Kuchi shōga notation is written in katakana, a syllabary familiar to all literate Japanese language speakers. Kuchi shōga can be transliterated from katakana to a Latin alphabet using one of the various systems of rōmaji.
Although kuchi shōga does not have a fixed vocabulary, some phoneticizations are ubiquitous. Don typically means a deep, sustained sound from the center of the taiko. Do sometimes represents a short beat that is not allowed to resonate (i.e., one with a short decay). Doko, dogo, or doro means two drum-beats played in rapid succession. Tsu represents a lightly struck note; tsuku implies two soft tsu beats in rapid succession—one on the right side of the drum, the other on the left. Ka means a sharp tap on the rim of the taiko, and kara describes alternate right and left taps.
Taiko players commonly phoneticize a right-handed bachi stroke with don, do, tsu, or ka, respectively; and a reserve kon, ko, ku, and ra for left-handed strokes.
Two voiced syllables are reserved for strokes on the tsuzumi, a drum that is much smaller than the taiko: Ta describes a tap on the side of the drum; pon refers to a stroke on the center of the drumhead.
This is called "kakegoe." If the rest is not sung, the space is often filled with unscripted sounds called kiais. Explicitly assigning words to represent the periods of silence in a song is likely linked to the Japanese concept of ma, where the space between notes is as important as the notes themselves in a performance.
The following is an example of kuchi shōga notation transliterated in rōmaji:
Don (tsu) doko don, don (tsu) don kon, doko don (tsu) don
When played in common time, this sequence constitutes three measures: 1 . 3&4, 1 . 3 4, 1&2 . 4. The sticking, describing which hand the note is played with (R= Right, L=Left), is: R . RLR, R . R L, RLR . R
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