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.

If you are a user of the NKI (Kontakt Full) version of SHO, you can upgrade for $26.  For details, please see here.

KONTAKT users: Please note that you are not eligible for this upgrade offer unless you purchased SHO prior to August 4, 2021.

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.
    • NKS ready and Kontakt Player compatible.


$260  $195

Special sale price available until August 25.

Product Specifications

  • Kontakt Player 6.6 and higher.
  • Native Access compatible
  • Data size:2.38 GB

User manual

Carefully captured the sound of each individual pipe.

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.

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).

Innovative articulation mechanism recreates the instrument’s unique playing techniques

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.

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.

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.

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 Tone:Sets the fundamental pitch to either 430 Hz or 440 Hz.

Single Tone: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.

Expressing even the sound of one's breath

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.

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.

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.

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.

Multi-microphone samples

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.

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

MIDI Groove Browser

SHO features the incredibly useful Groove Browser, that lets you quickly find MIDI grooves and drag & drop grooves directly into your DAW.

You can adjust the grooves’ velocity, swing, playback tempo, and other parameters directly from KONTAKT / KOMPLETE KONTROL.

The library comes standard with 18 MIDI grooves, including traditional songs and short phrases that showcase what the instrument is capable of. When combined with the soon-to-be-released Groove Inspirations MIDI pack, the Groove Browser gives you access to an extensive phrase bank.

NKS & Native Access ready

SHO is NKS compatible so it can be used with Kontakt Player, Kontakt Full (Ver. 6.6 or newer), and Komplete Kontrol.

When SHO is linked with a Komplete Kontrol keyboard or other NKS-compatible hardware, you can quickly preview tones and make full use of the hardware’s knobs and controllers.

Product Specifications

FormatFree KONTAKT PLAYER version 6.6 and higher, or KONTAKT version 6.6 and higher.
Data size~2.38 GB NCW format (equivalent to 3.15 GB in wav format)
System RequirementsSee the Native Instruments website for the latest system requirements for KONTAKT and KONTAKT PLAYER.
User manualOnline Manual


Kou Ishikawa

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

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Complete Bundle

All Virtuoso Japanese Series titles, bundled with 10 products.



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