Discussion:
simplifying chromatic scale notation
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musicus
2016-01-25 21:19:48 UTC
Permalink
Dear Lilyponders,

I just struggled with studying a complex music piece and thought that
all the chromatic lines are horrible to read in standard notation.
Especially the "enharmonic problem" is distracting the musician from a
very simple musical structure. So I tried some of my ideas and can
present one, which is IMO good to read.

See attached. Comments, suggestions are very welcome ;)

Best regards
musicus
Simon Albrecht
2016-01-25 21:38:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by musicus
I just struggled with studying a complex music piece and thought that
all the chromatic lines are horrible to read in standard notation.
Especially the "enharmonic problem" is distracting the musician from a
very simple musical structure. So I tried some of my ideas and can
present one, which is IMO good to read.
See attached. Comments, suggestions are very welcome ;)
Reminds me of Clairnote, a more radical approach, which has also been
realised with LilyPond: <http://clairnote.org/>.

Best, Simon
Paul Morris
2016-01-26 05:43:30 UTC
Permalink
Reminds me of Clairnote, a more radical approach, which has also been realised with LilyPond: <http://clairnote.org/>.
Thanks Simon, I guess that’s my cue? :-) For anyone interested, check out the attached pdf.

In short... in Clairnote the staff positions represent the notes of the chromatic scale. There are three space notes / positions between adjacent lines. (Adjacent lines are always 4 semitones / a major 3rd apart.) Hollow and solid notes help convey pitch and interval relationships. Half notes get a double stem to distinguish them from quarter notes. No need to memorize key signatures. Intervals are easy to see. Notes an octave apart look similar because the staff repeats with every octave, so no different clefs to learn. Etc
.

Oh and if anyone is curious about the (alternative) accidental signs, they are documented here: http://clairnote.org/accidental-signs/

If nothing else it’s a testament to LilyPond’s extensibility and just how far you can go with some Scheme!

Also, Clairnote is just one variation on this theme. You can see a lot of similar systems on the Music Notation Project’s site. Some are much less of a radical departure.
http://musicnotation.org/systems/gallery/

Cheers,
-Paul
Chris Yate
2016-01-26 10:40:45 UTC
Permalink
Wow. Clairnote looks like an incredibly stupid idea, and a grand disservice
to any poor child who you teach to read it. Simplified notation is not a
lot better.

Unless they spend their lives playing on their own at home, musicians have
eventually to play with other people who will have learnt a method of
notation that's been good for 400 years.

Chris
Post by Simon Albrecht
I just struggled with studying a complex music piece and thought that all
the chromatic lines are horrible to read in standard notation. Especially
the "enharmonic problem" is distracting the musician from a very simple
musical structure. So I tried some of my ideas and can present one, which
is IMO good to read.
See attached. Comments, suggestions are very welcome ;)
Reminds me of Clairnote, a more radical approach, which has also been
realised with LilyPond: <http://clairnote.org/>.
Best, Simon
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David Kastrup
2016-01-26 12:40:18 UTC
Permalink
Post by Chris Yate
Wow. Clairnote looks like an incredibly stupid idea, and a grand
disservice to any poor child who you teach to read it. Simplified
notation is not a lot better.
Unless they spend their lives playing on their own at home, musicians
have eventually to play with other people who will have learnt a
method of notation that's been good for 400 years.
You could say the same about tablature. Obviously, it has its place.
Even Bach wrote stuff for lute tablature.
--
David Kastrup
Thomas Morley
2016-01-26 20:25:37 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Kastrup
Post by Chris Yate
Wow. Clairnote looks like an incredibly stupid idea, and a grand
disservice to any poor child who you teach to read it. Simplified
notation is not a lot better.
Unless they spend their lives playing on their own at home, musicians
have eventually to play with other people who will have learnt a
method of notation that's been good for 400 years.
You could say the same about tablature. Obviously, it has its place.
Even Bach wrote stuff for lute tablature.
--
David Kastrup
For the record.
There are some lute tablatures of Bach's works for lute, namely for
BWV 995, 997, 1000.
But for some of them it's sure Bach didn't wrote the tablature
himself, for others it's quite unlikely.
Ofcourse this is a sidenote, not meant to challenge your argument.
Replace Bach with S.L.Weiss (or other lute-players/composers) and
you're right anyway.

Cheers,
Harm
Sharon Rosner
2016-01-26 21:04:44 UTC
Permalink
Post by Thomas Morley
Post by David Kastrup
You could say the same about tablature. Obviously, it has its place.
Even Bach wrote stuff for lute tablature.
...
There are some lute tablatures of Bach's works for lute, namely for
BWV 995, 997, 1000.
But for some of them it's sure Bach didn't wrote the tablature
himself, for others it's quite unlikely.
FWIW tablature was a very popular notation system for lutes and viols, from
late 16th to early 18th century, especially in England, France and Germany.
Lute/viol tablature is actually a very good fit for the nature of the
instrument because these are solo instruments with a range of 3, 4 or more
octaves. Using staff notation, notating a chord spanning 3 and a half
octaves would normally necessitate using 2 staves, like in keyboard music,
but unlike keyboards on the lute and viol the hands are not independent of
each other. So tablature is actually a great solution.

There's also this substantial and sadly practically unknown repertoire for
the lyra-viol, which employed some 30-odd different tunings. Using tablature
allowed players to easily switch between the different tunings without
thinking about fingering.

If you look at music for the modern classical guitar, you'll it's notated
one octave above sounding pitch, just so the music would be centred more or
less on the staff, but every time there's a 6-string chord you get these
enormous ladders extending above and below the staff. But then again, you
don't hear any guitarists complaining...

Apart from lute tablature there's of course also organ tablature, which was
more or less a local north-german phenomenon, but which held at least from
the 15th century through the late 17th. In organ tablature pitches are
notated using letters, bearing a vague resemblance to lilypond code
actually. A good portion of Buxtehude's organ music is notated in tablature,
as well as some of his sacred vocal music. Parts of Bach's Orgelbüchlein are
also notated in tablature. As to why the practice existed, it's not very
clear but one can guess that tablature was a fast way of writing music at
the keyboard - no need for drawing staves and a each note requires a single
stroke, instead of drawing note heads, stems, beams etc. It is also very
economical for homophonic music.

Sharon





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Paul Morris
2016-01-26 16:00:51 UTC
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Unless they spend their lives playing on their own at home, musicians have eventually to play with other people who will have learnt a method of notation that's been good for 400 years.
Yikes, it’s not that grim. One can always:

1. Learn to read more than one system. (Bilingualism is not a bad thing, even for kids.)

2. Bring your own sheet music in your preferred system.

I do both. LilyPond and this whole digital media thing make #2 much easier. But I agree that opt-in is the best way. So yes, teach children to read the traditional system. Learning another one should be extra and by choice.

Cheers,
-Paul
Kieren MacMillan
2016-01-25 21:40:56 UTC
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Hi musicus,

This may just be the result of forty years of performing and composing in the Western notation system (it’s always hard to overcome that kind of inertia)… but I find it easier to read the standard notation than your suggested alternative.

Best,
Kieren.
________________________________

Kieren MacMillan, composer
‣ website: www.kierenmacmillan.info
‣ email: ***@kierenmacmillan.info
David Kastrup
2016-01-26 00:30:54 UTC
Permalink
Post by Kieren MacMillan
Hi musicus,
This may just be the result of forty years of performing and composing
in the Western notation system (it’s always hard to overcome that kind
of inertia)… but I find it easier to read the standard notation than
your suggested alternative.
For "Western" music, I definitely have to agree. For
dodecaphonic/serial music, I can imagine a more chromatic notation
making sense. You'd still have to get the performers trained, though.

I remember some composition competition in Bochum where a winning or
placed entry (from the previous year?) was to be performed by a good
choir, and it had a ridiculous number of voice splits and rather
audacious tonality, and the choir ended up with most of the choir
members using tuning forks while performing.

With this kind of not-too-longish preparation from semi-professionals, a
different notation is not going to be helpful.
--
David Kastrup
musicus
2016-01-25 23:05:02 UTC
Permalink
@Simon: I was not aware of Clairnote, but that direction was not my
intention...

@Kieren: I agree with you regarding reading...
my point is that this notation could help to understand and remember the
structure.
Especially in modern/ contemporary music there are many cases with
limited justification for complicated notation .
"THIS is soo simple, why didn't the composer use an easy way to notate
it, so that i don't have to put so much effort in reading and learning
it??"


Attached a short excerpt of Liszt's Mephisto waltz... Maybe you cannot
play this without calculating a bit, but you definitily will get the
anomaly of the line immediately.
Urs Liska
2016-01-25 23:24:29 UTC
Permalink
Post by musicus
@Simon: I was not aware of Clairnote, but that direction was not my
intention...
@Kieren: I agree with you regarding reading...
my point is that this notation could help to understand and remember
the structure.
Especially in modern/ contemporary music there are many cases with
limited justification for complicated notation .
"THIS is soo simple, why didn't the composer use an easy way to notate
it, so that i don't have to put so much effort in reading and learning
it??"
Attached a short excerpt of Liszt's Mephisto waltz... Maybe you cannot
play this without calculating a bit, but you definitily will get the
anomaly of the line immediately.
This is a perfect example why I severely doubt this works.
It is immediately clear that (e.g.) the second measure features a
*scale* with a d sharp somewhere. But which notes *exactly* are to be
played is totally unclear.
The notation suggest as much that the second measure starts with an a as
it suggests an ais. And if I look at that sequence I would immediately
say that between the third and fourth note there is a whole tone and not
a semi-tone.

The main problem is that I have to *estimate* where the "notehead" is
printed and what that means. And if that's intentional or inexact. This
definitely does *not* make it easier to read, quite the contrary: it
adds ambiguity and room for misreading. This notation looks like (and
would IMO be more appropriate for) an inexact and somewhat aleatoric
notation where the written notes only approximate the intended "outline"
of a melody.
Not giving a pitch an exact position (such as *on* or *between* staff
lines) guarantees ambiguity.

A much more consistent approach to what you suggest would be (as was
discussed recently) a notation where each chromatic pitch has its own
place on the staff, i.e. a system with more lines. This is unambiguous -
but I doubt that it makes reading easier either.

My 2cts
Urs
Post by musicus
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David Kastrup
2016-01-26 00:34:42 UTC
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Post by musicus
@Simon: I was not aware of Clairnote, but that direction was not my
intention...
@Kieren: I agree with you regarding reading...
my point is that this notation could help to understand and remember
the structure.
Especially in modern/ contemporary music there are many cases with
limited justification for complicated notation .
"THIS is soo simple, why didn't the composer use an easy way to notate
it, so that i don't have to put so much effort in reading and learning
it??"
Attached a short excerpt of Liszt's Mephisto waltz... Maybe you cannot
play this without calculating a bit, but you definitily will get the
anomaly of the line immediately.
I suggest you try this on "Entry of the Gladiators" by Fučik. The lines
will look very straightforward, but I suspect performers, particularly
on "continuous" instruments like voice, theremin or trombone(?) would
lose track of the tonality exactly because of that.
--
David Kastrup
musicus
2016-01-26 01:44:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Kastrup
I suggest you try this on "Entry of the Gladiators" by Fučik. The
lines
will look very straightforward, but I suspect performers, particularly
on "continuous" instruments like voice, theremin or trombone(?) would
lose track of the tonality exactly because of that.
--
David Kastrup
Maybe there is a problem for some instruments to find the right pitch
(especially for those with pitch perfect), but i don't think that they
are focussing on every single note in a chromatic scale.
From my experience as a musician i'd say, some "normally" notatet notes
for orientation should be enough to solve this problem.
The omission of many distractions (accidentals, "false" notehead
position) weighs more, IMO.

musicus
Paul Morris
2016-01-26 05:35:44 UTC
Permalink
Post by musicus
See attached. Comments, suggestions are very welcome ;)
Hi musicus,

I think you’re right that standard notation is not as good as it could be for such chromatic music, and you have an interesting approach for improving it. I agree with what others have said about the ambiguity of the notes though.

One idea would be to use triangle shapes for the accidental notes to better clarify their relation to the “natural” or rather in-the-key, non-accidental, notes. Like a diatonic-staff version of Reed’s Twinline:
http://musicnotation.org/system/twinline-notation-by-thomas-reed/

Although, I’m not sure how that would work with sharp or flat notes in a given key... (are they ovals or triangles?)

BTW, is there a standard term for non-accidental notes? You would think it would be “natural notes” but sometimes natural notes are also accidental notes.

Cheers,
-Paul
Nathan Ho
2016-01-26 06:50:44 UTC
Permalink
Post by Kieren MacMillan
Post by musicus
See attached. Comments, suggestions are very welcome ;)
Hi musicus,
I think you’re right that standard notation is not as good as it
could be for such chromatic music, and you have an interesting
approach for improving it. I agree with what others have said about
the ambiguity of the notes though.
One idea would be to use triangle shapes for the accidental notes to
better clarify their relation to the “natural” or rather
in-the-key, non-accidental, notes. Like a diatonic-staff version of
http://musicnotation.org/system/twinline-notation-by-thomas-reed/ [1]
There's http://www.simplifiedmusicnotation.org/. They offer a commercial
plugin for Sibelius, but I also have a LilyPond implementation for it
lying around somewhere.


Nathan
Chris Yate
2016-01-26 10:35:59 UTC
Permalink
Post by Paul Morris
One idea would be to use triangle shapes for the accidental notes to
better clarify their relation to the “natural” or rather in-the-key,
http://musicnotation.org/system/twinline-notation-by-thomas-reed/
Although, I’m not sure how that would work with sharp or flat notes in a
given key... (are they ovals or triangles?)
BTW, is there a standard term for non-accidental notes? You would think
it would be “natural notes” but sometimes natural notes are also accidental
notes.
In a chromatic scale, what are the accidental notes? They're certainly NOT
notes with a sharp or flat, since you may already be in a key signature
with those notes.

Chris
Paul Morris
2016-01-26 15:58:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by Paul Morris
BTW, is there a standard term for non-accidental notes? You would think it would be “natural notes” but sometimes natural notes are also accidental notes.
In a chromatic scale, what are the accidental notes? They're certainly NOT notes with a sharp or flat, since you may already be in a key signature with those notes.
Well, right, that is my point. Accidental notes are notes that aren’t in the current key (signature). These are different distinctions:

1. sharp/flat notes & natural notes

2. notes not in the key (accidental notes) & notes in the key (???)

I don’t know that there's any term that’s the complement to “accidental notes” (besides writing out “notes in the key”).

-Paul
Urs Liska
2016-01-26 16:00:08 UTC
Permalink
Post by Paul Morris
BTW, is there a standard term for non-accidental notes? You
would think it would be “natural notes” but sometimes natural
notes are also accidental notes.
In a chromatic scale, what are the accidental notes? They're
certainly NOT notes with a sharp or flat, since you may already be in
a key signature with those notes.
Well, right, that is my point. Accidental notes are notes that aren’t
1. sharp/flat notes & natural notes
2. notes not in the key (accidental notes) & notes in the key (???)
I don’t know that there's any term that’s the complement to
“accidental notes” (besides writing out “notes in the key”).
Something with "alterated"?
-Paul
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Kieren MacMillan
2016-01-26 16:14:16 UTC
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Hi all,
I don’t know that there's any term that’s the complement to “accidental notes” (besides writing out “notes in the key”).
Most people I know use “diatonic” — though it’s inaccurate a lot of the time.

What about “signatured”? =)

Best,
Kieren.

________________________________

Kieren MacMillan, composer
‣ website: www.kierenmacmillan.info
‣ email: ***@kierenmacmillan.info
David Kastrup
2016-01-26 16:24:56 UTC
Permalink
Post by Kieren MacMillan
Hi all,
I don’t know that there's any term that’s the complement to
“accidental notes” (besides writing out “notes in the key”).
Most people I know use “diatonic” — though it’s inaccurate a lot of the time.
What about “signatured”? =)
"in-key"?
--
David Kastrup
Paul Morris
2016-01-27 01:39:34 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Kastrup
"in-key"?
Hmmm, yeah, that works and is clear. I think I’ll start using that.

Thanks,
-Paul
Malte Meyn
2016-01-26 07:21:53 UTC
Permalink
Post by musicus
See attached. Comments, suggestions are very welcome ;)
I see some problems for pianists:

1. I like to know where exactly I am at a given time. For example I’d
like to know “c sharp on second beat” or “thumb on e sharp”. This is
very useful in complex pieces like Sergey Taneyev’s prelude and fugue in
g sharp minor op. 29.

2. Such an even notation doesn’t match well with the uneven keyboard. In
our traditional system there are seven note positions per octave and
seven white keys per octave, not twelve equal keys ;) This unevenness is
necessary for fingerings.

(2a. This is also why I don’t really like Clairnote, Twinline, and
similar systems; though they might be good for symmetrical keyboards
like the Jankó keyboard or the keyboard of a chromatic button accordion.
Apart from that, I personally find Clairnote ugly. The white noteheads
always look badly positioned to me.)

Attached you can see my thoughts on three measures of left hand of
Taneyev’s already mentioned fugue. Black are thoughts on the scales, red
thoughts on getting both hands together. If you look closely you’ll also
notice

3. Harmonic context: Many of the notes make some harmonic sense when
combined with the right hand. This would be lost completely with your
system.
David Kastrup
2016-01-26 09:35:04 UTC
Permalink
Post by musicus
See attached. Comments, suggestions are very welcome ;)
1. I like to know where exactly I am at a given time. For example I’d
like to know “c sharp on second beat” or “thumb on e sharp”. This is
very useful in complex pieces like Sergey Taneyev’s prelude and fugue in
g sharp minor op. 29.
2. Such an even notation doesn’t match well with the uneven keyboard. In
our traditional system there are seven note positions per octave and
seven white keys per octave, not twelve equal keys ;) This unevenness is
necessary for fingerings.
(2a. This is also why I don’t really like Clairnote, Twinline, and
similar systems; though they might be good for symmetrical keyboards
like the Jankó keyboard or the keyboard of a chromatic button
accordion.
CBA player here. The problem I see is more one that such "even
notation" doesn't match well with our standard tonalities. Play a C
major scale. Now do an accompaniment in "Küchenmädchenterzen", namely
just play the same melody a third up or a sixth below.

Now write down what you just did in any chromatic notation and try
understanding its irregular patterns of major and minor intervals.
--
David Kastrup
Paul Morris
2016-01-26 16:00:17 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Kastrup
CBA player here. The problem I see is more one that such "even
notation" doesn't match well with our standard tonalities. Play a C
major scale. Now do an accompaniment in "Küchenmädchenterzen", namely
just play the same melody a third up or a sixth below.
You mean like a modal transposition, where you stay in the same scale / key but just start the melody from a different note, right?
Post by David Kastrup
Now write down what you just did in any chromatic notation and try
understanding its irregular patterns of major and minor intervals.
This is a fair point. Partly that's because such systems are optimized more for reading than writing (especially writing in a diatonic tonality / scale / key).

If the music is already written out, then you can easily see and understand the pattern of major and minor intervals, and with experience would learn to recognize that it’s the same melody just at a different place in the scale.

In Clairnote you know which notes are in the key because there are (alternative) accidental signs that indicate when notes are accidentals (i.e. not in the key). Also, Clairnote's key signatures help by showing the notes in the current key / scale, a reminder and aide when reading and writing.

Cheers,
-Paul
musicus
2016-01-26 09:49:30 UTC
Permalink
Dear Paul,

I really admire the effort and courage of alternative notation systems,
but I cannot see a reasonable improvement in this case. I don't think
it's a good idea to remove all great advantages, which our standard
notation system has. IMO, there are only a few problems to be solved -
chromatic scales are one of them - with as little as possible
interfering with the remaining music.

Especially the Liszt example doesn't gain a lot in your version, i'd say
;)
Is the left hand correct? (I didn't check out the rules entirely...)
It looks very strange to me...
Paul Morris
2016-01-26 16:37:07 UTC
Permalink
I really admire the effort and courage of alternative notation systems, but I cannot see a reasonable improvement in this case. I don't think it's a good idea to remove all great advantages, which our standard notation system has. IMO, there are only a few problems to be solved - chromatic scales are one of them - with as little as possible interfering with the remaining music.
Thanks for your thoughts. All systems have advantages and disadvantages, tradeoffs and presuppositions, things they emphasize and de-emphasize, obscure and reveal.

I mainly play guitar (no white and black key distinction) so I think that’s probably why Clairnote and its approach appeals to me.
Especially the Liszt example doesn't gain a lot in your version, i'd say ;)
Is the left hand correct? (I didn't check out the rules entirely...)
It looks very strange to me...
Yes it is correct. (Note how you can see the ascending and descending chromatic lines in the highest and lowest notes.)

Cheers,
-Paul
Sharon Rosner
2016-01-26 12:06:25 UTC
Permalink
I just struggled with studying a complex music piece and thought that all
the chromatic lines are horrible
to read in standard notation.
and later
Maybe there is a problem for some instruments to find the right pitch
(especially for those with pitch
perfect), but i don't think that they are focussing on every single note
in a chromatic scale.
This last bit made me laugh out loud. Well I guess some musicians do not
really feel like focusing on every single note. The good ones do though.

But seriously, I see no reason to change a system which works so well for so
many different kinds of music. All these alternative systems, I don't see
what advantage they offer. On the contrary, there are many downsides -
they're unsuitable for keyboards, unsuitable for tonal music, unsuitable for
music in unequal temperament, unsuitable for microtonal music, require
relearning how to read music, make transposition harder. So what's the
point?

Sharon



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Chris Yate
2016-01-26 12:17:05 UTC
Permalink
Post by Sharon Rosner
But seriously, I see no reason to change a system which works so well for so
many different kinds of music. All these alternative systems, I don't see
what advantage they offer. On the contrary, there are many downsides -
they're unsuitable for keyboards, unsuitable for tonal music, unsuitable for
music in unequal temperament, unsuitable for microtonal music, require
relearning how to read music, make transposition harder. So what's the
point?
Sharon
Well, quite. Although I can see the benefit of some simplified notation
for chromatic runs, that would only be appropriate for certain types of
music. As it is, you will occasionally see a line between two notes in
modern music, with the explanation that you're supposed to play gliss /
chromatic scales.

But the Simplified Notation says on its website:

"Simplified Music Notation eliminates the need to make constant ‘mental
translations’ for accidentals and key signatures. Players no longer have to
remember the key signature or accidentals, because all flats and sharps are
represented by their own unique symbols."

Right. So all those annoying sharps and flats go away. To be replaced with
weird shaped blobs. So we lose all the advantage of a key signature, which
is designed to simplify the music by hiding implicit "black notes" (for
they are not accidentals). Clairnote uses "white notes" to achieve the
same increase in visual noise.

I'm sure it's a fine idea if all you play is pieces in C major, but
realistically, it's solving a problem that isn't really there.

Chris
David Kastrup
2016-01-26 12:45:58 UTC
Permalink
Post by Sharon Rosner
But seriously, I see no reason to change a system which works so well
for so many different kinds of music. All these alternative systems, I
don't see what advantage they offer. On the contrary, there are many
downsides - they're unsuitable for keyboards,
Piano keyboards. Chromatic button accordions would likely benefit, as
would Janko keyboards.
Post by Sharon Rosner
unsuitable for tonal music,
Not "unsuitable" as much as intransparent. It's harder to see the
tonality.
Post by Sharon Rosner
unsuitable for music in unequal temperament, unsuitable for microtonal
music, require relearning how to read music, make transposition
harder.
"make transposition harder"? Of all the disadvantages to attribute to
equally-spaced notation systems, this one seems like an unlikely
candidate. It's one of their redeeming features.
--
David Kastrup
Sharon Rosner
2016-01-26 13:18:39 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Kastrup
"make transposition harder"? Of all the disadvantages to attribute to
equally-spaced notation systems,
Post by David Kastrup
this one seems like an unlikely candidate. It's one of their redeeming
features.
Of all alternative systems discussed on this thread, the only one which is
really appropriate for transposition is the "Lines a Whole Step Apart"
system (http://musicnotation.org/systems/gallery/). There it is just a
matter of moving the clef or switching the clef.

The rest of them use either special note shapes for sharps/flats
("Clairnote", "Simplified notation"), which is not any better for
transposition, or special note shapes for the in-between notes ("Twinline
Notation").

The OP's system uses Four vertical positions between staff lines (including
on-the-line). How do you transpose that by half a step?

In contrast, in traditional notation you can easily transpose by moving or
changing the clef and changing the key signature. Admittedly this is harder
today with the modern accidental display practice (displayed once per bar),
but 300 years ago musicians were able to do this on sight by imagining an
alternative clef and key signature. See also the practice of Chiavette or
chiavi transportate - transposition clefs.

And, this works for both transposing by a semitone or by a fifth.

Sharon



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Paul Morris
2016-01-26 16:13:13 UTC
Permalink
Post by Sharon Rosner
Of all alternative systems discussed on this thread, the only one which is
really appropriate for transposition is the "Lines a Whole Step Apart"
system (http://musicnotation.org/systems/gallery/). There it is just a
matter of moving the clef or switching the clef.
The rest of them use either special note shapes for sharps/flats
("Clairnote", "Simplified notation"), which is not any better for
transposition, or special note shapes for the in-between notes ("Twinline
Notation").
The OP's system uses Four vertical positions between staff lines (including
on-the-line). How do you transpose that by half a step?
I see what you’re saying. Seems to me that transposing on the fly is generally not an easy thing to do in any case, without a lot of practice.

Transposing by an octave is actually really easy in Clairnote. Transposing by a major 3rd (or minor 6th) would be as easy as transposing by a semitone in a “Lines a Whole Step Apart” system, since the lines are that far apart. Transposing by a whole step would be next easiest, but...

Ultimately, I think you would learn to read and play by intervals and do it that way. Making it easier to read by intervals is a strength of these systems.
Post by Sharon Rosner
In contrast, in traditional notation you can easily transpose by moving or
changing the clef and changing the key signature.
Well, there’s a lot of work that goes into getting to the point where this is easy.
Post by Sharon Rosner
Admittedly this is harder
today with the modern accidental display practice (displayed once per bar),
but 300 years ago musicians were able to do this on sight by imagining an
alternative clef and key signature. See also the practice of Chiavette or
chiavi transportate - transposition clefs.
Hmmm… Seems like this primarily works for music without accidentals. Does it really work when you have a lot of accidentals?

Say a note that was a natural in the first key is a sharp in the new key… in the music that note appears altered by a sharp sign… you have to read that sharp sign as if it were a double sharp sign.

Or, say a note was a sharp in the first key, but is a natural in the second key… and that note appears in the music altered by a natural sign… you have to read that natural sign as a flat sign.

Or am I missing something?

-Paul

P.S. To musicus, apologies that this conversation has expanded beyond your proposal… It seems I have a lot to say on this topic. I’ll try to pipe down...
Sharon Rosner
2016-01-26 17:01:59 UTC
Permalink
Post by Paul Morris
Hmmm… Seems like this primarily works for music without accidentals. Does
it really work when you
Post by Paul Morris
have a lot of accidentals?
Of course this practice is made for tonal music, but I've known musicians
who could sight read and transpose entire scores. It's just a question of
having the chops.
Post by Paul Morris
Say a note that was a natural in the first key is a sharp in the new key…
in the music that note appears
altered by a sharp sign… you have to read that sharp sign as if it were a
double sharp sign.
Or, say a note was a sharp in the first key, but is a natural in the
second key… and that note appears in
the music altered by a natural sign… you have to read that natural sign
as a flat sign.
Or am I missing something?
Let me give you two examples:

A diatonic chord:

<Loading Image...>

transposed up a semitone:

<Loading Image...>

And a bit of chromatic music:

<Loading Image...>

transposed down a *triton*:

<Loading Image...>

So you see, it's quite a straight-forward a technique. Yes, accidental
translation can be tricky, but with practice it becomes second nature. And
again, 300 years ago it was considered a basic skill for any musician worth
his salt, it's just modern musicians that are handicapped.

Sharon



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Hans Åberg
2016-01-26 21:17:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by Sharon Rosner
So you see, it's quite a straight-forward a technique. Yes, accidental
translation can be tricky, but with practice it becomes second nature. And
again, 300 years ago it was considered a basic skill for any musician worth
his salt, it's just modern musicians that are handicapped.
One way to learn it might be to try out the file diatonic.ck [1] I wrote for ChucK [2]. It starts up in quarter-comma extended meantone, setting the major third to the rational interval 5/4, though one can easily choose another tuning.

One plays on the typing keyboard in a 2-dimensional layout, corresponding to the two generators of the staff notation system, then. A transpose is then same as a translation on the keyboard.

If one makes the wrong choice of E12 enharmonic note, then one plays a wolf interval. So that gives an interactive way to discover the difference.

1. https://secure2.storegate.com/Shares/Home.aspx?ShareID=f2f70b60-a7f7-4d15-9c36-6763de133c62

2. http://chuck.cs.princeton.edu/
Hans Åberg
2016-01-26 21:17:40 UTC
Permalink
Post by Sharon Rosner
So you see, it's quite a straight-forward a technique. Yes, accidental
translation can be tricky, but with practice it becomes second nature. And
again, 300 years ago it was considered a basic skill for any musician worth
his salt, it's just modern musicians that are handicapped.
One way to learn it might be to try out the file diatonic.ck [1] I wrote for ChucK [2]. It starts up in quarter-comma extended meantone, setting the major third to the rational interval 5/4, though one can easily choose another tuning.

One plays on the typing keyboard in a 2-dimensional layout, corresponding to the two generators of the staff notation system, then. A transpose is then same as a translation on the keyboard.

If one makes the wrong choice of E12 enharmonic note, then one plays a wolf interval. So that gives an interactive way to discover the difference.

1. https://secure2.storegate.com/Shares/Home.aspx?ShareID=f2f70b60-a7f7-4d15-9c36-6763de133c62

2. http://chuck.cs.princeton.edu/
Paul Morris
2016-01-27 01:58:05 UTC
Permalink
Post by Sharon Rosner
So you see, it's quite a straight-forward a technique. Yes, accidental
translation can be tricky, but with practice it becomes second nature. And
again, 300 years ago it was considered a basic skill for any musician worth
his salt, it's just modern musicians that are handicapped.
Thanks for the examples. I can see how this would work fine, especially for music with fewer accidental notes and assuming proficiency in all clefs and key signatures.

That’s interesting about the history of tablatures. I’ve wondered whether one reason guitar tablature has become so popular today among hobbyists is that it more closely maps to the instrument and the process of playing it than standard notation (which maps rather well to the piano with its black and white key distinction).

(In some respects a system like Clairnote lies between standard notation and tablature, providing a more direct mapping between notes on the page and how you play them on an instrument, but without being tied to a single instrument – so providing some of the benefits of tablature without the drawbacks.)

Cheers,
-Paul
Paul Morris
2016-01-26 16:06:19 UTC
Permalink
Post by David Kastrup
Post by Sharon Rosner
But seriously, I see no reason to change a system which works so well
for so many different kinds of music. All these alternative systems, I
don't see what advantage they offer. On the contrary, there are many
downsides - they're unsuitable for keyboards,
Piano keyboards. Chromatic button accordions would likely benefit, as
would Janko keyboards.
I’d also add guitars, most string instruments, and any other isomorphic instruments:

http://musicnotation.org/wiki/instruments/isomorphic-instruments/

Although, I wouldn’t say “unsuitable” but maybe just "a little less ideal" for traditional 7-5 keyboard layouts, especially if you color them (or just conceive of them) in this way:

http://musicnotation.org/wiki/instruments/6-6-colored-traditional-7-5-keyboard/
Post by David Kastrup
Post by Sharon Rosner
unsuitable for tonal music,
Not "unsuitable" as much as intransparent. It's harder to see the
tonality.
Yes, or you could say they provide a different perspective on the tonality of tonal music, by revealing the interval patterns behind it, which also happen to be the interval patterns you have to play on an instrument to produce it.

Cheers,
-Paul
Kieren MacMillan
2016-01-26 14:20:11 UTC
Permalink
Hi Sharon,
Post by Sharon Rosner
I see no reason to change a system which works so well for so
many different kinds of music. All these alternative systems, I don't see
what advantage they offer. On the contrary, there are many downsides -
they're unsuitable for keyboards, unsuitable for tonal music, unsuitable for
music in unequal temperament, unsuitable for microtonal music, require
relearning how to read music, make transposition harder. So what's the point?
The point is: there have been many times in the history of Western music that someone offered to [try to] improve the notation system, and others said “What’s the point?”, and ultimately we (i.e., people who use the Western notation system) adopted many of the suggestions and didn’t adopt others, and we now have a system which — as you correctly point out — works so well for so many different kinds of music.

Is there room in the Western notation system for improvement and growth? Absolutely.

Is this particular suggestion an improvement? Not in my opinion.
But then again, I’m not the only person using the Western notation system… ;)

Best,
Kieren.
________________________________

Kieren MacMillan, composer
‣ website: www.kierenmacmillan.info
‣ email: ***@kierenmacmillan.info
musicus
2016-01-26 12:25:41 UTC
Permalink
"1. I like to know where exactly I am at a given time."

Of course there are always some "key positions", which can help to
organize yourself while playing (or remembering/ learning etc.).
Nevertheless I do think that it is important to reduce the optical
impact to the minimum necessary and therefore as far as I'm concerned I
don't want to have every single note in a chromatic scale in my
perception.


"2. Such an even notation doesn’t match well with the uneven keyboard.
In
our traditional system there are seven note positions per octave and
seven white keys per octave, not twelve equal keys ;) This unevenness is
necessary for fingerings."

(...and additionally the uneven keyboard matches our uneven hands ;-) )
That's why I have no ambitions to change the principle of our standard
notation system.
I only struggle with the quite awkward phenomenon of chromatic scales.
Concerning fingerings: additionally to pitches it's possible to
synchronize fingerings with rhythmic patterns... and you can always
"upgrade" a simplified notehead to a normal one


"Attached you can see my thoughts on three measures of left hand of
Taneyev’s already mentioned fugue. Black are thoughts on the scales, red
thoughts on getting both hands together. If you look closely you’ll also
notice"
I made some suggestions in the attached pdf ;)
I know, that your thoughts may be only hints for your memory, so you are
of course free to use every possible imagination you like.



"3. Harmonic context: Many of the notes make some harmonic sense when
combined with the right hand. This would be lost completely with your
system."

Technically yes. But my experience with extended chromatic scales is,
that most time the harmonic context (regarding chromatic, not the rest)
is not that important. Especially fast chromatic lines need more metric
than harmonic organization, for example.

Best,
musicus
Chris Yate
2016-01-26 12:35:56 UTC
Permalink
*"1. I like to know where exactly I am at a given time."*
Of course there are always some "key positions", which can help to
organize yourself while playing (or remembering/ learning etc.).
Nevertheless I do think that it is important to reduce the optical impact
to the minimum necessary and therefore as far as I'm concerned I don't want
to have every single note in a chromatic scale in my perception.
I absolutely agree. As a competent sight reader, the problem with chromatic
scales isn't reading chromatic scales but reading the exceptions -- where
it's suddenly a tone between notes.

Now, if you can come up with a consistent and non-confusing way to notate
those differences, that could be useful!

As it is, when I mark up confusing music I sometimes use an upside-down "V"
to indicate semitones, "=" to indicate 'same note' and a square bracket
(like upside down "|__|") between notes to indicate a tone. This is
occasionally useful to me as an aide-memoire, in stuff where we have lots
of double-sharps and flats, but it's certainly not "standard".

Chris
Paul Morris
2016-01-26 16:02:38 UTC
Permalink
As it is, when I mark up confusing music I sometimes use an upside-down "V" to indicate semitones, "=" to indicate 'same note' and a square bracket (like upside down "|__|") between notes to indicate a tone. This is occasionally useful to me as an aide-memoire, in stuff where we have lots of double-sharps and flats, but it's certainly not "standard".
I can’t help but point out, just FWIW, and intending this in a tone of respect, and as one consideration among a host of others that might outweigh it...

...that this kind of annotation wouldn’t be needed in a system where the differences between intervals (semitone, tone, others...) were clearly and consistently represented.

Cheers,
-Paul
Chris Yate
2016-01-26 16:12:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by Chris Yate
As it is, when I mark up confusing music I sometimes use an upside-down
"V" to indicate semitones, "=" to indicate 'same note' and a square bracket
(like upside down "|__|") between notes to indicate a tone. This is
occasionally useful to me as an aide-memoire, in stuff where we have lots
of double-sharps and flats, but it's certainly not "standard".
I can’t help but point out, just FWIW, and intending this in a tone of
respect, and as one consideration among a host of others that might
outweigh it...
...that this kind of annotation wouldn’t be needed in a system where the
differences between intervals (semitone, tone, others...) were clearly and
consistently represented.
Cheers,
-Paul
Yes, you're probably right.

Though whatever you choose would have to be:

1) equally easy to read in all keys (which is demonstrably NOT the case for
traditional notation)
2) easy to manage when key changes
3) make it easy to identify octaves, and possibly the tonic, and harmonic
relationship between notes etc.
4) suitable for all tessitura, which of course we currently manage with
clefs
5) compact
6) easy to notate by hand
7) avoid confusion with traditional notation (here Clairnote fails very
badly indeed for me)

This discussion has gone way off-topic!
Paul Morris
2016-01-27 02:04:46 UTC
Permalink
Post by Chris Yate
Yes, you're probably right.
1) equally easy to read in all keys (which is demonstrably NOT the case for traditional notation)
2) easy to manage when key changes
3) make it easy to identify octaves, and possibly the tonic, and harmonic relationship between notes etc.
4) suitable for all tessitura, which of course we currently manage with clefs
5) compact
6) easy to notate by hand
7) avoid confusion with traditional notation (here Clairnote fails very badly indeed for me)
Yep, it’s a tall order trying to achieve all desirable features in the same system. Seems there are always trade-offs.

(I originally resisted using hollow and solid notes for pitch to preserve more continuity with the traditional system, but then came to think the benefits were worth it. Of course, YMMV.)

Cheers,
-Paul

musicus
2016-01-26 12:38:43 UTC
Permalink
Dear Sharon,

"This last bit made me laugh out loud. Well I guess some musicians do
not
really feel like focusing on every single note. The good ones do
though."


I'd like to contradict on this one. Of course a good musician needs to
focus on every detail, but only the "bad" ones neglect the bigger
context. The key is to focus on the "right" thing, which is in many
cases NOT every single note of an chromatic scale, IMO.

For example you don't calculate 1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1, because you have to
control each single arithmetic operation.
1*8 is definitely the way to go ;)



Nevertheless I think there is an misunderstanding:

"All these alternative systems, I don't see
what advantage they offer."

It was never my intention to question our well proven notation system,
but only to improve some awkward side effects of it.

Best Regards,
musicus
Sharon Rosner
2016-01-26 12:57:18 UTC
Permalink
Of course a good musician needs to focus on every detail, but only the
"bad" ones neglect the bigger
context.
What like Florence Foster Jenkins-type bigger context?
The key is to focus on the "right" thing, which is in many cases NOT every
single note of an
chromatic scale, IMO.
So what *is* the right thing? The first and last notes? :-)

Sharon



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Urs Liska
2016-01-26 13:09:20 UTC
Permalink
Post by musicus
Of course a good musician needs to focus on every detail, but only the
"bad" ones neglect the bigger
context.
What like Florence Foster Jenkins-type bigger context?
The key is to focus on the "right" thing, which is in many cases NOT every
single note of an
chromatic scale, IMO.
So what *is* the right thing? The first and last notes? :-)
As said earlier, I'm not convinced about the original suggestion. But
the right thing is obviously:

- a chromatic scale with
- starting and ending pitch
- immediate recognition of exceptions to the pattern (i.e. whole steps)

Urs
Post by musicus
Sharon
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Kieren MacMillan
2016-01-26 14:28:23 UTC
Permalink
Hi musicus,
Of course a good musician needs to focus on every detail, but only the "bad" ones neglect the bigger context. The key is to focus on the "right" thing, which is in many cases NOT every single note of an chromatic scale, IMO.
I agree, 100%.
It was never my intention to question our well proven notation system, but only to improve some awkward side effects of it.
In that spirit, I have a question…

In the jazz and musical theatre (MT) worlds — and, I would offer, most contemporary classical music — nobody spends the time anymore to write out glissandi when the exact notes are inconsequential. In the most obvious example, consider harp music: usually, the “pitch set” is indicated (either through pedalling, or the first few notes of the gliss/gesture, or both), and then graphic lines are used to indicate duration and direction of the glissandi [or whatever the gesture is]; this is exactly the same in most MT scores, where the pianist is expected to gliss.

And this is all done extremely effectively in the accepted/shared/codified Western notation system, without any changes to the fundamental way that notes themselves appear on the staff.

Why is that concept not sufficient for your needs? Why, for instance, can you not just come up with a graphic notation that DOESN’T change the note placement or shape (cf. the standard gliss), but gains you the benefits you are seeking?

Best,
Kieren.
________________________________

Kieren MacMillan, composer
‣ website: www.kierenmacmillan.info
‣ email: ***@kierenmacmillan.info
David Kastrup
2016-01-26 15:19:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by Kieren MacMillan
Hi musicus,
Of course a good musician needs to focus on every detail, but only
the "bad" ones neglect the bigger context. The key is to focus on
the "right" thing, which is in many cases NOT every single note of
an chromatic scale, IMO.
I agree, 100%.
It was never my intention to question our well proven notation
system, but only to improve some awkward side effects of it.
In that spirit, I have a question…
In the jazz and musical theatre (MT) worlds — and, I would offer, most
contemporary classical music — nobody spends the time anymore to write
out glissandi when the exact notes are inconsequential. In the most
obvious example, consider harp music: usually, the “pitch set” is
indicated (either through pedalling, or the first few notes of the
gliss/gesture, or both), and then graphic lines are used to indicate
duration and direction of the glissandi [or whatever the gesture is];
this is exactly the same in most MT scores, where the pianist is
expected to gliss.
And this is all done extremely effectively in the
accepted/shared/codified Western notation system, without any changes
to the fundamental way that notes themselves appear on the staff.
Why is that concept not sufficient for your needs?
"when the exact notes are inconsequential". In general, they are, and
so is their timing.

I repeat the suggestion to see how the reasoning here applies to Fučik's
"Entry of the Gladiators": in the first part we have rising chromatic
sequences which have their accents aligned with the harmonies (like in
the cadenza immediately before the repetition of the theme). Both
timing and pitches are quite consequential and that leaves limited
leeway for glissando symbols or similar glossing over the details. In
fact, I'd say that already the originally proposed notation for
chromatic scales does not do this alignment justice.

For the player of a chromatic instrument, some chromatic notation might
be helpful for the _execution_ since it might make it more obvious where
the very economically employed short turns or whole note steps have to
be played in order to keep the piece firmly in solid diatonic march band
tonality. It's basically the musical equivalent of a slapstick
rendition of intoxication: to appreciate it, you need a steady camera
delivering the sober point of view and showing the steady ground.
--
David Kastrup
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