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Author Topic: The future of music notation  (Read 16585 times)
johnk
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« on: January 29, 2006, 02:16:47 AM »

Hello piano teachers,
 
My topic may seem radical to some readers, and not within the scope of conventional music teaching, but may I begin by stating my qualifications. I have LMusA, FTCL, MMus with HD from Indiana University (piano performance), and LTCL (piano teaching). I also have a BSc in Maths and Physics, and a DipEd. I have taught piano for 30 years now, and have rarely advertised. I have been a professional musician in commercial bands and piano bars, and performed piano concertos (and conducted) with a community orchestra in the southern suburbs of Sydney, Australia. I am also their lead violist. (see www.ssso.org).
 
I would like piano teachers to consider how much easier learning the piano could be with a simpler music notation system. Firstly, if bass and treble clefs were both read the same way. Secondly, if all octaves of a note looked the same. Thirdly, if each of the twelve pitch classes had its own position on a 'chromatic' stave, and there was therefore no need for the five accidental signs and for learning fifteen different key signatures.

And with an easier music notation, how much more successful could our students be, and how much more sheet music would be consumed?
 
I joined the notation inventors' discussion group, MNMA, just over a year ago; and about 6 months later I finalised my own alternative notation (AN) which I call Express Stave (ES). You can see it at www.mnma.org/notations/Express.html.
 
The idea of devising a simpler music notation is not new. Hundreds of proposals have been put forward over the last three centuries, including notations by Schoenberg and Busoni. They are described in Gardner Read's book, 'A Handbook of Proposed Music Notation Reforms'. Of course, the international use of traditional notation (TN) has in the past prevented ANs from having much of a following, but with the computer technology available today, we have the potential for any music to be translated into an AN, so that reading from an AN will no longer mean a restriction on the music available.
 
In fact, I have designed a program to convert TN into ES using Finale, so have been able to 'test drive' the notation myself, learning all 15 Bach two part inventions in the last few months. I can say that it is a lot easier than was learning the alto clef when I first took up the viola as an adult. With my students, ES has also been easily learnt, although I have been careful not to push it so much as to deter them from continuing to learn TN.
 
I would be very interested to see how readily other traditionally trained pianists could learn to read from Express Stave. On the MNMA site, I have posted some downloadable PDF files; one is an introductory tutorial, another a set of eight kids' pieces for piano duet or solo. If you look at the latter file, you will see some of the traditional pieces that kids usually learn by rote, and that are played mainly on black keys. In ES these pieces can be notated, because reading 'sharps and flats' is no longer difficult for a beginner. I have added interesting duet parts; one duet ('Fun Shirt Rap') sounds rather like a short two part invention. Other files are also available from the site or from me.
 
At this stage I am not proposing that you try teaching this notation to students; only that you try learning it yourself and give forum readers and myself some feedback on the experience. It will no doubt look strange at first, but give it a try for ten minutes a day for a week or so, and see what you think then.
 
If you are interested to go further, you can download Finale Notepad 2006 for free from http://www.finalemusic.com/showcase/fs_home.asp and I can then send you more files of ES music. Notepad will be able to play these files, and you can also copy them into traditional staves and they will be converted to TN. (On a Mac you will need OS X.)
I look forward to hearing from some PianoStreet members.
 
Sincerely,
 
John Keller, Australia


* ES plug.jpg (60.48 KB, 599x403 - viewed 1626 times.)
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pianorama
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« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2006, 03:18:43 AM »

Interesting.... This might be a bit difficult for people who have already learned to read music with traditional notation, especially adults, but it is probably easier for kids to learn with this. It would be interesting to do an experiment with kids of equal I.Q. levels (and equal ages) learning with traditional notations, versus Express Stave, and see which notation system is easier to learn for most kids. Maybe have 50 kids learning with TN and 50 learning with ES.
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johnk
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« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2006, 01:37:24 AM »

It is definitely easier for kids to learn, and also for adult beginners. They usually learn it in one or two lessons, and become reasonably adept in a few weeks. One intermediate level students remarked that she could sight read it better than traditional after only one week (for the more 'difficult' key signatures).

A comment from a student:

"When you play something that sounds wrong it is easy to see what it is, and correct it. With the normal system you never know if you have read a note wrong, or forgot a sharp, or what."

From a teacher:

"A boy who came to me from another teacher played everything by ear, and couldn't read much at all. He learnt your notation and then the Bach Badinerie quite quickly. Then he actually started trying to read traditional notation by himseff. Maybe his success gave him more confidence."

And a parent:

"For a kid like Kyrin (teenage boy in the state water polo team) with little time for piano, this method gives him an opportunity to still play the piano for fun and leisure. The normal notation seems elitist and only suits a seriously dedicated music student."

So much for students. My interest now is to find out how readily traditionally trained pianists can adapt to it, if they download some files, go through the tutorial and try to play some of the pieces.

The main problem is I havent been able to find many musicians willing to try it. Some musicians and piano teachers have said they just couldn't be bothered! Fair enough, Im not paying them! But they expect their students to work hard at learning a much more difficult system which to them is still new and unfamiliar, yet these teachers when faced with a similar challenge, are unwilling to give it a try.

I am hoping that some of the PianoStreet readers are more open minded. Come on!

JohnK
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pianistimo
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« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2006, 02:51:30 AM »

my eyes have a hard time accurately determining the proximity of notes to the lines and spaces.  if they are large intervals, it's much harder.  what if you combined (maybe i didn't read the whole thing) COLOR with the note idea.  you seem very creative and to have the sharps or flats colored might help.  i tend to like the flats and sharps since i am used to them - but new students might pick up on it right away. 

can you explain more advantages to this idea than the typical sharp and flat?

also, i wouldn't change the notes to look like half notes if they are indeed quarter notes.  maybe my mind won't think out of the box...but it would really confuse my rhythm.  still working on the stave part.  (maybe you have to introduce one idea per five years and let people get used to one at a time).
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cora
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« Reply #4 on: January 30, 2006, 03:34:51 AM »

Just a comment. Sometimes people expressly want things to be complicated. For instance, people need a teacher's certificate to teach music in our schools. But I know I'd be qualified to teach with my BMus and piano education of 30 years. But the teacher's unions sets up hoops for people to get through to keep things the way they want them. Just about anybody could teach grade one school with maybe six months training. But that's not how things are set up. Many things are set up to encourage people to pay their dues to the elites.

Also, you will often find pop music written in a key that's too high. That's to keep dabblers from actually performing the music (presumably they wouldn't think to transpose it down).

Perhaps with music notation, it's the same way.

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lostinidlewonder
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« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2006, 05:40:24 AM »

I think how things are notated now is perfectly fine but very difficult to learn to read well. I think it would be nice if there where changes made so that SHAPE of the hand was considered and DIRECTION of the notes more obvious, and note patterns, repetitions, slight changes to repetitions where more clearly defined. Perhaps with arrows and little symbols or shapes which define the shape of a chord or arpeggio. I find myself constantly drawing these symbols on my students page so that they can remember what shape their chord/scale etc should be like.
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johnk
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« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2006, 06:55:58 AM »

To Pianistimo, to get the full idea of the advantages of alternative notations and a chromatic staff, you need to read the mnma websites explanations, and download the tutorial file (3 pages), but here is one clue to my notation: white notes mean white keys (ie naturals), and black notes are black keys (sharps and flats). The sharps and flats ARE coloured - they are black! And yes, it does take a while to stop thinking a white note means two beats! One of the kids pieces is for practice with counting: one beat for single stem, two for double stem.

To Cora, I agree that some people want things to be complicated for various reasons, like power over others (the Christian church used to be performed in Latin etc). But the economic argument of more success means more people buying music and successfully playing it will hopefully be stronger in the long run.

And to Lostinidlewonder, you make some very good points about teaching and learning methods. Talking about the 'shape' of chords and scales, this is exactly what ES does show. The notation of a chord is a 'picture' of the pattern of black and white keys that the hand must play. Look at the Ab major chord at the end of the illustration. Isn't this something like the chord pattern you would draw for your students? (You might also notice that the major and minor 3rds in the chord are distinct.)

Thanks to all for your comments. What I would really like, is for you to download a file or two, and try it for ten minutes each day for a week, then get back to me. Like anything new, it will take a little while before the principle 'clicks'.

Cheers, JohnK
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mandrake
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« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2006, 08:39:49 AM »

johnk - your idea is really good!
Have been thinking about alternate notation systems from time to time, but it's good that there are people actually doing the work!

I don't really have anything to say against your system since I think it's really smart, but I have one tip. I looked around the MNMA site and saw some other clever things.

The notes that are more confusing are the ones bordering to a line, say E, G and C for example. Why not make these into triangular (white) shapes? E and A would be triangles with the base against the line and with the point upwards.
I know that you may consider this unnecessary, but an analogy is fonts with serifs - those extra lines and handles - which are easier to read according to some studies.
With the triangles (or why not triangle and quadrant) you give much more clues which makes it easier to separate the information.

By all, great work, I would definitely use it if I would teach, maybe my kids in the future.
Keep going.

Mandrake
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leahcim
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« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2006, 09:32:41 AM »

The main problem is I havent been able to find many musicians willing to try it. Some musicians and piano teachers have said they just couldn't be bothered! Fair enough, Im not paying them! But they expect their students to work hard at learning a much more difficult system which to them is still new and unfamiliar, yet these teachers when faced with a similar challenge, are unwilling to give it a try.

Yeah, I'm not surprised since it's not the same challenge. I'd say it'd be like learning to read with slightly different symbols, but in the same language and the same books. At the end of learning what has been gained? Whereas if you can't read or can't speak English [or some other language] there's a lot to be gained from learning.

They probably won't have much idea of whether it was easier or not.

Having a quick glance at the pieces here http://web.syr.edu/~pwmorris/www.mnma.org/notations/Express.html

The first thing that strikes me is that world+dog have done it too, as you note.

What's the idea? Is it supposed to replace TN or is it a stepping stone to TN? The latter would probably make sense from an educational pov. [Something like toontown as an approach to teaching programming is a great idea for example] Ideas that start with the premise that the barrier to programming is the notation and thus attempt to replace it with something else entirely are flawed imho, but the world is full of such attempts nevertheless. I don't see much difference with music.

As an adult beginner I could already read music [to some standard, at least]

I don't see anything elitist about music notation though since I learnt it, to that standard, as a kid. These days, in pragmatic terms, I find the time taken to practice pieces far outweighs that taken to read those parts where I'm not fluent or to look if I see a symbol I'm unaware of. By severalfold.

Improving my ability to read music "at a glance" is now, more or less, a by product of the process of trying to play the pieces. That might not be the case for Old McDonald had a farm, but my path to, say, Chopin etudes isn't blocked by the notation.
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johnk
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« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2006, 02:07:59 PM »

Mandrake, hey thanks for the encouragement! You obviously have grasped the system quite quickly. Compared with other ANs on the mnma site, there are some differences with mine. One is ES's similarity with the bass clef and another is the similar size of intervals and chord 'shapes'. This is what I hope shows in the illustration I attached. No other ANs have come up with a system which looks similar enough to trained musicians that they can keep their familiar intervalic modelling.

Having studied all 500 or so proposals in Gardner Read's book (ones with triangles included!) and having had heaps of lenghty discussions with other inventors, I feel that while my system may not ultimately be the best, it is one which would have more of a chance of being accepted by a larger subset of musicians because of its keyboard derivation. A lot of the mnma members are very interested in an alternative keyboard design, the 6-6 system, and many notations are based on this. But I figure that the familiar 7-5 keyboard will still be played for a long time, and the division of the 12 pitches into the 7 'naturals' and 5 'accidentals' is worthy of being kept for its historical significance. If you want to look at 6-6 keyboards, there are a number of interesting sites on the mnma links page.

To answer your question, Leahcim, what can be gained is a much higher success rate in learning music in general, and piano in particular. The average kid who starts learning piano drops out before they have gained enough skill to get enjoyment out of reading music. Just ask adults in the street! Many will tell you they learnt as a kid, but it was too hard or they wouldn't practice, and now they can barely tell you where middle C is.

In James Bastiens book "How to Teach the Piano Successfully", he says the average 7 yo beginner takes two years to learn to read basic (traditional) notation, and this simply means all the bass and treble up to maybe a few legerlines plus a few sharps and flats. From here, it takes most of the school years to become familiar with all 15 key signatures, and the more 'remote' ones will still be difficult. It is quite a ridiculous situation, when you could learn all 12 pitches in a month or so, then you can read anything - all keys equally easy. So the school years could be  spent playing 100 times as much music in all tonalities, and the average student is 100 times better at reading when they leave school, and 100 times more likely to continue with their hobby throughout their lives.

Your argument is that learning an easier system is worthless unless it leads to traditional notation. This is not true. Future musicians will not need to read from an antiquated notation. With software programs like the Finale Notation Converter, you can translate TN to your favourite AN and enjoy playing the music.

I had a discussion with a French piano teacher who only teaches Klavar notation. She wrote:

Though I cannot compare directly their progress, I can judge from what pupils tell me:
In her second trimester she works the same book as a classmate in her second year.
The prof at school says: "The pieces you play are too advanced for your age."
As a whole we notice that in secondary school klavar pupils are years in advance. This is not only my experience. Colleagues say the same thing.( Peter Jackson from Hong Kong,
Johannes Wolf from Austria.). In music presentations it is always a Klavar pupil playing the piano part.  As a whole we estimate that progress is three times faster. Other AN's must also
register  faster progress.
.... Jeanette de Buur

This and all mnma discussions can be read on the mnma's Forum.

The aim of learning music is to make music. And music is NOT its notation. With todays technology we do not have to do it the hard way. TN was invented a millenium ago, mainly for singers, and single notes on the natural (white keys) scale. Today we have electricity, TV, mobile phones, computers! ... continuing to slog away with a music notation that has a 90% failure rate is now not necessary, any more than is chopping wood for cooking, or sending mail by carrier pidgeon!

You and I have mastered TN and enjoyed the thrill of playing great piano music. Easier notations can make this available to many more people. Yes, alternative notations have been done before - by intellegent, thinking, creative people. In this computer age we can now begin to put their ideas into practice, turn their dreams into reality.

I did not set out to argue the validity of ANs. I really only wanted to find some trained musicians who are willing to try the notation for a week or two and let me know how you went! Regardless of your view of its worth, do you accept this challenge?

Peace! JohnK
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leahcim
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« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2006, 03:12:37 PM »

To answer your question, Leahcim, what can be gained is a much higher success rate in learning music in general, and piano in particular.

Yeah, I'd acknowledge that. I wouldn't expect the difficulty they felt is just reading music though.

Quote
Your argument is that learning an easier system is worthless unless it leads to traditional notation. This is not true.

I didn't say it was worthless. I won't reiterate the points I've already made though given your comments at the end.

However I'll add - iff your system is in wide spread use it won't be necessary to use another one. But, the so-called "antiquated" one is still in wide-spread use today and there is computer software etc for it.

That is a huge obstacle. Even if you ignore the plethora of other alternatives to your own alternative. You'll need to surmount. I don't think the apathy you've seen will countered by an argument like "you expect your students to do something, but you won't" - on the contrary, they'll say they expect their students to do something they learnt when they were students - and they'll also assume that the students that go further will currently need to learn standard notation.

OTOH, something that would help students to learn the notation that's been around for years, that buffoons like me can read, probably will sell.

Anyway, enough said on that.

Quote
You and I have mastered TN and enjoyed the thrill of playing great piano music.

Not exactly. I can read music - as I said, to a standard, but that standard is better than my ability to play it. I am still very much learning to play the piano and often struggling with a host of things related to that goal, but which are largely completely unrelated to reading music notation.

However, for e.g a passage of chords each with around 10 notes moving around the keyboard is going to be difficult to read at a glance without years of practise, in either notation afaict, irrespective of whether they can physically play it. The key signature thing is a myth imho and perhaps does point to problems in the teaching of notation and how notation relates to the keyboard that some of these newer notational ideas might address.

Quote
I did not set out to argue the validity of ANs. I really only wanted to find some trained musicians who are willing to try the notation for a week or two and let me know how you went! Regardless of your view of its worth, do you accept this challenge?

Fair enough. Bear in mind the above paragraph, I am not a trained musician.

There is a free copy of Beethoven's opus 49 number 1 on this site. I've just played number 2 with some success.  I could read the music without any problems. I expect I can read number 1 as well although I've never seen it.

If you convert that pdf for me I'll give it a go and give feedback.

But caveats, you'll note many of the folk here spend $ on urtext or special editions with other notes / exercises and so on. To them that's very important.

I don't expect the moon on a stick or anything fancy like the above, but your system will have to eventually.

A simple converted midi from some site probably won't do. In short, anything missing, that to read it, would mean I'd have to print out the TN, needs to be there, otherwise the whole exercise will fail before it's begun - fingerings, italiano, accents and so on.
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bearzinthehood
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« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2006, 04:09:27 PM »

I haven't read this topic and boy am I lazy, which brings me to my second point:  If you change the way I have to read music I'm going to have to pull out my stabbing knife.

Best Wishes ^_^
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johnk
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« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2006, 11:54:13 PM »

Thanks for the detailed reply Leahcim. You are correct in saying that you must practice in order to learn a new piece of music and overcome technical difficulties etc. What i am interested to find out, is whether reading from ES soon becomes easy enough that it doesnt interfere with this practice procedure. But you have to first 'get' how to read ES, and that means downloading the tutorial and kids pieces and go through them, at least with separate hands. (Or have you already done this?) Then if you feel you understand the notation and want to learn the Beethoven from ES, I can do it for you.

The Beethoven is not so difficult to read in TN though (easy key signature and easy note patterns). How about trying the Chopin Mazurka (which in TN has 4 flats and a few double flats etc) in the meantime. It doesn't have fingering, but it does include expression marks etc. When you play the piece you will realise it is 'proper music'. But I will do the Beethoven if you tell me you can read ES and really want this piece in it.

I am not considering whether my notation will ever be in widespread use. This is in the future.  And it is true that some professional musicians will, in the foreseeable future, need to read TN to some extent. I say 'some' because many commercial pianists today mainly read melody and chord symbols, and are pretty poor at sight reading the 'dots'.  And some use midi files and sequencers without reading at all. Amateur musicians will be able to choose the music notation they like, and have a software program to create it for any piece they want to learn.

You are probably right that most teachers think in terms of 'if I had to do it this way, then you should too.' But after teaching piano for 30 years and trying all the trickery available for making TN easier to learn, I am left with the conclusion that it just isnt easy for the average, non-committed student.

I am not imposing anything on anyone, Bearzinthehood! I havent 'changed' the way I read music - just added another way (and its fun!). You wont need the knife Mac!

Cheers, JohnK

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abell88
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« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2006, 01:04:05 AM »

Well, I'm willing to give it a try...I just spent several minutes with the kids' pieces. Once I realized that the notes with the dots were F and B, it wasn't too hard -- although instinct kicked in a lot, so I had to stop and remind myself a lot that things were not what they seemed!
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Mayla
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« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2006, 01:15:38 AM »

I did take a fairly close look at some samples of this notation and my eyes certainly did need to adjust.  As abell said, instinct wanted to kick in.  I haven't really had a chance to sit down and try to learn this yet, at the piano... etc.  But, I am interested in trying.  So, I will do as you have said, I will try it for about 10 mins a day for a week, then I will get back to you.


Mayla
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leahcim
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« Reply #15 on: January 31, 2006, 01:28:35 AM »

But you have to first 'get' how to read ES, and that means downloading the tutorial and kids pieces and go through them, at least with separate hands. (Or have you already done this?)

I had a glance earlier. It's very straightforward to describe, I'll give you that Smiley The D / G# symmetry of the keyboard is described in the Fink book IIRC.

Quote
The Beethoven is not so difficult to read in TN though (easy key signature and easy note patterns). How about trying the Chopin Mazurka (which in TN has 4 flats and a few double flats etc) in the meantime.

Ok, I'll try that.
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johnk
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« Reply #16 on: January 31, 2006, 02:15:44 AM »

Hi Leahcim. Nice to get a smiley! Smiley Im interested in the Fink book but dont know of it. Could you give details please? JohnK
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leahcim
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« Reply #17 on: January 31, 2006, 11:10:21 AM »

Hi Leahcim. Nice to get a smiley! Smiley Im interested in the Fink book but dont know of it. Could you give details please? JohnK

It's a movement / technique book & video - Mastering piano technique
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/index=books-uk&field-author=Fink%2C%20Seymour/203-6470810-6074331

Here's a reference to the D/G# stuff
http://www.pianostreet.com/smf/index.php/topic,13347.msg143737.html#msg143737
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johnk
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« Reply #18 on: February 01, 2006, 02:22:25 AM »

Thanks for the references Leahcim.

I have just finished transnotating the 1st movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata into Express Stave. It occurred to me that another way to learn the system might simply be to present a familiar piece like this in it, and see if pianists could just pick it up intuitively, by playing the piece from memory while looking at the alternative notation.

So I have attached a PDF file, which was made with Finale together with a font containing the custom noteheads. If you print it out and play it as suggested, let me know how you go.

Cheers, JohnK

* ES Beethoven Moonlight.pdf (289.9 KB - downloaded 78 times.)
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leahcim
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« Reply #19 on: February 01, 2006, 03:03:23 AM »

Ok, I'll try that.

After a day of that piece

(i) I found it difficult to always decide whether the note was touching / not touching etc as someone else said. Sometimes the black / white differential helped there though. Other than that reading the notes wasn't a problem.

(ii) I felt like I didn't know what I was playing, even though I was hitting the right notes. Especially with the chromatics / accidentals in there. Aside from you saying what key it was higher in the thread I wouldn't have known.

In contrast someone has just posted a recording of Chopin prelude 20 and it's one of 3 that's open on my piano at the moment [although I've been messing with the E minor and A major ones] after listening to that recording, a couple of other recordings and looking at the TN for a few minutes, then trying the first few chords I know what key it is in, I know what chords I was playing.

I felt like your notation took away the only thing I think I can do, and that is, at least come away from a piece, even if I can't play it, with an idea of what I've been playing.

OTOH, if I couldn't read TN, I'd probably think it was easier [That's obviously difficult to say as you can't pretend to not know something you do]

(iii) I still feel the same w.r.t where the effort lies in playing pieces of what you called "proper music". I think it would take years for me to play that piece, if I ever can.

Obviously it's contrasting a notation I've read for far longer with one that I've barely used, so some of those things might go away if I used it all the time.

But, sorry, I can't see the point in doing that. If it took 10 years to learn to read TN it'd still be easier than playing it [and if, during that 10 years the lore suggests you could read keys with less sharps and flats along the way, there is still a plethora of pieces that I would call proper music to play during that time]

Perhaps I'm rare. Perhaps lots struggle more with notation than with playing. OTOH, to add another anecdotal statistic. My SO had lessons as a kid and she's wandering around not playing the piano now. But she has played the right hand of pieces I've had on the piano 30 years from her last lesson she can read TN. Whereas she says I play far better than she ever did, which doesn't immediately suggest that her ear and playing were well-developed.

That said, I don't want to sound too negative. If you find it helps people good luck with it, but if you get bored looking at notation and invent something instead that makes playing these $expletive pieces easier instead I'll be waiting to try it Smiley

[edit: Just seen your moonlight sonata post, we posted at the same time - if you look back through my old posts you'll see me mentioning that elsewhere as a piece that's often transcribed to make it "easy" to remove the key sig, because of the lore about key sig and difficulty. Whereas I think it's a piece that anyone can hit the notes, and many many people do much to the disdain of many threads in this forum.]
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crazy for ivan moravec
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« Reply #20 on: February 01, 2006, 03:28:40 AM »

i think your new notation is very smart! i think it is much more easier than the traditional. pedagogically speaking, it is way way better than the TN.

but some points i thought on...

firstly, i think it would be very hard for it to take over the TN because you need followers, and really lots of them. if you say that a lot of musicians couldn't be bothered with it and would rather stick to the TN (because that's what they know best already), then the problem arises: who will teach ES?

but i also think that this would become very successful, but it won't happen in this lifetime. it will take a few generations to take over the TN, and like i said, followers are needed to teach the children of the next generations to come.

secondly, probably one of the reasons why musicians who learned TN couldn't be bothered with it is because the notation of the great masters have in it themselves individual expressions. when you compare Schumann's notation with Liszt's or Chopin's, you will find differences. Liszt's notation is so pianistic, very much in favor of the pianist, etc. Schumann, on the other hand, served the music first and foremost, before even thinking about the pianist. i just think that their individual styles of notation themselves play an important role as clues on how to do and what they wanted in their compositions to happen.

personally, i wouldn't wanna learn something which is not urtext (or at least, something very close to the original), esp if it was transcribed into a new notation. and i even think we should learn Bach's works in the notation that he used, if only it was implemented. but that should be in a different topic.

but maybe i would try a new notation only if a composer wrote a piece in that medium (that means only the living composers). because then i would be assured that he expressed his music in that notation. my teacher in composition taught me to write music for "non-traditional" instruments, in notations which express them best... i think this is somehow similar to the issue of having a new notation for classical music.

sorry to sound discouraging, but this is the way i think.

all the best.Smiley
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johnk
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« Reply #21 on: February 01, 2006, 05:43:43 AM »

After a day of that piece

(i) I found it difficult to always decide whether the note was touching / not touching etc as someone else said. Sometimes the black / white differential helped there though. Other than that reading the notes wasn't a problem.


The only notes that dont 'touch' also have a centre spot (B and F) so they are not confused with the notes a semitone away, C and E. And the note colour always gives you the key colour. Im not sure you understand it when you say sometimes it helps.

But this is all good. I want to ensure my explanations are not misinterpreted. I know you got that the line notes are Ab (the black line note) and D (the white line note). The notes touching above the D line are E (white) and Eb (black). Similarly C and C# below.

The notes above and below the Ab line are similarly logical - the whites above and below are A and G, and the blacks Bb amd F#.

That only leaves 2 notes that dont touch a line - the white keys B and F with spots.

Its like the Express staff represents an octave from Ab to Ab with the white keys ABCDEFG in between. The halfway point must be D. And the quarter points are B in the lower half and F in the upper.

Quote
(ii) I felt like I didn't know what I was playing, even though I was hitting the right notes. Especially with the chromatics / accidentals in there. Aside from you saying what key it was higher in the thread I wouldn't have known. 
   

This is interesting, and I know what you mean. It is as though the music isnt fully defined unless you know how it is written in TN terms - its key signature and the enharmonic spelling of each note. But when you listen to a piece or watch someone play, without seeing the score, isnt the music just as real? Its a product of TN convention that we have to know whether the black note we just played perfectly accurately, is G# or Ab. This is because to verbalise the note, we have no option but to choose one of its two (or more) names. Is it Ab or G# when I strike the middle of the 3 black keys? Well, it is whatever I think of it as. I can say from experience that this need to define the 'right name' for each black key (which slows down the reading) gradually goes, and you start to find a freedom in just playing this or that black key without the encumbrance of TN theory.

However, I also noticed that after a while, the ES notation starts to tell you its TN key. You begin noticing certain black notes occurring regularly, and then you get: aha, its a key signature of 2 flats, or you see the shape of the chord - thats B major with the WBB note pattern ...

The unfamiliarity you feel, I also felt, and it is to be expected; but it didnt last all that long for me - not as long as with the viola clef - I remember that the feeling of playing in the dark lasted years with that clef!

If you could just keep it up for a whole week instead of one day, and let me know whether these feelings change, it would be very helpful. And if its technically too hard for you, just practice separate hands. Concentrate on good practice methods, and try to relax about the key-naming problem!

Thanks for the report so far.

And if I come up with a way to magically transform any person into Horowitz overnight, you'll be the first to know!

i think your new notation is very smart! i think it is much more easier than the traditional. pedagogically speaking, it is way way better than the TN.


 Grin Thanks!

Look, I do realise that to take over from TN is a big ask. I am more interested in the idea that software will make it possible for individual notations to have followings without the problem of music being unavailable. Klavar already has a sizeable following in Holland with over 200,000 pieces available apparently.

I dont agree though that the notation gives insight into the compositional style; I think to the contrary. watching the piece being played on the keyboard tells more it - Liszt and Chopin use 'pianistic' figurations that fall under the hand - I dont think that this shows up in the traditional notation of the music. And I dont think learning the soprano clef to play Bach in the stave he originally used would make any difference to the stylistic correctness of playing.

If I get organised I will post a recording of all the 2 part inventions, which I have learnt from ES, and let you judge its musical value. I think Bachs genius still comes through loud and clear (in the music, not necessarily the performance!).

Thanks to all who have viewed this thread.

JohnK
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« Reply #22 on: February 01, 2006, 07:04:04 AM »

The only notes that dont 'touch' also have a centre spot (B and F) so they are not confused with the notes a semitone away, C and E. And the note colour always gives you the key colour. Im not sure you understand it when you say sometimes it helps.

Yes, but don't touch is relative. [Bear in mind it's competing with a system I've used for ages where a note is either between lines or on top, and where black and white relates to the length of the note]

For example, the first 2 RH notes in the Mazurka 2nd bar. It's not easy to see that the C# is touching or overlapping compared with the C. The circle is black and so is the line. [perhaps moreso for a case where they weren't next to each other to give context]

Also, what might be clear on a PDF on the computer screen becomes less so on A4 paper arms length away.

It's the colour that gives it away. [Indeed, it seems redundant to put them at a different height]

So that's what I meant, sometimes, it's the fact it's black or white that makes it easy to see at a glance what note it is, as opposed to the touching / overlapping. Both of which tell you.

Quote
This is interesting, and I know what you mean. It is as though the music isnt fully defined unless you know how it is written in TN terms - its key signature and the enharmonic spelling of each note. But when you listen to a piece or watch someone play, without seeing the score, isnt the music just as real?

Yes, I guess the closest analogy I can give you is guitar tab. Although it's not that good an analogy, what you have is more than guitar tab. The keyboard is easier to learn too so you can get the stuff from there easier than "fret 7 third string..now what note is that?"

Quote
If you could just keep it up for a whole week instead of one day, and let me know whether these feelings change, it would be very helpful.

Sorry, but I'm not going to get anywhere with that piece yet, HS or not [you think I was playing HT? I wish] It just leads to frustration - perhaps the same kind of frustration you're hoping your notation will remove from others. So I shall bow out and get back to pieces where I make progress.

Quote
And if I come up with a way to magically transform any person into Horowitz overnight, you'll be the first to know!

Smiley I wasn't hoping quite for that, but I was serious. Have you seen Chang's book? That has a similar premise to the one you gave for the need for easier notation.

The difference is that he suggests the practise methods he describes are the key to why folk get nowhere or take a long time.

So I see methods and schemes a plenty that will solve the riddle. Some seem to have merit even if I don't take the idea that $idea is the thing that those lessons when you were 6 lacked. Or perhaps they are all right and it's a number of different things, different for each of us. I certainly won't be doing the research Smiley
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« Reply #23 on: February 01, 2006, 08:22:00 AM »

You are right . The colour tells you the note. You dont have to peer at it to tell whether it is 'lightly touching' or 'slightly overlapping'. In fact, for hand written ES notes you just draw the C and C# the same - touching below the D line. It is redundant in a way, but makes all the notes still rise or fall, and gives total consistency for all intervals.

What about just the RH up to the 1st double barline? Your insights and feelings are all so honest and valid for the first look, and it would be great to see whether my supposition that they will change quite fast (ie in a week or two) is right or wrong!

Pretty Please? Grin

Anyway thanks for your interest to this point.

Cheers, JohnK
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« Reply #24 on: February 02, 2006, 09:53:33 AM »

I am supposing that Leahcim is not following on with this thread, however I do feel his (or her?) comments were helpful. In particular I have rewritten the introduction for the MNMA site because it has occurred to me that some viewers thought they had to recognise the slight difference between notes that touch a line 'lightly' and those 'with slight overlap'. This is not necessary. as i have explained, but I will say it once more for clarity.

The white note on top of the D line is E; the black note on top of the D line is Eb. They are easily identified by notehead colour. It is simple and logical. If handwritten, the E and Eb would be drawn at the same level, just as they are in TN. But in printed ES they show the slight difference in pitch.

My posting of the PDF of Moonlight Sonata (1st mvt) has not elicited much response. Since many pianists will know this piece at least partly by memory, as mentioned, I thought it may 'shed light' to play the piece while following its ES notation.

So here is a picture of the piece. I am proud of how beautiful and serene it looks!


* Output.jpg (163.44 KB, 1635x867 - viewed 1450 times.)
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« Reply #25 on: February 03, 2006, 02:26:16 AM »

Why are the 8th notes backward? The rounded ball is normally to the left of the stem, but in the picture they are to the right. And why did you put the Alto clef in? (Is that what it's called?)
Does anyone know what notes correspond to what lines in TN using the Alto clef? Why is there even an alto clef?
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« Reply #26 on: February 03, 2006, 02:50:11 AM »

I am supposing that Leahcim is not following on with this thread

Nah, I've been playing it...
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« Reply #27 on: February 03, 2006, 04:18:29 AM »

Hi Pianorama, Thanks for the questions. I'll quote from my explanations in the detailed ES introduction mentioned on the mnma website.

•   Why are note stems all on the left?

   To make note alignment more apparent. The excerpt from the Fantasie-Impromptu shows this clearly. With a rhythm of four notes against three, it is easier to see which notes coincide when all stems are on the same side of notes. The stem on the left can also be seen as representing the start of each sound, with the right-pointing note-head indicating that its sound continues on in time. The impression that all notes ‘face forwards’ may also help the eyes to look ahead.

................................................................................................

I also felt that there is no need for arbitrary rules such as "note stems must go up on the right, and down on the left". I realise that the notes look funny when you are used to seeing TN, but you soon get used to it. If you have seen facsimilies of composers' original writing, they often disobeyed this 'rule' in the past anyway.

You ask why is there even an alto clef. Well, in TN you could justifiably ask why there are all the different clefs, and why they are all read differently. And it really is quite ridiculous, in that they are only one or two notes out! What I mean, is that the middle line in TN treble is B; in alto its C; and in bass its D! How silly is that! If they had made them all the same, it would have been so much easier, and you wouldn't be asking  'Does anyone know what notes correspond to the lines of a TN alto clef".

But I can answer your question as to why there is an alto clef.

In the beginning ... (sounds like a fairy story!)  a letter was placed across a line of the staff to tell the readers which note that line was. And the letters F and C were the important ones to point out, because they are the notes where the semitones (halfsteps) come below, in the scale. (This was before the accidentals were invented.) And the singers had to be careful to sing semitones, not tones there.

The 'F' became a bass clef, and the 'C' became the alto or tenor clefs.

What about the now famous treble clef? Well it didnt get used till a few centuries after the other two. How it came about was that with the natural (white note) scale, there are three places where a major chord occurs: on the F, the C, and the G. So F or C or G could be called "ut" (which later became "doh"). And since the F and C lines had clefs, when they needed a higher clef (eg for violins), they chose to point out the higher G line! BTW, the treble clef is known as a "violin clef" today in many languages.

This was then the 'third' clef, which is why English speaking people called it a "treble" clef. In early times they indicated the note registers by single letters, then double letters, then triple (treble) letters, viz:

a b c d e f g,     aa bb cc dd ee ff gg,      aaa bbb ccc ddd eee fff ggg.

This last octave was termed the "treble keys" in some medieval documents.

Are you following so far?

Now all these clefs were moveable, in that the F C or G could be defined on any line of the staff. In fact there was a "French Violin Clef" which had the G defined as the bottom line instead of the 2nd line. Composers writing in the "French style' used this clef, but Italian composers preferred to have the G as the 2nd line. And guess what? The French violin clef was then read the same as the Bass clef!!! Why this version of the treble clef didn't win, I dont know; but it would have made learning the piano twice as easy from the start!

Now to return to Express Stave:

If you have looked at the intro to it, you will know that it is similar to the TN bass staff, in that it encloses the white key set ABCDEFG. And this is a 'nice' set, because it is alphabetical, but also because it is symmetrical with D in the center - the semitones BC and EF are equidistant from each end, ie  [A  BC  D  EF  G] pattern.

So I used the traditional bass clef to indicate the bass octave ABCDEFG - from Ab to Ab, or as I call them, from link to link. (The black key in the middle of the group of three "links" one set of ABCDEFG to the next, like carriages - Americans would say 'cars' - in a train.)

Now what would I then use for the middle A to G octave or register? And the next one higher? Well, there is no point to inventing new unfamiliar symbols, when existing ones could easily be used.

So, as I say in my ES introduction:

•   Registers:   Express Stave uses the three traditional clefs, but they are all read in the same way, each denoting one unit of pitches A to G. Treble and bass staves have an added dotted line for middle-D. Notice how the bass notes look familiar.

........................................................................

Please realise that all this is to make things easier, not harder. The Express Stave is read the same for all clefs or registers. I simply chose to use the familiar clefs, which I think look nice and are traditional symbols for music in general.

I hope all this has shed some 'moonlight' on a few topics!
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« Reply #28 on: February 03, 2006, 04:27:35 AM »

Nah, I've been playing it...

Well, what a surprise! But thanks heaps. Let me know in a week how it went!

JohnK
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« Reply #29 on: February 03, 2006, 11:37:08 AM »

Ridiculous.
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« Reply #30 on: February 03, 2006, 11:47:11 AM »

Would you care to say why you think so?
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« Reply #31 on: February 03, 2006, 12:16:00 PM »

... because there is no need for it. There is nothing wrong with normal notation; people are just too lazy or not motivated enough to learn it properly (if it's "too hard" for someone maybe they shouldn't be a musician, or anything else that requires real effort). Looking at the pics you posted gives me a headache. I was fluent at reading music when I was 9 and see no reason why anyone else wouldn't be if they had motivation and a decent amount of intelligence. I'm sure many people would agree with me when I say there is nothing hard about regular notation once you learn it. There is simply no need.
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« Reply #32 on: February 03, 2006, 12:51:47 PM »

... because there is no need for it. There is nothing wrong with normal notation; people are just too lazy or not motivated enough to learn it properly (if it's "too hard" for someone maybe they shouldn't be a musician, or anything else that requires real effort). Looking at the pics you posted gives me a headache. I was fluent at reading music when I was 9 and see no reason why anyone else wouldn't be if they had motivation and a decent amount of intelligence. I'm sure many people would agree with me when I say there is nothing hard about regular notation once you learn it. There is simply no need.
I agree with this, except to say that, by definition, music notation of any kind is, of course, a mere suggestion of the composer's requirements rather than a 100% hard-and-fast unequivocal one.

So far, the discussions have centred only around the inadequacies or otherwise of the notation of music based on the equal temperament system of tuning in which octaves are divided into 12 equal semitones and using seven degrees + accidentals to represent them (an understandable stance, since this is a piano forum, the examples so far provided are from piano repertoire and standard pianos are tuned this way and have seven white keys to each octave). Not all music fits into this system, however and every tuning system (even if we confined ourselves to equal temperament ones) that divides the octave into other than 12 semitones will bring with it the need for a different kind of notational system.

However, even if we do confine this discussion to the standard 12-semitone system to which we are all well accustomed, any highly chromatic or atonal music will give rise to potential anomalies in pitch notation - whether or when to use double accidentals, how often to use naturals, how best to deal with enharmonic problems, etc. A century or so ago, Busoni was considering the possibilities of a notation system with a different place (line or space) for each of the 12 notes, but nothing beyond speculative thoughs ever appears to have come of this. Busoni was, among many other things, a great visionary, but I am nevertheless inclined to agree that the pitch notation system to which we have become accustomed has (all its possible shortcomings notwithstanding) established itself so firmly that the complete redesign and relearning of such a different system would possibly be counterproductive in the long run.

The music examples that have so far been quoted here are relatively simple (by which statement I do not seek to criticise them per se); can you just imagine, however, what some of the more demanding pages in the piano music of Finnissy, Barrett, Ferneyhough or Sorabji would look like if re-notated into any such system?

I am, of course, open to correction here if I am wrong, but my assumption so far is that the principal aim of the kind of notational system propounded here is that of simplification; the problem I have with this is that of trying to force complex musical ideas and textures into notational systems whose designs are essentially too simple properly to accommodate them.

Best,

Alistair
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« Reply #33 on: February 03, 2006, 01:16:54 PM »

Fair enough. For you there is no need. For me too.  I am glad that you recognise that learning TN does require 'real effort', 'motivation' and a 'decent amount of intelligence'. And of course there is nothing hard about TN 'once you learn it'! There is nothing hard about Relativistic Physics 'once you learn it'.

But the facts are that for many people who start off learning the piano from TN, the amount of 'real effort' required is greater than the 'motivation' they feel, so that if less effort was required they might just have kept it up. And an easier notation will allow more people in the IQ spectrum to enjoy success in music and the self esteem it gives.

You are speaking only for yourself. I am not saying that you need to learn it. But the fact is that not everyone is like you, with talent to allow them to read fluently at the age of 9. Dont you think that making music reading accessible to more of the population would be a good thing?

And I have already gathered quite a bit of anecdotal evidence that ES does make music reading accessible to more people - people who have struggled with TN for many years have had success with ES in a short period. See some examples mentioned earlier.

What concerns me is that highly intelligent and talented people like yourself seem to sometimes lack the 'motivation' to put even a modicum of 'effort' into trying out a new system, yet are willing to pass judgement on it.  It shows a gross lack of respect for the many other intelligent people that have put much time and thought into designing more efficient notations.

JohnK
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« Reply #34 on: February 03, 2006, 02:06:12 PM »

My last reply was of course aimed at Ian M.
'
Since then Alistair's post has arrived so I will attempt to address the points he makes.

Alistair, you are correct in assuming that most AN inventors are considering the 12 equal semitones per octave system, but then so does TN. Composers requiring other temperaments and micotonal systems must make their own custom symbols and instructions to define their intentions. This is irrelevant to the argument. TN does not cope with these other systems any better than ANs.

Your paragraph about highly chromatic or atonal music states rightly that this gives rise to 'anomolies' such as whether to notate #, b, x, or bb etc - in TN! These are precisely the issues that a chromatic stave deals with. In fact it was Schoenberg himself who devised a number of chromatic stave notations precisely to try to overcome these anomolies. If you look at the mnma site you will see a quote he made about it.

And you acknowledge Busoni's efforts in this matter as well, yet somehow come to the conclusion that this effort would be counter productive (BTW a stave with a different line or space for each of the 12 pitch classes  - and therefore no need for accidentals - is called a 'chromatic stave'.) But you do admit TN has its shortcomings, so we are in agreement.

I detect that the tone of your post softens rather a lot as it progresses. I am, of course, showing simpler music at this stage. However, my Finale Notation Converter will cope with anything that can be notated in TN staves. Everthing looks simpler in ES than in TN because there are no accidentals in a chromatic stave system - and hence no confusion over whether accidentals are kept for a measure or only affect the given note etc.

I would be very interested to take on some complex music. If you have Finale and want to send me a (short!) .MUS file, I'll run it through the converter and post a PDF here. Or if you have another music application, you might be able to export it as an XML file. The most difficult transnotation would be from a PDF which would have to be scanned - and scanners do not cope well with such difficulties. Bear in mind that I cannot at this point deal with cross-stave notation, which is why I wrote the RH part of the Moonlight Sonata mainly in the 'middle' clef. I can assure you that notational complexities will look simpler in ES.

Cheers, JohnK
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« Reply #35 on: February 03, 2006, 04:17:40 PM »

I detect that the tone of your post softens rather a lot as it progresses.
I'd hoped it would have come across as neither hard nor soft!

I would be very interested to take on some complex music. If you have Finale and want to send me a (short!) .MUS file, I'll run it through the converter and post a PDF here. Or if you have another music application, you might be able to export it as an XML file.
Sadly, I cannot oblige, as I have no such software here - but perhaps someone else could do so that does have a suitable application and a score of, say, Finnissy's Fourth Concerto, Ferneyhough's Lemma-Icon-Epigram or Barrett's Tract - and I'd have no objection if anyone wanted instead (or additionally) to submit a file of a particularly dense and notationally challenging page or two of Sorabji for this purpose.

Best,

Alistair
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« Reply #36 on: February 04, 2006, 04:14:42 AM »

Quote
Fair enough. For you there is no need. For me too.  I am glad that you recognise that learning TN does require 'real effort', 'motivation' and a 'decent amount of intelligence'. And of course there is nothing hard about TN 'once you learn it'! There is nothing hard about Relativistic Physics 'once you learn it'.

Yeah, but you don't see relativistic physicists changing anything because some people think it's too hard do you? Maybe they should though so "everyone can be a relativistic physicist", right?

Quote
But the facts are that for many people who start off learning the piano from TN, the amount of 'real effort' required is greater than the 'motivation' they feel, so that if less effort was required they might just have kept it up. And an easier notation will allow more people in the IQ spectrum to enjoy success in music and the self esteem it gives.

That's their problem. As I said before, if they give up or find it too difficult it's not for them anyway. Changing an entire system for these people is as I said... ridiculous.

Quote
You are speaking only for yourself. I am not saying that you need to learn it. But the fact is that not everyone is like you, with talent to allow them to read fluently at the age of 9. Dont you think that making music reading accessible to more of the population would be a good thing?

No. Read my last response again... and I'm not just speaking for myself. I'm speaking for probably every professional musician out there and everyone I've spoke to that's read music/put effort into music. They've never complained. You're speaking to a minority here that probably doesn't have the intellect to understand this music anyway.

Quote
What concerns me is that highly intelligent and talented people like yourself seem to sometimes lack the 'motivation' to put even a modicum of 'effort' into trying out a new system, yet are willing to pass judgement on it.  It shows a gross lack of respect for the many other intelligent people that have put much time and thought into designing more efficient notations.

Why should I put effort into changing something that isn't broken? Something that has worked for generations and continues to work for a vast amount of musicians today? What's the point? I guess by your logic, you are showing disrespect to the intelligent people who think this system is perfect as it is.
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« Reply #37 on: February 04, 2006, 06:49:09 AM »

I think the big problem with your method is that it does not show the concept of key.  Anyone who learns from this system will never get the concept of key signatures down, which is very important, assuming they'd like to be able to write music themselves or understand the music they play.

I'd also be willing to bet that sight-reading from that music is difficult.  In TN the notation system eliminates all non-diatonic notes via the key signature.  This means that the music can be expressed very compactly, making it easier to read by recognizing intervals.  When you stick in a bunch of notes, all the intervals get bigger, and it's hard to read it quickly.  You and Alistair both state that TN doesn't deal well with 12-tone or highly chromatic music, but this only because it's so effective with tonal music.  Seeing how most piano music is tonal, I think we should stick with the system that works for tonal music.
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« Reply #38 on: February 04, 2006, 08:10:15 AM »

The manner in which this thread is developing suggests - as perhaps I should have noticed earlier - that it is dividing into two perhaps quite distinct areas: those who seek to advocate a different system of music notation because it's reckoned to be simpler to learn than the current standard one and those who speculate on whether a different system of music notation might iron out some of the presentational anomalies inherent in the setting of highly chromatic and atonal music. In short, two camps: camp 1 = let's make it easy and camp 2 = let's see if we can remove the potential equivocations from the complexity.

That said, I fear that, in practical terms, the notion of persuading the entire Western music world - composers, performers (including conductors), publishers, editors, teachers, musicologists - not to mention critics(!) - either to overthrow the system to which they have been so long accustomed in favour of a new one or (worse still) to accept the simultanoues side-by-side existence of the two systems (I mean, who's going to persuade Elliott Carter to change notation systems at his time of life?!) is, frankly, doomed to failure. Even with the benefit of present-day technology, can anyone imagine what a daunting, time-consuming and expensive task it would be for publishers to reissue every published music score in a new notation system? Who would fund this? How long would it take? What would become of all the existing published scores - not to mention unpublished ones - out there that have been notated in the "old" system?

Whilst the following analogy may not be the best one here, it might be worth mentioning that someone recently speculated on the prospect of changing all the UK's roads and ancillary equipment (road signs, traffic lights, etc.) in order that, in future, everyone in UK drives on the right (as in most countries in the world) instead of the left as has always been the case in UK). Now this actually would be a good idea! It was, however, reckoned to cost a 12-figure - possibly even a 13-figure - sum in pounds just to complete, would have a devastating effect on the country's economy during its completion and could not be achieved in less than two years (during which immensely disruptive transitional period one cannot help but wonder on what side of which roads should you drive?)...

In writing all this, I do not seek to undermine the efforts of sensible and inventive speculators on the subject of how the standard Western music notation system can be improved but to inject a practical common sense approach to the idea of its wholesale overhaul in terms of (a) who this would affect, (b) how and how much it would affect them for how long and (c) how much that entire overhaul would cost and who would pay for it.

Best,

Alistair
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« Reply #39 on: February 04, 2006, 05:33:14 PM »

Music-man, you make a valid point. When I started to learn the Bach inventions in ES, I had written the keys in their titles, so I got from each key, the familiar pattern of that scale on the piano - I knew what to expect. And having played piano for 50 years, my fingers and brain knows all these key signature patterns like the back of my hand, so it was easy for me to rattle off a tonal passage without having any trouble with exactly which black keys and white keys to use. But i realised that this ability was the result of decades of experience of the key signatures as a professional musician.

Novice musicians are still in the process of learning these patterns. and in TN there is nothing in the notation that really helps them! As you say, TN deletes all the cues to the key patterns by having the signature at the start. So TN is not an efficient teacher of these key patterns. As one of the AN inventors once remarked, to play fluently in a key, you first have to get familiar with the key signature pattern in that key, but how do you learn this pattern in the first place when the notation gives no clues? It is a catch 22 situation.

So to try to be more like a novice playing from the notation, I deleted the keys from the titles and stared just playing the white and black dots without the luxury of knowing what to expect. It was rather disconcerting at first. Playing the inventions involved taking in the melodic contours of two lines at once, but in ES, had the added complexity of taking in the black and white note coding as well.

I remembered a snippet of advice I once got from one of my teachers: In order to remember notes affected by an accidental earlier in a measure, instead of glancing backwards to check, get into the habit of everytime you see an accidental, quickly glance ahead to see whether the same note occurs again.

Doing this made me see that in ES notation it was even easier than in TN, because the accidentals stuck out so readily. I soon began to notice that the black notes were not arbitrary after all. But in fact they teach you the key signature as you are learning the piece.

In this regard, ES notation is more compatible with the notion of key signature than most other ANs, which do not have the delineation between the white and black keys. So i disagree with your conclusion that ES will never give the concept of key - on the contrary, it actually helps you learn the key patterns. It is an inbuilt scale and chord pattern manual in effect. Scales notated in ES are like those printed key diagrams you find in many a teaching book to help students learn these keyboard patterns.

As far as sight reading goes, I assume that the quicker a student learns to identify the symbol with the key to be played, the more practice they get in doing it, and the better they get. By having all staves the same, and all octaves the same, and no confusion of whether the note is F or F# etc, student learn the system a hell of a lot faster, in a few weeks, rather than years, so as i said at the start of this thread, I would expect them to make much faster sight reading progress.

But this is my theory - I havent yet decided to take two bunches of new students and teach one group ES, the other TN, and compare results. What i can say is that another AN, Klavar (or Klavarscribo) has been around long enough and has a large enough following, that some comprisons can be made between it and TN. One person's anecdotal evidence was quoted in an earlier post. Maybe a music psychology department somewhere should do a properly controlled survey.

You say "all the intervals get bigger". With many other ANs they do, but in ES they are pretty much the same size as in TN. (Have you actually looked at it?)

To relate now to Alistair Hinton's post, I would like readers to understand I am not proposing the Herculean task of changing every musician from using TN to ES! What i am saying is that with the computer facility we have today, it will become increasingly feasible for students who wish to, to learn music from an alternative notation. Availability of music will not be an issue. As indicated in various ads on this and other music sites, there are many different ways on offer to learn the piano. By ear, by chord patterns, alternative notations, alternative keyboard layouts like the Japanese Chroma system, etc. These are here now. And I am offering what I think is a viable easier notation, and a notation converter to make it.

BTW, your analogy with changing the side of the road that drivers use is interesting. Are you implying that it will never occur? It has already in Europe afaik.

Who will pay? Well if a product is successful in the marketplace it will pay for itself - people might even pay me one day - but at this point I'm really only interested in making trained musicians aware of the existence of ANs, and hopefully persuading some to have a closer look at one system.
 
I dont really want people to postulate about how it will go. I would like people to try it for a weeks or so and then tell me how it went. Especially the community of teachers and musicians who have been preprogrammed with TN. Write a post after you have given ES a fair try, ie enough to be able to play something from it; what you choose depends on your pianistic ability. As I have said, my own experience in learning pieces in ES has been quite rapid. I only invented it in August! What will other trained musicians experiences be?

Thanks for all your comments, JK
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« Reply #40 on: February 04, 2006, 09:43:19 PM »

To relate now to Alistair Hinton's post, I would like readers to understand I am not proposing the Herculean task of changing every musician from using TN to ES! What i am saying is that with the computer facility we have today, it will become increasingly feasible for students who wish to, to learn music from an alternative notation. Availability of music will not be an issue.
Thank you for clarifying that. I still say, however, that the alternative to this which you presumably advocate instead - i.e. that two (or, worse still, more than two) quite different systems will have simultaneous currency - is even more potentially problematic; publishers would then have to decide in which one or more of those systems to publish each work under their imprimatur, with the inevitable conseqence that more money would have to be spent addressing less people. Where would that money come from? Subsidies of publishers? Vastly increased selling prices? No, I think that, in practical terms, one system would have to continue to hold good for all publications of Western music that uses the 12-semitones-to-the-octave system.

BTW, your analogy with changing the side of the road that drivers use is interesting. Are you implying that it will never occur? It has already in Europe afaik.
I am implying that any such change - however much I and others would welcome it - is most unlikely, for it would present UK with an economic impossibility. Almost all other countries in our ever-expanding Europe drive on the right.

For a new notation system to have any realistic chance of adoption, it would have in any case to be capable of addressing all music written within the above 12-semitones-to-the-octave system. Whilst it may be true at present that most piano music (and it is the piano repertoire which we are principally discussing here) is tonal, the sheer amount of non-tonal or tonal but highly chromatic music in the repertoire of that instrument cannot be ignored - tonally challenged (shall we call it, without at all wishing to sound "PC" about it!) music has been around for 120 years, so it would be absurd not to take it on board when considering the possibilities of such a notation system - if it can't present Ferneyhough, Carter, Xenakis, Bartók, Schönberg, Sorabji, Roslavetz, Barrett, Finnissy, the so far elusive Jason Fox and tens - if not hundreds - of thousands of other composers whose harmonic language currently presents more notational complexities than Brahms, then there will be a major obstacle to its chances of acceptance.

Not only that, we should extend our concerns beyond mere matters of pitch classes to those of general pianistic layout and presentation. The piano arguably presents a greater degree of notational challenge than most other instruments, in that it is capable of multiple intertwining layers of musical thought and covers most of the aural range perceptible to humans. This means that all kinds of notational complexities can and will arise, besides that of how to set down specific pitches. If you were to attempt to set some of the extracts I recommended, I think that you would thereby risk demonstrating just how daunting a task it would be to absorb and acquire fast sight-reading fluency in such a new system to the ultimate extent of its capabilities. Assuming that it were even possible, can you imagine the sheer cost of typesetting Finnissy's A History of Photography in Sound" and Sorabji's Symphonic Variations in two or (heaven help us) more different notational systems?!

Best,

Alistair
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« Reply #41 on: February 04, 2006, 11:36:07 PM »

No, I think that, in practical terms, one system would have to continue to hold good for all publications of Western music that uses the 12-semitones-to-the-octave system.

It is interesting you say this. The MNMA members are currently in hot debate about just this point. The founder of the organisation has always been in favour of screens and evaluation testing of ANs so as to come up with an ultimate recommendation of the 'best' system, which publishers would then use.

As i see it though in the real world of supply and demand, ANs just compete in the marketplace. As i said, this is already happening. There are 200,000 pieces available in Klavar (Klavarskribo). Presumably not any of the new music you mentioned because of copyright, but perhaps some is, with the composers permission. Japanese Chroma is a commercial company selling a 6-6 keyboard and its own AN. See attachment. Various other AN inventors offer tuition in their own notation.

My solution would be that 'publishers' (these days, often the composers themselves) offer their music in a format which can be converted into any AN - this would surely maximise their profit - like the music that is available at present on sibeliusmusic, but in a music program that supports transnotation, such as Finale. I would make a profit by selling a Finale file which is a 'template' for my notation, ie music pasted into it appears in ES.

As I transnotate more music, my transnotator constantly gets more feature added, In doing the Moonlight Sonata movement, I had to solve the problem of applying register changes where required. Eventually a transnotator would be able to automatically choose the best register and change it where needed. You will see that in the Chroma example, the range of the staff itself is expanded as required, but my solution would be to keep the score compact.

One of the purposes of ANs is to represent 'tonally challenged' music more efficiently than TN does, but imo ANs can also make any music easier to read and accessible to more consumers.

At a party I went to last night I met some people in the piano and pianodisc business. One guy who runs this business plays by ear and has not mastered reading TN. He naturally got a demo of ES from me (!) and was very impressed that it was so simple and fast to learn, taking some music home to try. I am sure he is not the only person who would be interested in my invention.

When you speak of notational complexities and problems that can arise for new piano music, cant you see that if it can be solved in TN, then it can more easily be solved in a chromatic staff? I would like to transnotate some of the music you suggest, but getting it in an appropriate format and getting copyright approval are the current stumbling blocks. Also, if I presented difficult music like this on PianoStreet, what kind of reaction would I get? In Finale I have experimentally entered random notes in 1/16ths and other time values. Added a second stave, clef changes etc. The resulting 'piece' comes out sounding very interesting when played at speed by the computer, but it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a human to play. Copied into ES, at least you can read all the separate notes without counting millions of legerlines and looking for hidden accidentals etc. Sight reading difficult modern music may never be feasible, but because of the above simplifications, how could you say it would be even harder in an AN?  And the 'typesetting' required in an AN would be no more than in TN.

Cheers, JohnK

PS, Here is that snippet of 'Chroma' notation:


* Japanese Chroma.jpg (46.91 KB, 819x301 - viewed 1363 times.)
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« Reply #42 on: February 05, 2006, 01:45:35 AM »

I take your ignoring of my post as a compliment. thanks Cool
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« Reply #43 on: February 05, 2006, 03:16:10 AM »

My pleasure! Smiley
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« Reply #44 on: February 05, 2006, 06:06:18 PM »

It is interesting you say this. The MNMA members are currently in hot debate about just this point. The founder of the organisation has always been in favour of screens and evaluation testing of ANs so as to come up with an ultimate recommendation of the 'best' system, which publishers would then use.

As i see it though in the real world of supply and demand, ANs just compete in the marketplace. As i said, this is already happening. There are 200,000 pieces available in Klavar (Klavarskribo). Presumably not any of the new music you mentioned because of copyright, but perhaps some is, with the composers permission.
Copyright - or at least the composer's copyright - is unlikely to be an issue except in cases where a composer might specifically refuse permission for his/her work top bne issue in other notations formats. Acceptance of "an ultimate recommendation of the 'best' system", as you describe, would surely lead us back to the replacement of the currently accepted system with another one (unless that current system came out as the 'best' in such evaluation testing), which is what I thought you had specifically said was not your aim! I am now confused as to what you see as the ideal solution - two or more systems running concurrently or a "best from the test" system...

When you speak of notational complexities and problems that can arise for new piano music, cant you see that if it can be solved in TN, then it can more easily be solved in a chromatic staff? I would like to transnotate some of the music you suggest, but getting it in an appropriate format and getting copyright approval are the current stumbling blocks.
If, as you suggest, the issue I raised concerns something which can more easily be solved in a way that you advocate than in the currently accepted system, why do you then go on to describe "getting it in an appropriate format"... as a "current stumbling block"? I doubt very much whether you would have any difficulty in getting copyright approval for quoting a page or so on a piece for this particular purpose; have you actually asked any publishers for their permission and been refused?

Also, if I presented difficult music like this on PianoStreet, what kind of reaction would I get?
I don't know - you'd have to try it and see for yourself, I guess - but for what reason would you seek to question this in advance? I would like to think that whatever reaction you might get would be a sensible response to your efforts to demonstrate what you believe to be a valid point.

Best,

Alistair
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« Reply #45 on: February 05, 2006, 09:45:54 PM »

Hello Alistair,

It is good to know that copyright is unlikely to be an issue in translating new music into an AN.

Whether the MNMA's recommendations have any influence in the real world remains to be seen. Some MNMA members do have the aim of one recommended AN coexisting with TN for a period, then eventually replacing it. But personally, I do not.

I see various ANs having larger followings as computer software becomes available to translate TN into ANs. This is happening already. Klavar has a free translater available, and quite a large following, since it was the first AN to venture out into the commercial marketplace.

I have not asked for permission to use any new music at this stage. There would be no point until I ascertain whether anyone would be willing to a) learn ES, and b) learn the piece of music.

By 'appropriate format', I simply meant in Finale, or a file that could be converted into Finale; and with discrete staves and no 'cross-beaming'.

I am heartened to hear you say that you believe PianoStreet forum users would give a sensible response to a sincere proposal. My comment only meant that I would likely not have got any people willing to try ES had I posted a very complex piece of music at the outset.

But I am keen to demonstrate that ES can cope with complex music, so I would like to make a proposal to you personally:

Download the free Finale NotePad from http://www.finalemusic.com/showcase/fs_home.asp.
Write some 'complex' music in it (Doesn't need to be a work of art, just contain some of the type of things you are talking about), then send the file to me at jkofke@bigpond.net.au. I will post a PDF here of the music in TN and ES in parallel, so that viewers can compare the notations.

Cheers, John Keller
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« Reply #46 on: February 05, 2006, 11:00:23 PM »

It is good to know that copyright is unlikely to be an issue in translating new music into an AN.
That wasn't quite what I said, or meant to convey; what I was implying was that copyright should not be an issue if you restrict yourself to quoting a page or two of a work that is much longer than that on this forum - and I should have added that, should you do so, you would have to insist that this not be reproduced in any form. You really ought to obtain the permission of the publishers first - but I think that you would get it for this exercise, provided that you credited the publishers with that permission. I apologise if I was insufficiently clear in what I wrote previously.

I am heartened to hear you say that you believe PianoStreet forum users would give a sensible response to a sincere proposal. My comment only meant that I would likely not have got any people willing to try ES had I posted a very complex piece of music at the outset.
Again, perhaps I was insufficiently clear in what I wrote about this; I meant to say that I would hope that this would be the kind of response that you should expect on this forum, rather than that this will be the actual response you'll get (which may be a different thing but which ought not to be so!).

But I am keen to demonstrate that ES can cope with complex music, so I would like to make a proposal to you personally:

Download the free Finale NotePad from http://www.finalemusic.com/showcase/fs_home.asp.
Write some 'complex' music in it (Doesn't need to be a work of art, just contain some of the type of things you are talking about), then send the file to me at jkofke@bigpond.net.au. I will post a PDF here of the music in TN and ES in parallel, so that viewers can compare the notations.

Cheers, John Keller
I appreciate the invitation, but I'd really rather you chose something youself to try for the purpose of this exercise and I have hinted at several possibilities; I hope that's OK with you.

Best,

Alistair
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« Reply #47 on: February 06, 2006, 08:09:17 AM »

,
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« Reply #48 on: February 06, 2006, 08:26:17 AM »

Oops, not the best reply I made haha! This one should be better:

Everybody, it may not be immediate where we could gain great benefit by applying AN today, but I'll give an example.

By some chance, I was reading about esperanto. It turns out they have done several studies about foreign language learning in primary school.

In one study, they observed two groups that were to study foreign language(s) for their first time. From first class to the end of fifth class in primary school. Quite young children to begin with.
Group one learned english from first class to fifth.
Group two started with esperanto for two years, followed by english for three years.
So, group 1 - 5 years english education, group 2 - 3 years.
At the end of fifth class, the scientists compared the groups level of english, and,
the group (2) beginning with esperanto, had clearly much better english!
(I may be a bit fuzzy on details, pardon my memory!) If you don't know much about esperanto - search on google.

There are right times for everything, and it seems that children have a progressively much harder time handling irregularities and unlogical occurences in for example language and notation systems.
I think this may be because they're still developing their learning capabilities! When they are established, irregularities is a snap. But before that, hard hard hard.

johnk, I still wonder, why not triangles? Extra information makes things easier. We are two persons allready who have commented on the same issue, but you keep defending your "touch" thing. We others are looking at your work with fresh eyes! Don't be too in love with your creation not to make it even better, in the end we hope that not only you will be using it.

Mandrake


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« Reply #49 on: February 06, 2006, 01:04:46 PM »

Thanks for the latest posts, guys.

Firstly to Alistair, I'm sorry that the copyright issue may be a bit more problematic than I thought you were at first implying, however it is probably possible for me to find something on the Finale site that I could use. I must admit I am not so familiar with the avant guard stuff. If I find a piece, or make up an 'aleatoric piece' of random notes and bung it in the transnotator, would that show you what you want to see?

If there are more specific complexities that you could specify, it would help.

Mandrake, I know you mentioned triangles, but without reading every post again, I dont recall the suggestion from someone else as well - perhaps you could drop a name for me.

I actually have considered triangles (even before your suggestion), and have not totally rejected the idea. But in practice, with the font designer and transnotator results on the computer screen, I have not so far found a system that fits together as cohesively and  elegantly as the present one.

A possible criticism of my system is that it lacks an obvious '6-6' coding, which many of the other ANs do have. The main reason to incorporate triangular noteheads would be to clearly show 6-6 (ie the two complementary wholetone scales). The 'even' WTS, would remain ovals - CDE, F#G#A# - these I call 'co-line' notes, since their note colour 'agrees' with the line they are on. The 'anti-line' WTS are the notes which possibly could become triangles - AB, C#D#, FG - they are the notes whose colour 'disagrees' with their line (ie A & G on the 'LINK' line and C# & D# on the D line), plus the two nontouching 'spotted' notes, B & F.

I don't quite understand which notes you think could be more quickly recognised as triangles, but I have recently been handwriting notes on ES manuscript, and found that the one problem is putting the 'spots' in the B and F notes. I have decided that in handwritten form, the easiest solution is to substitute a triangular shape for these notes. But since all notes in ES have stems, you need only draw two sides of the triangle (as in > ). With this change, handwriting in ES is quick and accurate.

I really appreciate your support for my system and for ANs in general. Your esperanto study is interesting. I suppose the parallel would be to start teaching young piano students in ES, then progress to TN. So far I have always taught TN first and only shown some ES notation when I feel the student is fairly secure in TN. They have usually learnt it in one lesson and can read it quite easily (sep hands) in a week or two.

Which brings me to: How are the 'volunteers' going. Is anyone ready to report? Has anyone stuck to the routine of trying some ES each day for a week? Abell8? Mayla? Leahcim? I'm keen to hear from you.

Cheers, JohnK

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