My wife's band, which features the erhu, uses music notation like the page shown below. We want to take hand-written scanned/faxed from stained napkins with bad handwriting and two-side bleedthrough and turn it into neatly typed pages like this. (I've done some work with making it legible in photoshop but some are just beyond that and would be easier to just retype)

She used to have a "word processor" for this notation, but it got lost at some point and perhaps it would not run on a modern Win7-x64 machine anyway.

What is this number notation called in English (anyone know?), and is there software for editing it?

sheet music sample

  • NoteAbility Pro is able to create and edit JianPu scores as well as convert between JianPu and western notation.
    – Aaron
    Feb 15, 2021 at 6:17

4 Answers 4


This is "JianPu" or "numbered musical notation". Wikipedia on Jianpu mentions some software tools, but most of them seem to require knowledge of chinese (since that notation system is mostly used in china). A (quite old but free) tool is "S-Music". Simp-Erhu is another free tool, but it requires MS Word.

There's also a comparison of four free Jianpu notation tools online. It compares S-Music, Simp-Erhu, "MUPA" and "MeiDeLi". Since i don't know mandarin, i can't provide a link for the latter two. Some more information is available in this musescore form thread.


I'd just look for Jianpu.

Maybe this page showing a utility for use with LilyPond helps?


as others have pointed out, JianPu choices are indeed limited. Most of them are lacking in features, or look really terrible (which can be distracting when playing). There was promise in 2011 when someone wanted to bring about JianPu support for MuseScore, but sadly it never came to reality. Hopefully in the future there'll be more widespread support for JianPu, but personally I highly doubt it - many professional Chinese emsembles have taken to Staff notation so there is a lack of demand for proprietary WYSIWYG editors (IMHO).

Since you're scribing for erhu, Simp-Erhu would be ideal because the formatting is acceptable and the symbols representing instrument techniques are available. Of course, as aforementioned, this comes with the downside of needing MS Word.

Personally, I'd scribe JianPu by hand myself after printing out templates. This method is much much faster than any editor to my knowledge (since it requires no fiddling and is WYSIWYG), and is much easier to make legible than Staff notation. For templates, it varies from person to person; I've seen a myriad ranging form foolscap to grids made using tables in MS Word (my personal favourite; attached) to dotted lines.

I do speak (and write) Mandarin Chinese, so I could help you with editors mentioned by others if you'd like. Personally I'd rather choose to scribe them by hand simply because this is a case where it's easier to do so (as compared to with Staff notation where WYSIWYG editors are aplenty and easy to use AND yeilds great results).

made using tables in MS Word


This question was asked 8 years ago, but is still relevant. There are a few other tools available:

  1. Notability Pro (mentioned in a comment above) - available for Mac (free) and iPad (small fee). It's quite an advanced notation editor, and can do Jianpu (numbered) notation quite well. It can also convert between western and Jianpu. You can play back scores in Jianpu also. There was a small bug on the iPad version which caused a crash on playback of numbered notation. I reported it, and it was fixed within a few weeks. So that's a good sign.

  2. EOP NMN Master (Everyone Piano - Numbered Music Notation) - available for Windows 7 to 11 (free). A fairly simple program, but seems to have most of what is needed for Jianpu. Can open it's own native format, and also Midi. Can play back numbered notation, and export as Midi.

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