Study of Noh chanting (Utai) for composers

From 2010, a Noh performer, Ryoko Aoki, has organised "Noh×Contemporary Music" to commission international composers to write new pieces for Noh voice. So far, she has premiered 16 pieces in this series and she released her debut CD "Noh×Contemporary Music" in 2014. 

In Noh we have our own traditional notation of Noh chanting, but it is not easy to understand unless you practice Noh. In this project, we explain what the basis of Noh chanting is and how to notate them in both Japanese and English online, in order to share them with composers all over the world. 

written by Ryoko Aoki, Noriko Koide, Noriko Baba
supported by The Japan Foundation Asia Center, Nomura Foundation

About Noh

What is Noh? Introduction to Noh & Kyogen 

The Noh.com



The "doer" who is the principle actor (and character) in a Noh play, sometimes called the protagonist. Shite that wear Noh masks are women, old men and women, ghosts, demons, deities, and children. With a tiny number of exceptions, living (or supposedly living) men, such as priests and warriors, do not wear masks (hitamen). The shite often is accompanied by tsure, tomo and kokata (a child actor). Ths shite schools supply the stage assistants and the member of the chorus (jiutai).


The "side person" in Noh who serves as the secondary or supporting actor (and character) to the shite, and who may be referred to as the antagonist to the shite's protagonist. The waki, always an unmasked male, normally represents the objective position of the audience, asking questions of the shite.


Nô-kan (Flute)
Ko-tsuzumi (Shoulder-drum)
Ô-tsuzumi (Hip-drum)
Taiko (Stick-drum)



Introduction to Noh & Kyogen


Shite - Kanze, Hôshô, Konparu, Kongô, Kita
Waki - Hôshô, Fukuô, Takayasu
Musicians -  Nô-kan (Flute) - Morita, Issô, Fujita
                   Ko-tsuzumi (Shoulder-drum) - Kanze, Kô, Kôsei, Ôkura
                   Ô-tsuzumi (Hip-drum) - Kadono, Takayasu, Ishii, Ôkura, Kanze
                   Taiko (Stick-drum) - Kanze, Konparu
Kyôgen - Ôkura, Izumi

The Noh.com : shite 

The Noh.com : roles

Types of Noh plays

There are five types of Noh plays categorized by the leading role.

First Group : god
Second Group : male
Third Group : woman
Fourth Group : madness
Fifth Group : demon

Introduction to Noh & Kyogen 

The Noh.com

The Component of Noh

Jo (beginning) [Waki] Shidai, Kotoba (words), Michiyuki (road travel)
Ha (break)    [Shite] Issei, Sashi, Sage-uta (sage-song), Age-uta (age-song)
           Kotoba (words), Kakaru, Ji-age-uta (chorus-age-song)
           Kuri, Sashi, Kuse, Rongi
Kyu (rapid)   [Shite] Sashi, Mai (dance), Kiri

Useful links

Introduction to Noh & Kyogen 
The Noh.com 

Movies (experts)
Introduction to Noh & Kyogen : Izutsu
Japan Arts Council website (Japanese) : Tadanori
Japan Arts Council website (Japanese) : Izutsu
Japan Arts Council website (Japanese) : Sumidagawa
Japan Arts Council website (Japanese) : Aoinoue
Japan Arts Council website (Japanese) : Funabenkei