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Single Symbol Music Notation

Simplify Sheet Music
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Reading piano music is needlessly complex. It's that way because of history.

What I am proposing is a music system similar to ITA (Initial Teaching Alphabet) that some people may know of from the 1960's.

In this system, there would be only one symbol to represent each of the 12 tones of the scale and then an octave designator. No sharps, no flats.

Easy. Right.

zigness, Feb 19 2004

Initial Teaching Alphabet http://www.omniglot.com/writing/ita.htm
A good idea executed badly and implemented disingenuously. [ConsultingDetective, Oct 05 2004, last modified Oct 17 2004]

[link]






       Wrong.
k_sra, Feb 19 2004
  

       I think it's hard to change something so well established - and if you're going to do it you need reasons. The current system works well and it's not that hard to understand. I've been reading music as long as I've been reading words - longer than I can remember in fact. I'm not sure that your proposal offers anything difficult.   

       Moreover I also feel that the ITA was often very unhelpful in teaching people to read and in fact often caused more problems than it solved.
hazel, Feb 19 2004
  

       The current system takes advantage of our inherent visual thought process: Higher notes are higher on the staff. Yours gets rid of that. Sorry, but I gotta fishbone it.
TerranFury, Feb 19 2004
  

       A link to this "ITA" business would help those of us who don't have a clue what you're talking about.
lostdog, Feb 19 2004
  

       While it is true that modern musical notation has considerable degrees of complication and weirdness, reading music becomes much like reading a language: certain commonly-occurring patterns become recognizable on sight.   

       Music notation relies upon a mixture of symbolic and positional notation. As such, it takes advantage of the brain's ability to process both simultaneously. How were you proposing to represent note durations, btw?   

       BTW, to an organ tuner, the pipes in an octave are either (C C# D D# E F F# G G# A A# B) or (C C# D D# E F F# G G# A B H) [the latter being the German convention]. There is no Eb, Ab, etc.; those pipes would always be referred to as D# and G#. But that's because the person is concerned about identifying a particular physical object, and not any particular musical significance it has in the context of a piece.
supercat, Feb 19 2004
  

       Well written, supercat.
yabba do yabba dabba, Feb 19 2004
  

       // there would be only one symbol to //
How do you tell the duration of the note? How do you note key signature? Rests? Measures?

  

         

       //Easy. Right.// For beginners this would be a good "get aquainted" system, but, eventually they would have to grow to grasp more complex ideas. This idea is baked, for various instruments as "Tablature" [-]
1st2know, Feb 19 2004
  

       One problem with music notation is that the same note is sometimes on a line and sometimes in a space, depending on the octave. I think the staves should be fixed so that, if Middle C is on a line, then all C's are on lines.
phundug, Mar 04 2004
  

       [phun] That'll work if you use [zig]'s idea of same notation for all notes irrespective of sharp/flat.   

       With the current notation, there are seven notes - ABCDEFG - therefore if the first A was on a line, the second A (A' if you like) is always going to be in a space.   

       If you had a separate line or space for each note - ie for A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G# - then you have twelve individual moieties so an A would always be on a line.   

       I think that one serious problem with this idea is that you start to lose the simple relationships between positions of notes and intervals between their sounds. The use of key signatures and incidentals (ie sharp and flat marks associated with notes) allows such relationships to be established - ie a major third always looks the same distance apart because of the way the octave is interpreted on paper. The octave is an important part of the music and therefore losing the notation which is based on it will lose much of the sophistication of reading music.
hazel, Mar 04 2004
  

       Well written, hazel.   

       The only other thing I could see is that you'd have a whole lot more (44?) lines if you want to cover the range of a piano, for example.   

       There's no easy way to interpret a difficult piece.
yabba do yabba dabba, Mar 04 2004
  

       I can see the use for a musical notation that you can type on a computer keyboard. I'd want it close to conventional musical notation, though, as the people who's be most likely to use it would be the ones who can already read music.
st3f, Mar 04 2004
  

       st3f: There are a variety of such notations. If someone came up with a widely-available (free) program that could play such a thing, it could be very handy in music discussion groups, etc.
supercat, Mar 04 2004
  

       // I think that one serious problem with this idea is that you start to lose the simple relationships between positions of notes and intervals between their sounds. The use of key signatures and incidentals (ie sharp and flat marks associated with notes) allows such relationships to be established - ie a major third always looks the same distance apart because of the way the octave is interpreted on paper. //   

       Agreed, but only up to a point. Staff notation (using vertical position to indicate absolute pitch) has distinct advantages over name-based notation, particularly for vocalists when performing a less familiar piece. However, the use of a seven-position staff and pitch modifier symbols (the key signature) is far from optimal.   

       A far better idea (and probably not a new one) is to use a twelve position staff. Since each of the twelve pitches in an octave (it really should be called a dodecade, as it contains twelve pitches not eight) has its own unique position on the staff, we can get rid of all that key signature nonsense. In fact, we can get rid of accidentals altogether. Give each pitch its own name, too. If you want the next pitch above X, then just say Y instead of X-sharp.   

       I think it's high time to give musical notation an overhaul. Renaming the pitches as A B C D E F G H I J K L and switching to a twelve position staff would be an excellent start. Just doing that much will accomplish all of the following:
- Eliminate key signatures
- Eliminate accidental marks cluttering the page
- Reduce transposition to a vertical shift by a fixed distance
- Eliminate double-sharps and double-flats
- Cause pitches on lines in this octave to be on lines in every octave
- Cause pitches on spaces in this octave to be on spaces in every octave
- Guarantee consistent geometry of chord intervals
- Simplify note naming to a single symbol per pitch
- Simplify the learning of musical concepts by removing an entire layer of obfuscation beween what is seen and what is heard.
BigBrother, Mar 05 2004
  

       // The only other thing I could see is that you'd have a whole lot more (44?) lines if you want to cover the range of a piano, for example. //   

       You wouldn't have to print all those lines, just like you don't print them all with the present notation. You print one octave with continuous lines, then use ledger lines for individual notes which go above/below it. Skip an octave, and then print another staff the same way. Or more likely, only skip half an octave and use a different clef symbol to indicate where the root pitch is on each staff.
BigBrother, Mar 05 2004
  

       That's still more than the traditional system.
yabba do yabba dabba, Mar 05 2004
  
      
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