Over the summer, I transcribed Ajigasawa Jinku from one of Kyle Abbot’s demo video into Shamisen tab. Recently, I helped a Bachido member to transcribe Tsugaru Jyongarabushi (Old) from an album of Takahashi Chikuzan. These two pieces are not rigorous, and are very manageable to transcribe into Finale. Every time I transcribe, I would play around a little bit, just to make sure the fingering and ornamental patterns (i.e. hijiki) make sense for a smooth playing. Chikuzan‘s piece has a few unfamiliar patterns, but they were quite alright. After finishing the draft, I practiced a bit more, and realized I was more than half way through learning the piece. It must be due to repetitive listening and thinking during the transcription process, that have enforced mental practice of the piece already.
After finishing these two transcriptions, I realized that I have gained a new skill to put into my musical resume. Transcribing Shamisen music, and input into Finale, that is not a common skill. Finale is relatively easy to learn compare to learning the Shamisen. Tablature writing also requires knowledge of playing the instrument, therefore I conclude I have acquired a rare skill.
Among the community, people have been resenting about the cost of Finale; I cannot blame them, because Finale is a professional software. As a result, much effort has been turned to developing ways to create free shamisen tablatures, such as implementing Muscore. Effort has also been made to automatically transcribe between tablatures and traditional 5-line notation. This, however, have conceivable limitations. Transcribing tablature out of video is a luxury, as one could observe bachi movement and techniques. With audio-only sources, one must make more aesthetic choices on ambiguities.
My skepticism might be a result of my conservatory musical training. Such training is sometimes being held a grudge against, because conservatory trained musicians seemed arrogant. Conservatory students are exposed to a system of organized curriculum in their major area, music history, theory, biography, philosophy, and aesthetics. I believe most conservatory trained musicians are not arrogant; they are just more informed, and are enlightened by music. For it is certainly a privilege to study music, it is also very difficult to describe the feeling of being enlightened.