bnr sho s


Virtuoso Japanese Series

Price: $240   

KONTAKT LOGO no nks sSho, the fourth release in the Virtuoso Japanese Series, is now available as a software instrument in Kontakt format.

The sho is free reed musical instrument and one of the three primary woodwind instruments used in gagaku court orchestra music. Consisting of 17 slender bamboo pipes, it is sometimes said to resemble a resting phoenix because of its shape. In antiquity, the sho’s fluid tonal character was associated with light shining down from the heavens.

After completing the world’s first comprehensive sho sampling, Sonica Instruments is proud to add the Sho library to the Virtuoso Japanese Series.


Main Features

  • Peerless recordings of the impeccable sound and technique of famed sho performer Ko Ishikawa
  • Single tones of all 15 pipes* and 11 chords sampled separately in every articulation, making the library applicable to all musical styles from gagaku to contemporary music
  • A detailed analysis of sho playing techniques led to an instrument model that allows playing any combination of the sho’s distinctive tone clusters (chords) and single tones
  • Two key modes, including a traditional fingering mode that replicates actual sho fingering with one key per pipe
  • Pipe Indicator lets the performer see the pipe arrangement of the sho and monitor the current pipes being played
  • Comes with traditional sho Pythagorean tuning, equal temperament tuning, and fully customizable tunings, for seamless coverage of both classical and contemporary scale tones
  • Unique Key Trigger Connection function lets the performer move through a colorful assortment of articulations without ever interrupting the sound
  • Expression control adjusts tone color naturally and continuously without gradations
  • Ensemble selector simulates gagaku ensemble performances with up to three performers
  • The library’s lively yet subtle sounds sampled in full 24 bit 96 kHz fidelity (the library itself contains 24 bit 44.1 kHz samples)
  • Create your own mixes with the multi-microphone samples and a dedicated mixer with individual controls for Direct, Overhead, Room, and Stereo Mix
    *Although the sho has 17 pipes, only 15 pipes actually produce sound
  • You need the Kontakt Full Version.
gui mix

sho07Accomplished performances and meticulous recordings

Ko Ishikawa played the sho for the sampling sessions. Although he performs with a gagaku group, he is equally well versed in contemporary music. Through his exquisite playing, we deconstructed the instrument’s complex structure and carefully captured the sound of each individual pipe.

To recreate the instrument’s singular playing techniques with realism necessitated the development of special articulation mechanisms and interfaces

Performing the sho’s characteristic aitake (tone clusters) and itchiku (single tones)
We designed the Sho interface to enable independent performance of 11 aitake tone clusters (chords), in which multiple pipes are played simultaneously, and itchiku single tones, in which just one pipe is played at a time. The interface also includes independent articulation control.
Chord tones are assigned to keys C2 to F3 (white keys only)
Single tones are assigned to keys G3 to C6

10 GUI 03 tune window.png 2

Pipe Indicator
The Pipe Indicator lets the performer see the pipe arrangement of the sho and monitor the current pipes being played. The pipes are labeled with their traditional note names. When one of the eleven chords is played, the traditional chord name appears in the center. And because the Pipe Indicator works in conjunction with the Scale Tuning boxes (described below), it is very useful for monitoring the note of each pipe with notes on the keyboard.

Key Mode faithfully recreates the instrument’s playing feel
The library comes with two key modes: The Chromatic mode maps the keys to the chromatic scale, and the Trad. Fingering mode maps one white key to one pipe in a way that recreates the feel of real sho fingerings. In the Trad. Fingering mode, placing the fingers of both hands on the 15 white keys is like covering the holes on the 15 pipes. This arrangement not only lets sho performers feel at home with the library; it is also a great aid to learning and understanding the instrument.


Maps tones in the ordinary chromatic order. This allows you to play all notes in the chromatic scale — not just the 15 single tones of the pipes — to suit any type of music.

Trad. Fingering

Maps the 15 single tones to 15 white keys. Pipes played with the left hand are assigned to C4 and lower keys, and pipes played with the right hand are assigned to D4 and higher keys.

11 Key Mode layout e

12 scale tuningScale Tuning

Each chromatic pitch across the sho’s entire register can be individually fine-tuned. Buttons provide easy selection of Pythagorean tuning, used in gagaku music, and equal temperament tuning. It is also possible to create and play custom tunings, which can be saved and recalled.

Chord Tones
Sets the fundamental pitch to either 430 Hz or 440 Hz.

Single Tones
Sets the scale tuning boxes to either 430 Hz Pythagorean tuning, 440 Hz Pythagorean tuning, or 440 Hz equal temperament tuning.
You can fine tune each key starting from these tunings.

Meet the Performer

Ko Ishikawa — Sho Performer

He started playing the sho in 1990 and has performed in music festivals around the world. He is a member of the gagaku troupe Reigakusha and has performed numerous classical gagaku and contemporary pieces.

As a sho soloist, Ko has worked with many musicians and composers and participated in improvisational performances. He has also won rave reviews for his voice, singing saibara songs and other gagaku vocal pieces.

He lectures at Wako University, Gakushuin University, Okinawa Prefectural University of Arts, and Kyushu University and teaches a course in classical Japanese ballads at the Asahi Culture Center, Shinjuku.

Performances in 2016 included Festival fur Aktuelle Klangkunst (Trier), No Idea Festival (Austin), The Empty Gallery (Hong Kong), and Sounds to Summon the Japanese Gods (Japan Society, New York). 2017 performances included In a Winter Garden (Stanford University, California), Yugenism: Animated Soundscapes of the Japanese Sublime (London), and ISCM World New Music Days 2017 (Vancouver).

Official website

GUI play

Key Trigger Connection lets the performer switch playing techniques on the fly without ever interrupting the sound
The sho is known for its seemingly endless flowing tones modified by breathing techniques that produce a wealth of articulations. Most articulations blend from one to another while sustaining the sound. Designed specifically to recreate this playing technique, the Key Trigger Connection lets the performer change between any articulations smoothly and naturally just by hitting the assigned keys while playing.

Expression control adjusts the tonal strength in fine increments
This control gives the performer full flexibility over breath strength.
The expression control makes playing a keyboard feel like a wind controller, giving you access to smooth, dynamic breath expressions despite being sample based.

Blow speed control adjusts the tonal attack
This control adjusts the speed of the tone’s attack by varying the breath speed. When combined with the Expression control, the Blow Speed control unleashes more fluid-sounding performances.

Polyphonic legato
You can enable or disable legato sustain when transitioning from pipe to pipe while playing single tones or when playing additional pipes to add more tones. Using polyphonic legato recreates the distinctive tonal behavior of the sho, a multi-pipe instrument.

Rich assortment of sho articulations
The library contains many articulations recorded with both chord tones and single tones: Straight (exhaled tone / inhaled tone), Flutter (exhaled tone / inhaled tone), Sforzando, Crescendo, Tremolo Slow (exhaled tone / inhaled tone), and Tremolo Fast (exhaled tone / inhaled tone).

ensembleEnsemble selector adds up to three performers
Gagaku court music is performed with multiple performers on each instrument playing in a thick-sounding unison. The Ensemble selector lets you choose from a solo performer or a two-performer or three-performer ensemble. Additional controls adjust the balance between the soloist and the other performers and the spread of their positioning.

Articulation List

Chord Tone articulations
  • Straight (exhaled tone)
  • Straight (inhaled tone)
  • Flutter (exhaled tone)
  • Flutter (inhaled tone)
  • Sforzando
  • Crescendo
  • Tremolo Slow (exhaled tone)
  • Tremolo Slow (inhaled tone)
  • Tremolo Fast (exhaled tone)
  • Tremolo Fast (inhaled tone)

Single Tone articulations
  • Straight (exhaled tone)
  • Straight (inhaled tone)
  • Flutter (exhaled tone)
  • Flutter (inhaled tone)
  • Sforzando
  • Slide-Up

† Chord tones and single tones can be played simultaneously, and their articulations can be selected with independent key switches.

† All articulations can be joined seamlessly with the Key Trigger Connection function.

Audio Mixer

Samples were recorded in three stereo microphone positions — Direct, Overhead, and Room — plus a Stereo Mix. Full mixing control is available, with individual Volume, Stereo Width, Pan, Reverb Send, and EQ adjustments for each channel. Sho also comes with a quality convolution reverb for excellent in-instrument sound creation. The parallel output bus sends the microphone channels to individual DAW tracks for finer mixing sessions.
gui nob

Load Manager

With the load manager, the performer can load just the desired articulations. Skipping unnecessary samples can obtain better performance from the Kontakt engine.
gui articulation


This product is downloaded and installed using the Continuata Connect Download utility.

To safeguard this product from illegal copying and sharing, each purchase is embedded with a unique, non-removable watermark to track piracy.

Native Instruments Kontakt 5.4 Full or newer (Kontakt Player is not supported)

Data size:
2.36 GB in NCW format (equivalent to 3.15 GB in wav format)

Operating system requirements:
Mac OS X 10.10 or newer recommended
Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 10

Intel Core 2 Duo, AMD Athlon 64 X2, or better

A minimum of 4 GB of RAM (6 GB is recommended) is needed on both Mac and Windows systems.

Notes on Using This Product
Native Instruments Kontakt 5.4 or newer (Full version) is required to use this library. (Kontakt Player is not supported.)

Installing the product requires a minimum of 3 GB of free disk space.

Use the recommended Native Instruments Kontakt system requirements at a minimum. Installing the product on a computer with a faster CPU and ample RAM is recommended for optimal library performance.

Important: Online user registration is required in order to use the library.

Sonica Instruments
Virtuoso Japanese Series

Product Code: SNCI 006
Retail price: $240

[Sonica Instruments End User License Agreement]

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