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Alternative Musical Notation Systems (Read 1168 times)

Offline lettersquash

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Alternative Musical Notation Systems
« on: February 25, 2021, 07:33:11 PM »
Hi, I wondered if anyone has any experience of alternative ways to inscribe music, particularly for the keyboard, or what you think about them.

I'd say my interest is mostly academic, because I had a few years' of piano lessons as a kid and I have begun to feel that the long slog from C-major pieces towards harder key signatures might be worth it (as a 59-year-old returner), although it feels like a long road indeed, studded with pointless boulders.

I might be too far along the traditional road for there to be much point in switching. However, I wonder whether humanity in general wouldn't benefit significantly by switching to another system.

The traditional system is a product of repeated revamping from its ancient roots, through many different musical styles and technical requirements, and, although evolution like that does often produce good results, it is often plagued by inertia. Nobody wants to scrap the bulk of the existing system, because a tradition has grown up, so they introduce tweaks.

I suggest that if someone - or a committee of expert educators and psychologists (rather than dyed-in-the-wool music experts) - were devising a new system for musical notation from scratch, the structure we have - the staff or staves, clefs to tell you which notes were on which lines, key signatures and accidentals, etc. - might not feature very highly on their agenda.

There isn't a perfect system for all situations, different instruments, personal ambitions and ethnic traditions, so constraints have to be accepted. Even so, it might make sense to use the arrangement of keys on the keyboard as a general rule, because players often learn piano alongside their other instruments, and because the keyboard is so common; in the digital era it has become the default input device for composers.

So, what might future generations gain or lose from being taught, from the beginning, to read and write using something like Klavarskribo? Some examples for free. [Link edited to go to English language version. 2021-03-06]

It looks a bit like nonsense, doesn't it? But didn't traditional script look like nonsense, and wouldn't this notation make sense quicker? Couldn't you learn some of those pieces in half the time or less? Doesn't it need almost no explanation (maybe a bit on the timing)?

A couple of the worst sticking-points of traditional (keyboard) notation:

One that must cause untold frustration and the quitting of many promising students is the disconnect between the G and F clefs. Generally, I imagine, people learn the G-clef notes first, and then are introduced to the bonkers set in the left hand, two notes out of kilter from the right. One website I found described the problem well and proposed using two G-clef staves, with the left one moved down, so the first leger line isn't middle-C, but the A below. It was tempting to try it, except I'd probably cause myself more confusion, and there's almost nothing printed anyway.

But apparently none of the other problems occurred to the author to address.

My other bug-bear is the emphasis we put on keys dictating the notation via a key signature. It certainly causes me more headaches than much else. Of course, we can still analyse music in the same way. The key won't change. Nothing about the music itself will change, just the way it's written. (I think we eventually forget there's a difference between a key and a key signature.)

We could write notes on the existing staves without reference to a key, so all sharps/flats would be accidentals. Instead of writing every sharp or flat with a symbol ahead of the note, we could simply use a different shaped note head, and there would be no need for both sharps and flats, so just one different shape would be required (but we'd have to decide which to use, or it might not be too confusing for pieces to use either sharps or flats for some reason).

I'm sure traditionalists will be horrified at the idea, but - all you beginners and intermediate players - just imagine, no more naturals overriding the compensation you already made reading the note as written due to the key signature at the beginning or the accidental sharp or flat in the bar! No more double sharps or double flats! No more synonyms, notes written differently that sound the same, like the attached example from Chopin's Prelude in Em.

I posted this example earlier, and the reason someone gave me for Chopin's choice was to do with the musical theory employed, "Chopin intended a F half diminshed 7th chord to fall to a E dominant 7th chord." I still have no idea, and probably never will, why that demands a confusing change of notation - does either of those chords absolutely require a sharp or flat to define it? Clearly not, since I can play them without any names whatever.

How many people play this piece and literally never learn enough music theory to give two hoots what's descending to what, and don't need to know, nor particularly benefit from knowing? And how many, like me, endlessly trip up over that switch from an Ab to a G#, my fingers hovering over some lower note than it was playing, only to realise it's the same freaking note? How much musical talent is put off trying to deal with this and all the other archaic rubbish traditional script is littered with?

Personally, I think partial fixes, like two G-clef staves and "all-accidental" sharps (or flats) would be less useful as a replacement for future generations and anyone switching now than something radical like Klavar(skribo), since two systems that look similar might cause confusion, where a more radical overhaul shouldn't. I do rather like the traditional method of note value notation, although that might just be because I've spent years getting reasonably familiar with it. I find representations of duration that are too graphical are actually more confusing than half, quarter, eighth notes and triplets (but I'm not sure rests do much good compared to the real estate they take up on the page).

Anyway, enough from me. I'd love to hear what you think.
Schwencke dumped in the middle of Bach's Prelude, and Gounod tried to polish it.

Offline lelle

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #1 on: February 25, 2021, 09:09:36 PM »
I'm biased towards the traditional way of notating things, because it's simply just very elegant and logical once you get a hang of it, especially on a keyboard instrument like the piano. I'm interested in hearing if this way of presenting things makes sense to you.

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One that must cause untold frustration and the quitting of many promising students is the disconnect between the G and F clefs. Generally, I imagine, people learn the G-clef notes first, and then are introduced to the bonkers set in the left hand, two notes out of kilter from the right.

The way I was taught notation from the start solved this problem quite neatly. I did not learn the G clef notes first, but rather the notes in both clefs at the same rate and at the same time, starting with middle C. If you squish the staves together a bit, middle C ends up in the "same place" for both clefs/hands.



It makes sense that middle C looks a bit special (with the ledger line) and is right in the middle, since it is, well, middle C. Then you simply use the spaces and lines in the two staves to represent the white keys on the piano. If you go up in the system, you go up on the piano's white keys, and if you go down in the system, you go down on the piano's white keys.

Then, going up or down along the piano is simply one unbroken chain of black dots in the system. One step on the piano, i e going from one white key to the next, is one step in the system, so if you play each white key in turn up the piano, you get an even sequence of rising black dots in the system, and vice versa. Makes sense, right?



The clefs simply show which hand is which and act as little reminders of where G above middle C and F below middle C are located, since the clefs kind of circle the lines these keys are on.

With this basic mode of thinking, I learned to read notes quite fast.

***

What next? The lines and spaces in the system representing the white keys is great and all, and if we want to notate a C major scale, it works perfectly, since it is only made out of white keys:



But what happens if we start from G, for example, and want to play a scale that sounds "the same", in terms of how the pitches relate to each other (G major)? It doesn't work if we only use the white keys on the piano starting from G, because it sounds rather different from how C major feels now:



If we use a black key (F sharp) instead of the F we can solve this problem. However, we need some way to show that we now need the black key just to the right of the white key F, instead of the white key F which the dot represents. For this, we decided to use the sharp sign, which tells us "Use the key just to the right of the white key this dot represents" - in this case the black key we need.



Lets say we only had access to flat signs, the G major scale would look very different from C major, though it sounds "the same". It would no longer be a neat row of rising pitches, because we would have to modify a G, instead of an F, to get the black key.



However, we still need the flat signs, because if we play a scale from, for example, F just using the white keys, it will also not sound the "same" as C major:




We need the black key to the left of B instead of B to make it sound right. To indicate a key right to the left of the notated white key, we decided to use the flat sign:



Using a sharp sign to generate the same sounds will no longer give us a neat row of rising pitches.



Now, if we have a piece in G major we know that the F is by default going to have to be turned into an F sharp, and in F major we know that the the B by default is going to have to be turned into a B flat. So instead of littering the score with sharps and flats, we simply put them at the start of the system, as a key signature.

The way the rest of the scales are notated can be derived from these simple problems and solutions, including double crosses and double flats. We simply want the scales, and the chords we build out of them, to be possible to notated the "same way", with a connected row of rising pitches (and the possibility to build chords out of stacked thirds), regardless of what white or black key we start from. The sharps and flats accomplish this for us. I think it would make less sense, for example, if a key like A major was a jumple of different leaps in the staves rather than a neat row of steadily rising pitches like C major.

The theory behind this is a bit more advanced but I feel this is a way one can look at the basics behind why things are as they are.

Something like Klavierskribo might offer something that is easier to understand for some beginners (I took to traditional notation rather quickly so I don't think Klavarskribo would ahve made it faster) but I challenge you to notate something like Scriabin's 5th sonata with that system in a way that is anyway near practical:






Offline ranjit

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #2 on: February 25, 2021, 09:57:57 PM »
I don't think Klavisboro would work, really. The vertical arrangement is rather weird, and it is too visually cluttered.

I'm not against a new musical script, but I think the current one is quite sensible for most tonal music, especially in the Western tradition. I think one can absolutely design a better system for 12-tone serialism where all of the 12 notes are kind of similar, or microtones or whatever, or for simple music (e.g. Nashville numbering).

But what you really want is simplicity and clear visual cues, while at the same time being invisible. You aren't really thinking too much about the font being used for the text right here, because it has the property that the design decisions are "invisible", and that is what you ideally want for a notation system to be understood well at high speed. None of the alternative musical systems I've seen so far seem better than the grand staff at achieving this goal. Even for an intermediate-advanced student, by and large, sheet music is considerably more effective than most other systems out there imo.

Offline lettersquash

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #3 on: February 26, 2021, 12:01:15 AM »
I'm biased towards the traditional way of notating things, because it's simply just very elegant and logical once you get a hang of it, especially on a keyboard instrument like the piano. I'm interested in hearing if this way of presenting things makes sense to you.
Well, I was intending to say nothing for a while, but I didn't think I probably would, and now you've invited me to respond, so I must! Thank you for taking the time.

I should start by saying that I'm very aware of a problem in introducing this subject, because when people are experienced with the traditional system, it has already become "elegant and logical", but they have put a good deal of time and effort, usually, into "getting the hang of it". It is difficult for us to un-see what is clear and easy to us now, like reading English for an English speaker, yet English is anything but logical.

I'll respond to some of your points with that in mind.

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The way I was taught notation from the start solved this problem quite neatly. I did not learn the G clef notes first, but rather the notes in both clefs at the same rate and at the same time, starting with middle C. If you squish the staves together a bit, middle C ends up in the "same place" for both clefs/hands.



It makes sense that middle C looks a bit special (with the ledger line) and is right in the middle, since it is, well, middle C. Then you simply use the spaces and lines in the two staves to represent the white keys on the piano. If you go up in the system, you go up on the piano's white keys, and if you go down in the system, you go down on the piano's white keys.
Yes, that is clear to me. However, there is nothing actually that special about middle C, and this nice arrangement of the squished staves may be pretty, but it doesn't solve the problem I talked about. It looks a little bit like things are mirrored about the middle C, but of course, they're not. It suggests (if we apply logic and elegance) that perhaps the first leger line above the treble staff might also be a C, because it looks exactly alike, but no, it's an A, or the one below the bass, which looks the same, but is an E.

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Then, going up or down along the piano is simply one unbroken chain of black dots in the system. One step on the piano, i e going from one white key to the next, is one step in the system, so if you play each white key in turn up the piano, you get an even sequence of rising black dots in the system, and vice versa. Makes sense, right?


Well, yes, it "makes sense" in terms of the system that you're using, but please note that the auditory distance, the actual interval, between those is uneven (it is, of course, what makes the familiar major scale), and it is that fact and that fact alone which forces all the following things that you describe as necessary, because they "don't work" if you don't tweak the notation to adjust for the different intervals.

If you space out all the notes, giving equal preference to the black ones as to the white ones, all that becomes entirely unnecessary. A major scale moves across (or up) the new staff with the same pattern whatever note it begins on. A position is provided for an Ab (which is exactly the same note, in case you forgot - people do) as a G#, so no sign is needed next to it or in the key signature.

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The clefs simply show which hand is which and act as little reminders of where G above middle C and F below middle C are located, since the clefs kind of circle the lines these keys are on.
Yes, and as I pointed out, their convention is such that the bass is off by "two notes" (actually three or four "real notes", semitones, depending on where they are!!!) compared to the treble. Would it not be more "elegant" and "logical" if they were the same notes (transposed by two octaves)? Would it make the great staff less elegant or logical if it had two leger lines in between the ones we actually draw. But I don't want to emphasize this fix, because it is still quite inferior to a system that has equally spaced notes on its staff instead of tone, tone, semitone.

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With this basic mode of thinking, I learned to read notes quite fast.

***

What next? The lines and spaces in the system representing the white keys is great and all, and if we want to notate a C major scale, it works perfectly, since it is only made out of white keys:

I start to think there might actually be some underlying unconscious racism involved in the development of Western music (although harpsichords often have the white and black reversed)! ;D  I am joking, of course, but you see the issue - why are we fixated on white notes and then make all the folllowing problems for ourselves:.....

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But what happens if we start from G, for example, and want to play a scale that sounds "the same", in terms of how the pitches relate to each other (G major)? It doesn't work if we only use the white keys on the piano starting from G, because it sounds rather different from how C major feels now:

Yes, precisely!

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If we use a black key (F sharp) instead of the F we can solve this problem.
And if we hadn't devised the "white notes are special" notation system, we wouldn't have
created the problem in the first place!

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However, we need some way to show that we now need the black key just to the right of the white key F, instead of the white key F which the dot represents. For this, we decided to use the sharp sign, which tells us "Use the key just to the right of the white key this dot represents" - in this case the black key we need.



Lets say we only had access to flat signs, the G major scale would look very different from C major, though it sounds "the same". It would no longer be a neat row of rising pitches, because we would have to modify a G, instead of an F, to get the black key.



However, we still need the flat signs, because if we play a scale from, for example, F just using the white keys, it will also not sound the "same" as C major:




We need the black key to the left of B instead of B to make it sound right. To indicate a key right to the left of the notated white key, we decided to use the flat sign:



Using a sharp sign to generate the same sounds will no longer give us a neat row of rising pitches.

And yet, somehow, you managed to not see all those problems you had to find contrary solutions to were caused by the choice of staff. Sorry to labour the point, but it really seems to need labouring.

What this does hammer home to me, however, is the weakness of my suggested solution of an "all-accidentals" method. I still think it would be superior to the traditional (with head shape, as I said, not "littered" with sharps and flats), but it is still trying to accommodate the underlying asymmetry of the staff spacing.

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Now, if we have a piece in G major we know that the F is by default going to have to be turned into an F sharp, and in F major we know that the the B by default is going to have to be turned into a B flat. So instead of littering the score with sharps and flats, we simply put them at the start of the system, as a key signature.
So now we have to remember that all the notes aren't what they look like, but something above or below that. Hmm, very elegant and logical.

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The way the rest of the scales are notated can be derived from these simple problems and solutions, including double crosses and double flats.
Yes, but let's think about that a moment. Take a cross indicating a double sharp. Sure we can "derive" it, but it still means we're reading, say an A (as far as its position is concerned), then having to remember that in fact it's an A# due to the key signature, but with it's cross this makes it a B. Have you looked at Klavar score? If something is on the note that looks just like the A on the keyboard, it's an A. Now imagine if it had a little sign above it saying it was to be moved one to the right, but actually two because of something written in the header, but it's still sat there on the A. That would be "illogical" and "inelegant". But you can't see it with traditional score as more than "simple problems and solutions". I find this interesting.

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We simply want the scales, and the chords we build out of them, to be possible to notated the "same way", with a connected row of rising pitches (and the possibility to build chords out of stacked thirds), regardless of what white or black key we start from.
Which Klavarskribo does neatly without any accidentals or key signatures.

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The sharps and flats accomplish this for us. I think it would make less sense, for example, if a key like A major was a jumple of different leaps in the staves rather than a neat row of steadily rising pitches like C major.
That's true - that would make "less sense".

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The theory behind this is a bit more advanced but I feel this is a way one can look at the basics behind why things are as they are.
I'd be interested in the more advanced theory and whether it influences the comparison. I do understand all of the above - I've read music for several years - and I know roughly why things are the way they are. That doesn't mean people can't move on to a more elegant and logical system.

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Something like Klavierskribo might offer something that is easier to understand for some beginners (I took to traditional notation rather quickly so I don't think Klavarskribo would ahve made it faster)
Ah, but that sounds like you mean it wouldn't have helped you learn to read traditional music notation faster. That wouldn't be a fair comparison, and I bet it would have been easier to learn all the music you can now play if you had only ever learned Klavarskribo. I cannot honestly think of any reason why that would be untrue.

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but I challenge you to notate something like Scriabin's 5th sonata with that system in a way that is anyway near practical:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDTgj_69JKA
That's funny, I gave j_tour a difficult challenge the other day. It's my turn! I just downloaded a Klavar editor program, so if I get to grips with that I might have a go. However, the result might not strike you as "anyway near practical" unless you learn to read Klavarskribo. No doubt you can read the above reasonably easily, from what you've said. I'm pretty sure I'd spend much more time deciphering the dots than putting the notes into Klavar.
Schwencke dumped in the middle of Bach's Prelude, and Gounod tried to polish it.

Offline lettersquash

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #4 on: February 26, 2021, 12:42:59 AM »
I don't think Klavisboro would work, really. The vertical arrangement is rather weird, and it is too visually cluttered.
I partly agree. I can't see any reason why it doesn't or wouldn't work, and there is a relatively small community of people using it, so it must work well enough for them. Sure, the vertical arrangement is "rather weird", but that just means it's unfamiliar. I'm in two minds about this. There is a version (I found there are loads of different alternative score types out there) that puts the same staff on its side so you read left to right. This is both more natural and less natural in different senses - we naturally tend to think of musical notes as going "up" in a spacial sense, so it makes more sense, and (to certain parts of the planet) reading left to right is more natural. On the other hand, the vertical arrangement is more natural in that it exactly maps the keyboard in front of you, and you just have to get used to going down the page instead of across. It is weird at first, that, and I think I prefer the horizontal arrangment myself.

I also find the timing notation suboptimal and, as you say, cluttered. It divides the bar up with dashed lines where the main beats occur and puts the first beat of the bar directly on the solid line (the bar line). Not only is that weird (unfamiliar), I'm not sure it's as useful as giving each note a duration symbol as per the traditional system. However, I only began reading a short passage and soon found that it does have some neat features, so it might be purely my bias from my experience reading trad music. We have these deep resistances to new things. I thought I'd never use a touch screen on a phone. My finger would constantly be in the way of what I'm trying to touch, unlike with a mouse cursor. Anyone using one mustn't have noticed how stupid the idea was. Now it's perfectly natural. I tried it.

I'd be interested to know if anyone has done any research on how well new students take up music in the different systems. It is only such an objective approach that would really shed light on the value of changing (not that I expect that to happen either very soon or very quickly, but sometimes these things do reach a critical mass). As I said, I'm not so concerned for the likes of you and me, but for new learners and future generations.

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I'm not against a new musical script, but I think the current one is quite sensible for most tonal music, especially in the Western tradition. I think one can absolutely design a better system for 12-tone serialism where all of the 12 notes are kind of similar, or microtones or whatever, or for simple music (e.g. Nashville numbering).

But what you really want is simplicity and clear visual cues, while at the same time being invisible. You aren't really thinking too much about the font being used for the text right here, because it has the property that the design decisions are "invisible", and that is what you ideally want for a notation system to be understood well at high speed. None of the alternative musical systems I've seen so far seem better than the grand staff at achieving this goal. Even for an intermediate-advanced student, by and large, sheet music is considerably more effective than most other systems out there imo.
But can we compare the "invisibility" and high-speed reading facility of two systems, one of which we know pretty well and another that we've hardly spent any time looking at? Have you forgotten all the hours you poured over music, gradually soaking it up into your mind? All I know is the one you think is better has all manner of complex tweaks to figure out what notes you're reading, while the other puts dots reliably on what amounts to a little picture of a piano. And you said what we want is "simplicity and clear visual cues." :)
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #5 on: February 26, 2021, 01:42:19 AM »
I believe in alternative notation for those learning to read ONLY if it relates to the standard way you read. For example with early beginners I will avoid the drudgery of reading a score by representing position in terms of letters, shape and finger numbers and then using numbers, letters and direction to map out what they need to do. If there are movements into other position the logic how one moves from one to the other, what fingers are replaced, how the shape has changed etc are looked at. I might learn around 20-50 pieces with an early beginner in this fashion and then introduce the standard reading while attaching all the shape, fingering and movement observations onto actual sheets so it looks again like our alternative notions. This allow them to be able to see pattern in actual music in the basic form they began (drawing from past experience) with and they can draw that pattern out if needed or merely leave it as a mental appreciation once it becomes more ingrained. I find reading before you have a little experience playing and coordinating yourself is somewhat inefficient.
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Offline timothy42b

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #6 on: February 26, 2021, 01:56:13 AM »
Here is an alternate notation system I really like, although have spent the majority of 68 years reading standard notation i would have trouble playing from it.



But smalin is a very creative person.

As far as the idea of not using a key signature, but writing in accidentals, that would not work for me.

I have not had a gig in a long time, but in times past it was not unusual to sightread sheet music for a several hour job.  I would be familiar with the style but might not have seen the individual pieces. Accidentals clutter the page - I need to know I'm in D and all the Fs will be sharp unless told otherwise.  Reading at tempo with an ensemble requires some level of predictability. 

My brother on the other hand plays trad jazz, and hasn't seen sheet music in years, so notation is not relevant.  That's a skill set i don't have. 
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Offline lettersquash

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #7 on: February 26, 2021, 11:17:04 AM »
I believe in alternative notation for those learning to read ONLY if it relates to the standard way you read. For example with early beginners I will avoid the drudgery of reading a score by representing position in terms of letters, shape and finger numbers and then using numbers, letters and direction to map out what they need to do. If there are movements into other position the logic how one moves from one to the other, what fingers are replaced, how the shape has changed etc are looked at. I might learn around 20-50 pieces with an early beginner in this fashion and then introduce the standard reading while attaching all the shape, fingering and movement observations onto actual sheets so it looks again like our alternative notions. This allow them to be able to see pattern in actual music in the basic form they began (drawing from past experience) with and they can draw that pattern out if needed or merely leave it as a mental appreciation once it becomes more ingrained. I find reading before you have a little experience playing and coordinating yourself is somewhat inefficient.
I confess I know almost nothing of these kinds of alternative teaching techniques, but I agree, as far as that's worth much at all, that no system is useful that doesn't give a help towards a final goal, or worse, gets in the way. When I learned piano in the late '60s / early '70s, I was introduced to the staves and notes with the G and F clefs, relating them to the notes on the piano, their duration symbols, etc., in a graded system of exercises, simple pieces and scales, as I'm sure millions of others were. Back in primary school I probably had some more of the same, but even simpler, when I sat with the others and tortured the teacher with our plastic recorder squeals. I remember no shapes or fancy do-dahs with colours or diagrams until I began to research chord shapes as a rock guitarist, although I'm sure I picked up some of the basics of theory as I went along. I made up pieces as a teenager, rarely writing any score, almost always in C or Cm (for some reason, not A-minor - I guess because, since I wasn't bothered about the score, I could still more easily find the IVs and Vs and just had to swap a note or two here and there).

One thing I'm thinking, though, is a replacement, not a bridging or tutoring tool towards learning the dots we've had since the Middle Ages or thereabouts.
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Offline lettersquash

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #8 on: February 26, 2021, 11:33:54 AM »
Here is an alternate notation system I really like, although have spent the majority of 68 years reading standard notation i would have trouble playing from it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddbxFi3-UO4
Oh yes I agree, it's not designed to be read from. There are no indications of where notes are, no "staff", or any other information. As it says on the website: "By eliminating the multi-layered symbols of conventional notation (which a performer needs in order to interpret a composer's intentions) the MAM [Music Animation Machine] display can reveal melodic motion, compositional texture, and structure to the listener."

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But smalin is a very creative person.

As far as the idea of not using a key signature, but writing in accidentals, that would not work for me.
I'm with you there. It's possible a new learner might find it better than key signatures and further accidentals as we use now, but it's still a compromise position, trying to fix the fundamental bias in the staff (i.e., that the intervals between one degree and the next aren't equal, since the black notes are completely ignored until key sigs or accidentals are put in).

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I have not had a gig in a long time, but in times past it was not unusual to sightread sheet music for a several hour job.  I would be familiar with the style but might not have seen the individual pieces. Accidentals clutter the page - I need to know I'm in D and all the Fs will be sharp unless told otherwise.  Reading at tempo with an ensemble requires some level of predictability.
Absolutely, but if you'd not done the work and got used to that, imagine if you were playing in G and instead of knowing all the Fs were F#s unless told otherwise, you just saw that all the Fs had little up-pointing triangles for heads, or square ones, or whatever you'd got used to. Then - oh, what's this coming up - a round dot on the F line/space - so just an F. If it's possible to step back and be as objective as possible, I still think you might have fallen into that norm just as comfortably, in fact, probably more comfortably.

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My brother on the other hand plays trad jazz, and hasn't seen sheet music in years, so notation is not relevant.  That's a skill set i don't have.
Yeah, it must be amazing to see the keys and know it like the jazz guys and gals do - I can't imagine that. Nor can I imagine what it's like for skilled sight readers who couldn't care a toss about my concerns, because all the dots just make perfect sense (now they've studied and practised for thousands of hours).
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Offline lettersquash

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #9 on: February 27, 2021, 02:18:44 AM »
Re. my little challenge. The Klavar editor program I downloaded wasn't up to much, so I won't be transcribing any Scriabin anytime soon. :( But it probably wouldn't have been particularly enlightening to do so.
Schwencke dumped in the middle of Bach's Prelude, and Gounod tried to polish it.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #10 on: February 27, 2021, 03:06:56 AM »
I confess I know almost nothing of these kinds of alternative teaching techniques, but I agree, as far as that's worth much at all, that no system is useful that doesn't give a help towards a final goal, or worse, gets in the way. When I learned piano in the late '60s / early '70s, I was introduced to the staves and notes with the G and F clefs, relating them to the notes on the piano, their duration symbols, etc., in a graded system of exercises, simple pieces and scales, as I'm sure millions of others were.
Creating alternative notation came out of necessity for me since I needed to solve how to rapidly develop early beginners without the drudgery of reading a score. Almost all the time score reading sucks out the joy of learning to play the piano at an early stage. My beginner students all have alternatively written pieces I write out in front of them during each lesson, that creation of the music is important for them to see as well I find. I feel that teachers need to know how to write forms of music infront of students so they can see how the music is put together especially at the very early stages. Laying the foundation for the logic of sight reading skills in a simpler format other than traditional notes but of which has connection to them has rich grounds for innovation and I have found great success teaching early beginners with this type of system.

You should study traditional notation right from the beginning in a theoretical format and as simple exercises. Tapping out rhythms, coordinating two hands tapping, reading worksheets, naming notes, basic maths ratio understanding of note durations etc all these can be tied into traditional reading skills right from the start of our training. I don't feel that people should ever avoid that, I just have not seen any alternative system that can be used at a high level, at least none which connects strongly to traditional high level reading, if they manage that it would be much more interesting.

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Offline lettersquash

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #11 on: February 27, 2021, 02:41:58 PM »
Creating alternative notation came out of necessity for me since I needed to solve how to rapidly develop early beginners without the drudgery of reading a score. Almost all the time score reading sucks out the joy of learning to play the piano at an early stage.
I agree. Novices, whether adult or child, have more developed musical appreciation and hopes than they can possibly get anywhere near, so they feel patronised and bored playing Twinkle Twinkle.

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My beginner students all have alternatively written pieces I write out in front of them during each lesson, that creation of the music is important for them to see as well I find. I feel that teachers need to know how to write forms of music infront of students so they can see how the music is put together especially at the very early stages. Laying the foundation for the logic of sight reading skills in a simpler format other than traditional notes but of which has connection to them has rich grounds for innovation and I have found great success teaching early beginners with this type of system.
Excellent. That must help with the developmental journey, and it may also be useful for them to see that music isn't the same thing as the dots and squiggles, that one's a territory and the other a map, and there are different ways to map territories.

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You should study traditional notation right from the beginning in a theoretical format and as simple exercises.
Yes, assuming that the goal is reading (and/or writing) traditional notation. I don't know if I'm labouring the point. This is how the "inertia" I talked about is maintained. Were there another parallel course and a rich library of scores in a competing notation, this advice would not be as obvious as it seems.

It may be that my intuition is off and traditional notation is really, objectively, the best possible notation system, but I imagine an ancient Egyptian scholar repeating the truism that everyone should study hieroglyphics.

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Tapping out rhythms, coordinating two hands tapping, reading worksheets, naming notes, basic maths ratio understanding of note durations etc all these can be tied into traditional reading skills right from the start of our training.
Indeed, or any other reading skills. They are fundamental parts of the territory that is music.

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I don't feel that people should ever avoid that, I just have not seen any alternative system that can be used at a high level, at least none which connects strongly to traditional high level reading, if they manage that it would be much more interesting.
So, the only value of an alternative writing system is as a bridge to the one true system? I'm not saying you're wrong, just trying to clarify.

I'm gradually shifting my position, or at least my understanding of the issues. It took me the last few days to realise that, while there may be some advantages to giving equal weight to the black notes (instead of having them as afterthoughts on the stave, imaginary points in between some of the lines and spaces, but not all), that's what a keyboard has, kind of. Black notes are squeezed a little between the white. Via the history of music, the pentatonic scale is what humans settled on as most pleasant and useful, and very probably many instruments had only those notes (or approximations; particularly, I imagine, things like "simple-system" flutes, and single-key stringed instruments with perfect ratio tunings, perhaps). All manner of modes can be played just on the white notes, after all.

So there's a tension in what I'm trying to do when I give equal weight to the black notes. On the one hand, they are just semitones like all the others (and I'm already ignoring microtones, obviously) and yet I'm taking it for granted that the new system is mostly for keyboard players, and that's how the keyboard is, and that's because of our musical history, and our sense of harmony was built on it. So, trying to escape it is perhaps a little pointless. We find our way around the keys by the pattern of black keys, and what such scripts as Klavarskribo do (mostly) is reflect that navigation system on the staff. However, that is still a real benefit, at least potentially (if its downsides can be ameliorated, like its greater width).

To show how insistent that black-note pattern is, even when the keyboard itself is redesigned to be "whole-tone", like the Janko keyboard, they tend to keep the black and white notes.

Some think they're wonderful:


And here's one explanation of why they never took off (inertia, gramophones - and a couple of world wars):
Schwencke dumped in the middle of Bach's Prelude, and Gounod tried to polish it.

Offline lelle

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #12 on: February 27, 2021, 11:05:45 PM »
What this does hammer home to me, however, is the weakness of my suggested solution of an "all-accidentals" method.

Good, that's what I was trying to communicate!

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.
I'd be interested in the more advanced theory and whether it influences the comparison. I do understand all of the above - I've read music for several years - and I know roughly why things are the way they are. That doesn't mean people can't move on to a more elegant and logical system.

I'll write up an answer, I just need to find some time where I can sit down with it as it will take some time to put together :D

I'll be back... ;)

Offline lettersquash

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #13 on: February 28, 2021, 01:22:15 AM »
No rush, and thanks. I found this site, which reinforces that point about all-accidentals for me. https://fastgram.org/definition/

Having said that, my alternative head shape (er, the notes, that is) would be 100x better than endless #s.

I found a bunch of other discussion groups and sites about all this, most of them dwindling into inaction through having far too many competing ideas about the way forward and the difficulty of gaining traction with other notation systems. Klavar is an exception, apparently. I read there are about 200,000 works written in that.

There is - I hesitate to mention it - also Synthesia you see all over the tubes now. Music as video game.  :-\

@lostinidlewonder, I'd be interested to see - or get a brief description of - the alternative system you use with students.
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #14 on: February 28, 2021, 02:49:01 AM »
It may be that my intuition is off and traditional notation is really, objectively, the best possible notation system, but I imagine an ancient Egyptian scholar repeating the truism that everyone should study hieroglyphics.
You feel that the way music is written is not the most effective representation? I would have one particular student who would agree with you, he learns his music from synesthesia videos. The problem is that alternative systems just leave you without the ability to communicate with others in a free manner. When I deal with people who avoid the traditional sheet music when I try to focus their attention to particular parts of the score it can be very challenging for them to keep track of it all.

So, the only value of an alternative writing system is as a bridge to the one true system? I'm not saying you're wrong, just trying to clarify.
I believe so because any system which totally distracts from the traditional system still leaves you with work to solve the traditional system. We communicate our music through that traditional medium, you hinder the ability to communicate clearly with other musicians if you rely on alternative systems which others just do not know about.

It took me the last few days to realise that, while there may be some advantages to giving equal weight to the black notes (instead of having them as afterthoughts on the stave, imaginary points in between some of the lines and spaces, but not all), that's what a keyboard has, kind of......So there's a tension in what I'm trying to do when I give equal weight to the black notes.

I'm not sure what you mean here, "equal weight" vs "afterthoughts on the stave" and "tension".

So, trying to escape it is perhaps a little pointless. We find our way around the keys by the pattern of black keys, and what such scripts as Klavarskribo do (mostly) is reflect that navigation system on the staff. However, that is still a real benefit, at least potentially (if its downsides can be ameliorated, like its greater width).
I just don't see the need like in the Klavarskribo system to define the black notes so clearly as black notes and ignore the use of accidentals or key signature. The topography of the keyboard based on key signature is highly instructive and I think just skipping that and reducing everything into actual commands to hit black notes is less efficient.
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Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #15 on: February 28, 2021, 02:56:19 AM »
@lostinidlewonder, I'd be interested to see - or get a brief description of - the alternative system you use with students.
I could say my system strongly relates to the "five finger style" playing where people are given a single position to hold their hand and numbers are used to represent what they have to do with their fingers. Rhythm can be represented in multiple levels, with traditional notes or with different sized numbers. For example: ♩ ♫ ♩  can be written with larger numbers for the crotchets and smaller ones for the quavers, rests or tied notes can be represented with dots (segmentations of the beat based on the fastest notes used in the piece) and dashes (whole beat rests). It is a rough estimation but usually enough for the early beginner. Once traditional rhythm is learned which can be done very early on you can attach the traditional notes above the numbers to represent their rhythm.

Chords can be written else where and defined as vertically stacked letters representing the order of the chord just like traditional writing. I can attach numbers to each letter and also define the shape of those chords, eg: Cminor root triad would be a triangle shape. You can also define how chords progress into one another with horizontal lines defining an unchanged position and diagonal arrow defining an up or down movement. These chords can then be given a specific colour and then can be included in the melodic lines by circling the melodic numbers with the appropriate colour.

The system is for early developing pianists to get them thinking in the way traditional music is written without the drudgery of having to read a score. If you want more info PM me.
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Offline timothy42b

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #16 on: February 28, 2021, 09:06:19 PM »
I wonder.

Could you pair one of the alternate systems with one of the alternate keyboard layouts, like the Wicki-Hayden?

Tim

Offline anacrusis

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #17 on: February 28, 2021, 10:02:08 PM »
I could say my system strongly relates to the "five finger style" playing where people are given a single position to hold their hand and numbers are used to represent what they have to do with their fingers. Rhythm can be represented in multiple levels, with traditional notes or with different sized numbers. For example: ♩ ♫ ♩  can be written with larger numbers for the crotchets and smaller ones for the quavers, rests or tied notes can be represented with dots (segmentations of the beat based on the fastest notes used in the piece) and dashes (whole beat rests). It is a rough estimation but usually enough for the early beginner. Once traditional rhythm is learned which can be done very early on you can attach the traditional notes above the numbers to represent their rhythm.

Chords can be written else where and defined as vertically stacked letters representing the order of the chord just like traditional writing. I can attach numbers to each letter and also define the shape of those chords, eg: Cminor root triad would be a triangle shape. You can also define how chords progress into one another with horizontal lines defining an unchanged position and diagonal arrow defining an up or down movement. These chords can then be given a specific colour and then can be included in the melodic lines by circling the melodic numbers with the appropriate colour.

The system is for early developing pianists to get them thinking in the way traditional music is written without the drudgery of having to read a score. If you want more info PM me.

I did something similar when I had a bunch of kids at various stages of beginner level for a six month temporary teaching post. I would use finger numbers and letters to indicate which keys to play, and I would write them out on a paper in roughly the same way they would have appeared if they were in a sheet music system. So the letters/number moved higher up if you moved up on the piano and down if you moved down. The right hand's "notes" would be on top - like in the G clef system - and the left hand's notes would be underneath - like in the F clef.

Then I gradually introduced sheet music concepts. First I added the G clef and F clef and simply told them "this means the right hand and the left hand".  Then the proper look of the different notes (quarter notes, half notes and whole notes) and what they mean for the rhythm. Once the systems were added they had already seen everything - the clefs, the rise and fall in pitch being a rise and fall on the paper, and the look of the notes and noteheads and what they meant for rhythm. It wasn't a big leap to start learning which lines and spaces meant which notes (that I had previously written out in letters).

For the ones who had learned to read sheet music from the previous teacher but didn't do well I kept hammering home where F-clef F, G-clef G, and middle C were in the systems and how the notes moving in the system translated to movements on the piano. It went pretty well overall.

Offline lettersquash

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #18 on: March 01, 2021, 01:09:09 AM »
lostinidlewonder and anacrusis, thanks for those explanations. That kind of thing seems eminently sensible as an introduction to musical notation.

I wonder.

Could you pair one of the alternate systems with one of the alternate keyboard layouts, like the Wicki-Hayden?
That's an interesting question. I hadn't really looked at the W/H keyboard, cheers. I'm winging this, because I'm not an expert on any form of notation, but I think there are maybe two ways to go with notation. One can try to use a notation system that is as general as possible (and I'm not sure there would be much point using anything other than the traditional one in that case, unless we just assume that the piano keyboard is general enough to use it as a template for all music, at least all Western music) or one can focus on the instrument and how it's played, to inspire the most useful notation (which is still open to subjective preferences and requirements). So it is with guitar tabs (which go right back to early lute music) and Klavar(skribo), and there will be ones for violin and I don't know what else. The traditional system grew out of no instrument at all, the human voice, with monks waving their hands about up and down teaching plainsong until someone (Guido of Arezzo) drew a horizontal line as a basis for written marks.

Designing notation is an exercise in mapping dimensions of various sorts describing the music itself, most obviously frequency and duration, onto the dimensions of the medium, usually the two dimensions of a piece of paper. In my few attempts over the years, the stumbling block is that there's always more you want on there than tends to fit easily, and one of the major problems is if you use two dimensions to show the position of the note as played, as you might with guitar chord shape diagrams. Everything else has to be a symbol or description of some kind, colours, shapes, etc. One nice thing about the piano keyboard (and its ilk) is that it's essentially 1D, so Klavarskribo uses the other D for timing, just as traditional music does, but with a less accurately mapped keyboard dimension due to the inconsistent intervals. At first, with the W/H layout, in order to describe most naturally which note to play, I thought it would use 2D already since the keys are wrapped into a block, but actually it's only two rows in the octave, which are then repeated. So a notation system might use 1D for the note tone (either stretching the two rows out or indicating which row with shading, etc.) and still have the other for the timing. It would take someone experienced with it to know what's best, and probably they have a system already. Have you used one yourself, timothy42b?
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Offline timothy42b

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #19 on: March 01, 2021, 03:09:50 AM »
It would take someone experienced with it to know what's best, and probably they have a system already. Have you used one yourself, timothy42b?

I have not used alternate systems because I have so many decades reading the traditional staff notation.

There was one exception.  When I started piano lessons I had a broad musical background, and the teacher took me quickly through the children's Alfred method to find out where I was.  I almost failed at the first book, because it didn't have notes on a staff.  It had some kind of weird pictorial that was supposed to be easy to start with.  I had a terrible time reading that.  Then we got past it into notes and she started me in book 3. 

With a 5 decade background in reading sheet music, I am now trying to learn to play by ear, something I'd always thought was beyond me.  Progress is slow but I'm enjoying the journey.  In some sense that IS an alternate notation; I have to think where the notes are.  Hopefully at some point that may fade. 
Tim

Offline j_tour

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #20 on: March 01, 2021, 05:56:48 AM »
I have not used alternate systems because I have so many decades reading the traditional staff notation.

Yeah, that's my story all over:  standard notation is just second nature.  Maybe even first nature.

At any rate, I don't have to think about it.

There are some other crude notations, like the Nashville system or just jazz charts with Roman Numerals or just chord names with extensions through the thirteenth, plus slash chords etc., to jot down on a bar napkin or whatever, but I just prefer to stick with the regular.

And, of course, tablature for guitar, although I haven't played guitar in a few while.

No, even when making transcriptions or just sketches of tunes, standard notation is plenty good enough for me.

Plus, it's legible when I write in pencil, just from habit.  And, also, I'm not ashamed to admit, I keep lead holder/"clutch pencils" with about six different softnesses of graphite with me, in addition to some colored graphite, each with their own lead holder, so I get off on using proper lead holders in 2mm.  Sort of a nerd hobby.  Good for marking up scores, as well.

The Staedtler Mars Technico and various Koh-I-Noor lead holders are fricking unit:  solid instruments for 2mm lead.
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Offline lettersquash

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #21 on: March 01, 2021, 12:54:43 PM »
I was going to say I'm jealous of you people for whom the dots come more easily, but then I'm not sure how much it's nature and how much I just haven't "nurtured" it (i.e. put in the work) for some reason. It's a common thing, though, to hear people say they're much better at one skill than another. In your case, timothy42b, you're trying to learn to play by ear and apparently soaked up traditional notation easily (as I've read here quite a few times now), where I could always hear a tune and go and get the gist of it on an instrument pretty well off the bat. So instead of being jealous I have to count my blessing.

I have a general auditory preference, and maybe that's why I struggle more with the reading. It's coming, but I still stare blankly at a note that I've read hundreds, thousands of times before. It's kind of frustrating, especially when I could probably guess where to put my finger and get it right about 99% of the time, but that's what I am now trying to avoid doing. And then I begin to wonder if that is, after all, what I should be doing, when some whizz says it's easy to read music - look that goes up two lines so it's there! I think the difference is they also know exactly what note it is, what its name is, and often what relationship it has with the key, etc. They're not just going up-3, down-4...

I often find a stark reminder that I'm still "guessing, not reading", as my teacher used to rebuke, when a two-note chord is followed by a scalar melody running up or down from one of the notes, and I find after several of those I'm in the "wrong place", and it takes me a while to figure out why - sometimes I play it again and still puzzle that I'm going where the notes lead, but ending up on a note I know is wrong (because it's gone in my head easier, a top G or whatever it might be). Oh yeah, I've just gone up from the wrong note of the chord. Oh yeah, I'm supposed to be reading this, not guessing. ::)

I had a fun idea the other day to try - to mark the board above the keys with sticky labels, just small, plain rectangles above the lines of the stave. There's the risk that I start looking down a lot more, when I'm really working at not doing so, but it's worth a try and a quick glance might start making the connections better than all cows eat grass. I've been doing that till the sodding cows have stripped the field and come home for milking.
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Offline timothy42b

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #22 on: March 01, 2021, 02:01:24 PM »
I had a fun idea the other day to try - to mark the board above the keys with sticky labels, just small, plain rectangles above the lines of the stave. There's the risk that I start looking down a lot more, when I'm really working at not doing so, but it's worth a try and a quick glance might start making the connections better than all cows eat grass. I've been doing that till the sodding cows have stripped the field and come home for milking.

That might work if you are able to eventually wean yourself of it.

I run a handbell choir, which is basically a way for nonmusicians to attempt to play music. 

Membership changes a bit over time, and occasionally i have someone who reads music, but it isn't required. 

What most people do is mark the notes they play.  If their assigned bells are F5 G5, they will circle all their notes, or they will write the note names in at the top of the staff. 

You would think that after years of doing this some of the notes would make sense.  After all, if you're circling an F, you have to look and find every F.  But I have people who've been doing this 20 years and have made zero progress in actually recognizing a note that isn't marked.  I had one ringer that had 20 As in a row, and she marked all of them. 
Tim

Offline j_tour

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #23 on: March 01, 2021, 02:38:00 PM »
I had a fun idea the other day to try - to mark the board above the keys with sticky labels, just small, plain rectangles above the lines of the stave. There's the risk that I start looking down a lot more, when I'm really working at not doing so, but it's worth a try and a quick glance might start making the connections better than all cows eat grass. I've been doing that till the sodding cows have stripped the field and come home for milking.

That's not bad, really. 

I have a few whiteboard/dry-erase markers at home, and one always above one of the pianos.  I always put graphical cues up on there, either chord spellings and little arrows to try to remember pieces. 

It hasn't helped me for the Prokofiev Precipitato or the Schönberg Gigue, which I'd say are about intermediate-to-difficult pieces to read at tempo (yeah, I guess those are difficult-ish for playing, but they're beasts to memorize, so I need to rely on some cues which I just make up as heuristics), but I suppose it's an alternate representation. 

At the very least, it keeps me from *** up my neck by staring at the score.  (No, I don't need reading glasses, but I do use eyeglasses for things about two feet away, which is uncomfortable while playing piano).

I think it's a good idea:  just at the level of mnemonics, to make some sketches of any given piece.

I was going to say I'm jealous of you people for whom the dots come more easily, but then I'm not sure how much it's nature and how much I just haven't "nurtured" it (i.e. put in the work) for some reason. It's a common thing, though, to hear people say they're much better at one skill than another.

Well, I don't know for sure, but it's almost certainly just plain habit in my case.  Just decades of reading.

It is a bit odd that, in my case, the more natural languages I learn and read regularly, the worse my spelling becomes in, say, English.  I was a spelling competition champion at very young, like, I don't know what age.  5?  6?  Something like that.

But, yeah, at least for me, it's just habit:  it's like brushing one's teeth regularly, or something.  Standard notation is just about like riding a bicycle, or however one says.
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Offline lettersquash

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #24 on: March 01, 2021, 04:01:25 PM »
That might work if you are able to eventually wean yourself of it.
Thanks for the feedback. My intuition is that I will. I have, of course, tried many other methods where I mark the score, but I've not found a way that does much good. I have probably considered little stickers above the notes with a small section of staff with that note on it, but discounted it. I don't think I've thought of this before, kind of transferring the navigation system of the staves down to the piano keys. It should, I think, give a direct visual mapping, circumventing names and helping quite a bit also with those "which octave is that?" thing, which I'm afraid I still do.

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I run a handbell choir, which is basically a way for nonmusicians to attempt to play music.
I hope that's not your introductory speech when someone joins! ;D

That's not bad, really. 
You too, that is encouraging. I'll give it a go.

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I have a few whiteboard/dry-erase markers at home, and one always above one of the pianos.  I always put graphical cues up on there, either chord spellings and little arrows to try to remember pieces.
Where do you put it? That reminds me I must construct something to extend the music stand so I can get more pages on it. I saw someone with a long board attached to it and bulldog clips - maybe Paul Barton.

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It hasn't helped me for the Prokofiev Precipitato or the Schönberg Gigue, which I'd say are about intermediate-to-difficult pieces to read at tempo (yeah, I guess those are difficult-ish for playing, but they're beasts to memorize, so I need to rely on some cues which I just make up as heuristics), but I suppose it's an alternate representation. 

At the very least, it keeps me from *** up my neck by staring at the score.  (No, I don't need reading glasses, but I do use eyeglasses for things about two feet away, which is uncomfortable while playing piano).
Yes, I have to wear reading glasses for that kind of distance. But they're just off-the-shelf so-many-diopter things so I can shop around and try various sorts. I've got some that are awful and some that I forget I've got on.

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It is a bit odd that, in my case, the more natural languages I learn and read regularly, the worse my spelling becomes in, say, English.  I was a spelling competition champion at very young, like, I don't know what age.  5?  6?  Something like that.
Ah yes, I've got a friend from school (here in England) who went to live in Spain and loves learning languages, and he said he forgets his English idioms. I've never been great at learning languages, although I've got a smattering of French.
Schwencke dumped in the middle of Bach's Prelude, and Gounod tried to polish it.

Offline lettersquash

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #25 on: March 02, 2021, 02:26:45 AM »
I soon scrapped the idea of the stickers. I found it distracting, and then realised this is mad and the answer is obvious - everyone's been telling me in one way or another - more sight-reading practice. I began to think no amount of practice would do it, not realising how little practice I actually do.
Schwencke dumped in the middle of Bach's Prelude, and Gounod tried to polish it.

Offline j_tour

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #26 on: March 02, 2021, 02:44:02 AM »
Where do you put it? That reminds me I must construct something to extend the music stand so I can get more pages on it. I saw someone with a long board attached to it and bulldog clips - maybe Paul Barton.

Oh, I use a digital stage piano at home and for toting around town (well, back before the Covid hit).  So, just on the wall above the fake acoustic "piano."

Yes, I have to wear reading glasses for that kind of distance. But they're just off-the-shelf so-many-diopter things so I can shop around and try various sorts.

Nothing wrong with that.  I swear as a hit 40 years of age, accumulated exposure to loud sounds for a number of decades has made me half deaf, and I can't see for sh*t. 

Just one of those things.

My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #27 on: March 02, 2021, 02:55:41 AM »
I soon scrapped the idea of the stickers. I found it distracting, and then realised this is mad and the answer is obvious - everyone's been telling me in one way or another - more sight-reading practice. I began to think no amount of practice would do it, not realising how little practice I actually do.
What is structured sight reading practice for your personal situation though is not such a simple question to answer. You need to practice successful reading and that requires you study pieces that are easy enough to allow you to experience that. Hundreds of pieces a month and go from there, then you can say you are actually being more serious with your sight reading training.
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Offline ranjit

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #28 on: March 02, 2021, 03:26:21 AM »
It is a bit odd that, in my case, the more natural languages I learn and read regularly, the worse my spelling becomes in, say, English.  I was a spelling competition champion at very young, like, I don't know what age.  5?  6?  Something like that.
I haven't really found learning other languages to interfere with my reading or spelling. How does your spelling become worse -- do you just randomly forget how to spell words?? :o I can technically read the scripts of four languages, but I pretty much only read or write in English as I don't have much use for the others.

I soon scrapped the idea of the stickers. I found it distracting, and then realised this is mad and the answer is obvious - everyone's been telling me in one way or another - more sight-reading practice. I began to think no amount of practice would do it, not realising how little practice I actually do.
I really can't get behind the idea of stickers. Note names are laid out linearly on the piano -- either try to recognize a note directly, or count upwards or downwards from the nearest note you can recognize. IMO. You can possibly get the hang of it in a few days, although it will take a bit longer before it becomes second nature. I would also say that the note reading games helped me out in the beginning. (Now that I think of it, it is kind of embarrassing that I was resorting to those as late as last April.) I think it's useful until you can recognize any note on the treble or bass clef within 1-2 seconds. At that point, just push yourself into reading, ideally a lot of material.

Another thing I've found is that sight reading is the kind of skill which simmers in your head and which takes a while to get better at -- sometimes, you may realize that you're magically better after a month of basically not practicing than when you were working your ass off everyday. Over time, I find myself agreeing more and more with the reading analogy. I find that similar things occur with reading, where I was just more fluent at reading a second language after 2-3 years, even though I had barely used it in the meanwhile.

Offline j_tour

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #29 on: March 02, 2021, 03:47:10 AM »
I haven't really found learning other languages to interfere with my reading or spelling. How does your spelling become worse -- do you just randomly forget how to spell words?? :o I can technically read the scripts of four languages, but I pretty much only read or write in English as I don't have much use for the others.

I don't know the reason why:  I think it's just having read so many thousands of pages in diverse languages that in my early dotage, I just plain forget the details of any specific language. 

Namely, English, if you like:  I'm thinking in the  of my mind where roots of words come from in this language, and it can get to be an internal monologue, a bit.

Also, I'm also thinking about different ways to phrase things in other languages.

Also, never underestimate the limitations one self-imposes by being very lazy.

Yes, I know how to create impeccable sentences in at least a handful of languages, but often I get distracted and finally don't care much anymore.
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline timothy42b

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #30 on: March 02, 2021, 02:33:10 PM »
Yes, I know how to create impeccable sentences in at least a handful of languages, but often I get distracted and finally don't care much anymore.

It's a style thing - we don't articulate Ellington the same as Bach.

My sentence construction is context sensitive.  Speech rhythms are very different from formal writing, and if I'm on a forum with friends, I may revert to the way i would say it rather than the way I would write it in a formal document.  Email?  somewhere in between.  Just the way it is. 
Tim

Offline lettersquash

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #31 on: March 02, 2021, 03:32:53 PM »
I really can't get behind the idea of stickers. Note names are laid out linearly on the piano -- either try to recognize a note directly, or count upwards or downwards from the nearest note you can recognize. IMO. You can possibly get the hang of it in a few days, although it will take a bit longer before it becomes second nature.
I see this opinion a lot. I had at least three years of consecutive lessons and some exams, including in sight reading, and I always hated it and could never quite get to grips with it. Of course, I know how to work out the notes. It's about moving on to fluency and not faltering. I mean, the alphabet is laid out in a neat row, but working out letters isn't the end point of reading.

It must be a natural proclivity some people have and others don't, or laziness, or having a good musical ear, so if something's moderately predictable (as all my study pieces were), I just struggle through reading them a couple of times (mostly guessing from intervals, too, rather than actually reading many of the notes) and then I use the pages of squiggles as a vague reminder of where I've got to. (I somehow managed to wing the sight reading part of my exams, but relied on the mark I got for my learned bits.)

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I would also say that the note reading games helped me out in the beginning. (Now that I think of it, it is kind of embarrassing that I was resorting to those as late as last April.) I think it's useful until you can recognize any note on the treble or bass clef within 1-2 seconds. At that point, just push yourself into reading, ideally a lot of material.
Yeah, that's it, it's just practice. I forgot that, and began to doubt it, because I think I'm spending more time reading than I actually am. I kept a note this month and I played the piano roughly 20 hours, which isn't a great deal for a month, but that includes a lot of repeating stuff without really reading it, as well as improvising and general noodling about, so it's a tiny proportion where I'm actually reading.

I have got a note-reading app (not a game), Vivace, but it only does flash cards of a note at a time, which you locate on its virtual ocatave - a help, but hardly what's needed. I might have a go at writing one - it'll set the key and time signature, then populate a score with random notes of random timing to fit the bars, including accidentals. It won't be judging whether I get the note right or not, I will, but I can put it on the music stand and play it without prodding a screen all the time. Or maybe someone reading this knows of one and I can spend the time sight reading instead of programming! ;D

Quote
Another thing I've found is that sight reading is the kind of skill which simmers in your head and which takes a while to get better at -- sometimes, you may realize that you're magically better after a month of basically not practicing than when you were working your ass off everyday. Over time, I find myself agreeing more and more with the reading analogy. I find that similar things occur with reading, where I was just more fluent at reading a second language after 2-3 years, even though I had barely used it in the meanwhile.
That is interesting and very encouraging. I think you're right.
Schwencke dumped in the middle of Bach's Prelude, and Gounod tried to polish it.

Offline lettersquash

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #32 on: March 02, 2021, 06:47:59 PM »
What is structured sight reading practice for your personal situation though is not such a simple question to answer. You need to practice successful reading and that requires you study pieces that are easy enough to allow you to experience that. Hundreds of pieces a month and go from there, then you can say you are actually being more serious with your sight reading training.
The first part of that is important, but I'm not sure about the rest. The trouble for me with playing pieces that are simple is that I'll learn how they go, even in real time, instead of reading the notes. I suppose the process is complex, and one part of it might be approaching a classical composition with standard kinds of cadence and seeing the form of it - something I've heard about but am nowhere near really - similarly, recognising chord shapes, etc. But I, of course, in my relative ignorance, feel that avoiding the cues that come from standard musical forms would benefit me, because I have no option but to read what the notes are. Hence, I feel that reading more complicated pieces than I could play easily isn't a bad idea, for the same reason.

Also, I can only keep up the mental concentration if I'm reasonably passionate about what I'm doing, so instead of, for example, the 354 exercises in the C Position that you kindly suggested, I let myself loose on Bach's Aria from the "Goldberg" Variations, which was taxing. I've got to the point where the trickiest passages are beginning to click into place now, so I can play an almost acceptable version of it, and I think it's stretched me on sight reading. I certainly can't do hundreds of those a month, but I've given myself some really encouraging feedback managing to do that, and I'm hungry now to get on with more new pieces that stretch me.
Schwencke dumped in the middle of Bach's Prelude, and Gounod tried to polish it.

Offline ranjit

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #33 on: March 02, 2021, 07:47:19 PM »
I see this opinion a lot. I had at least three years of consecutive lessons and some exams, including in sight reading, and I always hated it and could never quite get to grips with it. Of course, I know how to work out the notes. It's about moving on to fluency and not faltering. I mean, the alphabet is laid out in a neat row, but working out letters isn't the end point of reading.

Having worked through those 354 exercises last year, I can vouch for their usefulness. I forced myself to play through them at a constant tempo, and it wasn't easy. I personally didn't use the metronome as I found that very annoying, but I tapped my foot in time to play the notes.

I don't think that the kind of predicting you mention is necessarily bad. I don't read something repeatedly for reading practice, because after playing it once or twice, I tend to use the notes as vague squiggles as well. But I'm not sure that holds true for the very first time -- maybe I'm not so confident in my guesses of which note comes next?

If you're stuck, you should try different approaches. In no particular order, here are a number of things which helped my reading ability: learning functional harmony and keeping up with online videos where an instructor was teaching it, trying to transcribe and write out stuff in Musescore, trying to compose sheets or notate my own improvisations, watching those YouTube videos where you have sheet music along with a piece of music, and trying to keep up with one or multiple voices in real time, note recognition apps, splitting the score in my mind's eye (using "landmarks" for every C and G). Recognizing individual notes by association -- the F is the top of the treble clef, the E is the bottom, the G is the one adjacent to the 'tail' of the treble clef sign, etc., apps where you have to recognize as many notes as you can in a given duration of time, reading very easy material while keeping strict time, reading moderately challenging material while attempting to keep time, reading challenging material while striving for accuracy, trying to consciously observe the shapes which are made by different scale, chord, and arpeggio types, using knowledge of functional harmony to quickly keep track of chords, and so on and so forth. I've also heard people recommend Super Sight Reading Secrets by Richman.

I've consistently found this kind of dispersive approach to be more effective than following a simple system. You need to isolate your weakness, and then come up with challenges which directly attack that weakness. The second part is key. If you find the fact that your ability to predict is hampering your reading, why don't you go through Bartok's Mikrokosmos, or some other 20th century pieces where the patterns are deliberately not as clear, and try and see if that helps you out? So, ideally you want to create a challenge which cannot be solved unless you surmount the weakness which you isolated.

Even though I've not put in as much effort into sight reading as I would have wished, I've found myself getting better at it and the notes are coming more naturally to me now. In the beginning, to acquire some kind of fluency, I think it's important that the fluency is "externally imposed", by which I mean that you're forcing yourself to read it at a constant tempo. I know that constant tempo /= fluency, but I think it translates.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #34 on: March 03, 2021, 02:27:58 AM »
Also, I can only keep up the mental concentration if I'm reasonably passionate about what I'm doing, so instead of, for example, the 354 exercises in the C Position that you kindly suggested, I let myself loose on Bach's Aria from the "Goldberg" Variations, which was taxing.
I feel that sight reading needs to be considered in such a way that you are not studying necessarily pieces which excite you. You need to be excited about the process of practicing good reading and what rewards that brings you. Yes this is much more difficult than studying pieces which bring you joy but I feel those who really want to develop their reading skills need to forget about always doing things which bring them immediate joy. I really feel that there is no joy spending a long time learning pieces you love, it actually become addictive to improve your reading skills once you realize how fast you can learn your music. When one submits to studying less exciting pieces with the aim to improve their reading they really are investing in something that will give huge returns. You don't have to do this hours at a time but you should at least make time each day for it.

This is not to say that one shouldn't explore all sorts of pieces for the reading training. Any reading is better than nothing! Bach certainly is a good choice. It is important though to have pieces which you can complete immediately that is the nature of good sight reading skills. Good reading skills allow you to play pieces with mastery immediately and it is important to feel that occur. It breaks away from the idea that pieces take many hours to improve and introduced a really intoxicating notion that pieces can be mastered immediately. Of course what you can play with mastery immediately is much lower than your actual skill level playing memorized works but that is what reading training is about, raising the bar as to what is easy for you to read and thus increasing your repetoire logarithmically, eclipsing any effort memorization would ever manage with the same pieces.
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Offline j_tour

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #35 on: March 03, 2021, 04:09:52 AM »
It's a style thing - we don't articulate Ellington the same as Bach.

My sentence construction is context sensitive.  Speech rhythms are very different from formal writing, and if I'm on a forum with friends, I may revert to the way i would say it rather than the way I would write it in a formal document.  Email?  somewhere in between.  Just the way it is.

Yeah, I follow you.  I was just replying to one specific query by someone else, but I absolutely relish using different registers of language.

In many cases, deliberate misspellings or asyntactical quirks are half of the fun.

At the least the languages I know, to varying degrees, are very much enriched by ludic playfulness.
My name is Nellie, and I take pride in helping protect the children of my community through active leadership roles in my local church and in the Boy Scouts of America.  Bad word make me sad.

Offline lettersquash

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #36 on: March 03, 2021, 12:27:07 PM »
I feel that sight reading needs to be considered in such a way that you are not studying necessarily pieces which excite you. You need to be excited about the process of practicing good reading and what rewards that brings you. Yes this is much more difficult than studying pieces which bring you joy but I feel those who really want to develop their reading skills need to forget about always doing things which bring them immediate joy. I really feel that there is no joy spending a long time learning pieces you love, it actually become addictive to improve your reading skills once you realize how fast you can learn your music. When one submits to studying less exciting pieces with the aim to improve their reading they really are investing in something that will give huge returns. You don't have to do this hours at a time but you should at least make time each day for it.

This is not to say that one shouldn't explore all sorts of pieces for the reading training. Any reading is better than nothing! Bach certainly is a good choice. It is important though to have pieces which you can complete immediately that is the nature of good sight reading skills. Good reading skills allow you to play pieces with mastery immediately and it is important to feel that occur. It breaks away from the idea that pieces take many hours to improve and introduced a really intoxicating notion that pieces can be mastered immediately. Of course what you can play with mastery immediately is much lower than your actual skill level playing memorized works but that is what reading training is about, raising the bar as to what is easy for you to read and thus increasing your repetoire logarithmically, eclipsing any effort memorization would ever manage with the same pieces.
Yes, I see. I will give it another try. I haven't really had a taste of that "addiction" to sight reading, and I can see that it would be a perfect solution to the problem, if I can get the "dosage" right - the level of interest and reward. I was puzzled by those exercises, when I realised that "the C position" didn't even mean "in C major", but involving only the notes in each hand from C to G, and with accidentals, sometimes long strings of them. These seem like odd, arbitrary limitations for me, with several years of study behind me, despite it being a long time ago as a child. I can see that a mass of Fs with sharps next to them might help someone, particularly a complete beginner, see that what's on the F line or space will sometimes be the black note above, and later they'll learn to play in G major and know that from the key signature, but I wonder if I'd be better skipping things like that. Similarly, it seems odd ignoring G#, A, A# and B for a whole raft of exercises, and not moving the hands from that position. Again, for a complete beginner, maybe, or I guess it would remove however much mental processing I'm putting into fingering choices if the range strays too much from a position.

As a side note - although fitting the thread better than this tangent we've gone down - the weirdness of traditional notation has hidden depths: it's easy to describe the purpose of sharps and flats as accommodating the black keys, as I did earlier, and then remember that, thanks to our fixation/natural affiliation with Western harmony and playing in particular keys, the sharps and flats also end up indicating white notes! The sheer insanity of it is staggering! ;) Anyhoo...can't beat 'em, so might as well join 'em.

Thanks for your perseverance.
Schwencke dumped in the middle of Bach's Prelude, and Gounod tried to polish it.

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #37 on: March 03, 2021, 12:54:28 PM »
I was puzzled by those exercises, when I realised that "the C position" didn't even mean "in C major", but involving only the notes in each hand from C to G, and with accidentals, sometimes long strings of them. These seem like odd, arbitrary limitations for me, with several years of study behind me, despite it being a long time ago as a child. I can see that a mass of Fs with sharps next to them might help someone, particularly a complete beginner, see that what's on the F line or space will sometimes be the black note above, and later they'll learn to play in G major and know that from the key signature, but I wonder if I'd be better skipping things like that. Similarly, it seems odd ignoring G#, A, A# and B for a whole raft of exercises, and not moving the hands from that position. Again, for a complete beginner, maybe, or I guess it would remove however much mental processing I'm putting into fingering choices if the range strays too much from a position.
It is only one set of works, if they are utterly easy for you then of course you want to do other material. If you find them troublesome and cannot play them all by sight immediately then there at least finding out what is stopping you is quite easy. FWIW a complete beginner will struggle to get through the list, many of the selections are pretty difficult to listen to while playing which adds to the challenge since anticipated sounds are not so clear. I like suggesting the list because people can realize peices do not have to be enormous and you should constantly churn out new material to practice your reading skills.
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Offline lettersquash

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Re: Alternative Musical Notation Systems
«Reply #38 on: March 06, 2021, 02:03:01 AM »
I enjoyed playing Jingle Bells today, along with various other simple tunes, despite the slight embarrassment that my granddaughters - via Facetime with Grandma - wondered what on Earth I was doing. Ironically, the Klavarskribo free lessons have traditional notation as well as their version, so I'm using those for sight-reading practice. https://www.klavarskribo.eu/en/free-lessons

Nudging the convo back to topic, I'm still interested in Klavarskribo and variants thereof, partly as it might speed up my learning of some quite difficult pieces in stupid keys, but mainly because I believe it really could help a lot of kids and older people turn on to playing the piano and other instruments who would not have the patience for the considerable learning curve involved with the trad version.

I was just trying to catch up with some basic music theory at musictheory.net, which underlined for me just how complicated that is. And - again, this may be my ignorance speaking, I'm trying to work this out, so please feel free to enlighten me - it seems that a good deal of the complexity comes from our use of a stave that is based on the C-Major chord. Hence, we have a difference between (some) generic intervals and specific intervals, and multiple names for the same physical intervals (number of semitones), as we have multiple names for all the notes (natural, sharp, flat - as I said, even white notes can be sharps or flats ...double sharps, etc...).

Consider this page, for instance: https://www.musictheory.net/lessons/32 that starts out saying one might mistakenly write an augmented fourth instead of diminished fifth, "although both intervals sound the same and look identical on the keyboard". And of course the novice - I - will ask why it should matter, and why not call it what it is, six semitones or three tones? We seem to have this odd situation where our musical notation is not acting as a device to inscribe the reality of music so much as to warp our consciousness of what it actually is, adding a complex set of formulae to interpret it in different ways.

This appears to relate to what I first hit upon when I was learning Chopin's Prelude in E Minor and found a string of identical notes (actual) suddenly shifting on the staff and taking the opposite semitone nudge from an accidental. Meanwhile, I'm watching videos about sight reading, describing one of the easy tricks: just noticing intervals by how they look on the staff. The student is constantly bombarded with lies!

Western music mostly follows set formulae that (traditionally) prescribe one description of a cadence rather than another, as just one example of all the arbitrary decisions made, but there are two serious issues with this:
1. As I've said, it's a big hindrance to the would-be musician. It is obvious that reading Klavar notation is going to be easier, so it will appeal to a wide range of people, from the very young to the very old, who can't be doing with all the fuss of clefs and key signatures and accidentals and periods of silence peppered with squiggles.

2. The relatively arbitrary theoretical constructs of the system put even greater barriers in the way of people composing and notating their music. When I try to write down my own compositions, I find myself confounded by decisions about when to call a note a sharp or a flat, as well as not always knowing how best to manage time values of notes (shall I dot this or tie it; what complement of rests should I use to make up this part of a bar; etc.). I only realise how many different ways music might have been written that I'm reading when I try to write some. So this must curtail countless careers for budding composers.

Also, I suspect that the traditional notation, following as it does from archaic musical theory, might limit our comprehensive experiencing of music and the forms we devise, if even the avant garde have been first infused with forms going back to the Middle Ages.

With Klavar (or indeed hundreds of apps with 'piano-roll' view) I compose at the keyboard and put the notes I'm playing on the staff just where they appear on the keyboard, giving them some symbolic representation of their duration in the other dimension.

If this argument seems anti-academic (after all, we can do the above without even knowing the notes' names), it shouldn't. It should seem democratic, like when the Church finally decided the Bible didn't have to be read in Latin. In fact, notating music is a dying art because AI is doing it for us. The obvious option for those who want to write music nowadays, but without the desire to do all the hard work of learning to sight read and digesting the rules of notation, is to play it on a MIDI keyboard or other input, and ignore the squiggles that the printer dumps. So, having a rational musical notation we can pick up in a day, that reflects the weird arbitrary black and white notes on the keyboard without fetishising the diatonic, might actually save the art of writing music by hand. It would certainly be likely to popularise it more than is the case now. What proportion of the population, I wonder, can write even a simple tune? Can more write Latin?

I should point out that there have been many other alternative scripts devised for music, and I mention Klavarskribo mainly because it seems to be the most logical and has a lively following at least in the Netherlands, as I understand. This site catalogues a number of different schemes, and also describes some of the issues well. http://musicnotation.org/
Schwencke dumped in the middle of Bach's Prelude, and Gounod tried to polish it.