development though.)

If you want to keep a backup copy of your pieces on your computer, most web browsers let you save pages as shown in the browser: Simply choose Save from the File menu, then format "Web page, complete".

The stored web pages still contain the data in HTML tables, and software like Microsoft Word or Excel can open them, as shown below. If you need the tabular data in other contexts, it can be copied from there.

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".
  • Shift transposes the audible piece by shifting each note up or down on the instrument's key range wherever possible, regardless of playing areas. Notes leaving the instrument's range at the lower or upper end are transposed by an octave, back into the range.

    This method occasionally leads to a finger having to play two different notes at the same time.

  • Cycle tries to retain more of the motoric pattern by transposing notes locally within the playing areas (as if each area was its own instrument). (on the mbira dzavadzimu three playing areas are considered: bottom rank, upper left rank including the RT3 key, and right hand side).

    This may result in wider intervals which e.g. break up melodic lines or local patterns.

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 between As instruments differ in key layout, playing techniques and composition styles, automatic translation can only be a starting point for exploration and manual post-editing. As described above, often more than one note ends up in the same playing area.

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 scores 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 rank, seven (sometimes less) in the upper left). For mbiras with additional keys, see mbira dzavadzimu (with extra keys).

Currently there are three notations. They are called

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

  • RI: Keys played with the right index finger
  • RT: Keys played with the right thumb
  • L: Top left thumb rank
  • B: Bottom left thumb rank

Pitch serves as the canonical notation which every other notation can be translated from and to.

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 playing area. 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 rank 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 playing area. 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 playing area. 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
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

  • Position
  • Pitch
  • Pitch+Octaves
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 rank
  • B: Bottom left thumb rank
Pitch serves as the canonical notation which every other notation can be translated from and to.

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 playing area. 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 rank 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 playing area. 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 playing area. 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
  • Pitch.4
  • Pitch+Octaves.4
  • Pitch.1
  • James Kamwaza's Numbering
  • Chaka Chawasarira's Numbering
  • Rattletree Forum Numbering
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 rank
  • RI: Keys played with the right index finger
  • RT: Keys played with the right thumb
  • LI: Left index finger rank
  • L: Top left thumb rank
  • B: Bottom left thumb rank

Pitch.4 serves as the canonical notation which every other notation can be translated from and to.

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 rank 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 playing area. 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 playing area. 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 playing area. 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 playing area. 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 score 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 playing area. 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 score 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 playing area. 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

  • Pitch.4
  • Pitch+Octaves.4
  • Pitch.1
  • Pitch+Octaves.1
All of them employ an additional track for Hosho [down]beats (denoted by a dot ".").

There are five playing areas:

  • LU: Left thumb upper rank
  • LL: Left thumb lower rank
  • RI: Keys in the right upper rank, 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 rank 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.
Pitch.4 serves as the canonical notation which every other notation can be translated from and to.

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 playing area. 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 playing area. 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 playing area. 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 playing area. 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 ranks (see Andrew Tracey's article Mbira Music of Jege A. Tapera).

Currently there are five notations. They are called

  • Pitch.4
  • Pitch+Octaves.4
  • Pitch.1
  • Pitch+Octaves.1
  • Berliner
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 rank
  • LL: Left thumb lower rank
  • RI: Right index finger upper rank
  • RT: Right thumb lower rank
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

Pitch.4 serves as the canonical notation which every other notation can be translated from and to.

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 playing area. 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 playing area. 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 playing area. 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 playing area. 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 playing area. 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

This instrument class represents the nyonganyonga, 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. It is also called Malimba.

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 rank is extended to 5, sometimes up to 7 keys, and the two lowermost left hand keys are missing, so that the LU rank (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

  • Pitch.1
  • Pitch+Octaves.1
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 rank
  • LL: Left thumb lower rank
  • 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).
Pitch.1 serves as the canonical notation which every other notation can be translated to and from.

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 playing area. 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 playing area. 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