What about the new features?
- Easily printable: traditional scores already are
- Screen and scroll-friendly: you can stack traditional score pages vertically
- Chord names: already exist on traditional scores
- Lyrics: same thing
- Foot pedal arrows: same thing
I guess sheet music is like code: sometimes you just need to learn it the hard way.
I do like the fact that — unlike with sheet music - the 12 semi-tones are spaced evenly, as they are in reality. This allows for fast visual recognition of chord types and intervals.
If it's "spelled" differently -- if an interval of that size is actually written as C-E#, for example -- then that's a sign that something weird is going on and you're not supposed to think of this interval as a fourth.
The fact that we write music using the 7-note diatonic scale is kind of like compression: it optimizes notation for the notes and intervals you're most likely to play. It's just not suited for atonal music, much like compression is not suited for random-looking data.
I remain firm in my belief that if you can touch type you can sight read music. I've seen five year olds learn to do it and I've seen 90 year old people learn to do it.
This preference for some keys over others is pretty much built into the piano keyboard too, and the notation is specifically intended for keyboard music, so it's not obviously crazy. But it certainly doesn't have the property that the semitones are equally spaced.
I've long wished for these two improvements, especially the first one; OTOH I'd keep the traditional whole note, half note, etc., for precision and concision -- the piano-roll style feels more like training wheels.
For the non-keyboard instruments I know how to play, tones in different octaves having different identifications is a must unless you want to add extra parts to the notation.
Also when you go above or below the two clefs and draw ledger lines for those notes, you're losing the background pattern once again -- you start having to count notes. With this proposed notation you'd draw another background octave (or enough of it for the notes used).
So, no way it could replace traditional notation. It could be used to show how to play something to a newcomer, but it's not novel, then — I've seen visualizations with highlighted piano keys since like as long as I remember myself. And not that practical anyway, since it's not that hard to remember how to read musical notation and start using it right away (especially if there's no alteration symbols in the key signature and no somewhat obscure symbols like fermatas and stuff).
It is extremely easy to port sheet music from one instrument to another, in most cases this doesn't require any change in written music itself (Or at least, if it does the change is usually very trivial). Conversely, this new format is limited to the piano. I doubt that it would be trivial to port this music to the violin, for example (assuming the violin has a similarily structured music format).
Personally I'm very fond of that kind of music sheets: http://herbalcell.com/static/sheets/legend-of-zelda-twilight...
I've learned complex musics in weeks while it would have taken me month with a real music sheet.
Professional session musicians play directly from the sheet, and can promptly forget the piece afterwards. They do not intend to learn the music.
Interesting enough, a similar observation can be made about writing prose. A printed book isn't usually a tool to learn a novel by heart for recitation.
Professional session musicians play directly from the
sheet, and can promptly forget the piece afterwards. They
do not intend to learn the music.
Another thing that the classical teachings seem to ignore (or view with distain (People in my orchestra viewed it as 'hard work')) is cultivating the ability to hear a long piece of music and replicate it -- something that a significant minority of folk players also seem to be able to do.
: celtic/irish folk, in my case
: Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule
I forgot to add I wasn't talking about professionals. I'm talking about people who want to play music as a hobby, for pleasure. Learning Solfege shouldn't be a hassle.
From what I can tell, people have explored different notation systems for a couple of reasons. The first is that SN is an entry barrier for beginners. The second is to express musical ideas that don't fit within the bounds of SN.
But in my view, the reason why SN remains in use, is that there's a symbiosis between composers who can write it, and musicians who can sight-read, i.e., perform it directly from the sheet. Tabulature, or other pictographic notations don't work because the composers don't intimately know all of the instruments that they're writing for (including the variety of tuning and fingering systems for each instrument), and nobody knows how to sight-read those notations.
Another issue with any method involving computer graphics, is that there are still a surprising number of composers who use pencil and paper, because notation software is so cumbersome.
In one band that I'm in, the composer brings new material to each rehearsal. It's all written out by hand.
SN is difficult for beginners because music is difficult for beginners. Notations that focus on the mechanics of the instrument are easier to start with, because they don't require any theoretical background in music. That's fine, but they won't be able to replace SN.
I'm very interested in this sort of cognitive technology, but I have yet to see a proposal for improving on SN in its own terms. Is there some notation out there that is simpler than SN, but just as expressive? Something that could be approachable for beginners, but still useful for experts?
When I was growing up, Suzuki was controversial in the US because teachers were afraid that kids would lose the chance to learn how to read, and be musically crippled for life. I have to admit that I was among the skeptical, since I learned according to the European method.
The first note that I ever played, an open string, I read from a book that had that one big note sitting there in front of me. The entire emphasis was on "getting the cats out of the instrument" as it were, but yet it was all done with reading from the git-go.
What's happened since then in the US (don't know about elsewhere) is that reading is introduced gradually through a separate curriculum. It's been going on for long enough that Suzuki kids are now playing professionally in orchestras, and we've met one or two "superstar" concert violinists through master classes for the kids, who have mentioned their Suzuki background.
So apparently you can start out without reading, and live to tell about it.
It is way faster to write out by hand than using software. You use software at the end, when your ideas/tests settle and you want a nice copy. Before that, it is really not worth it.
It's hard to beat pen and paper, but not impossible in principle.
While a lot of the problems of it comes from its limitations at the origin (think medieval musicians writing music) it is a very flexible and interesting format
What are the problems I see with it:
- Apart from the center notes, it's hard to know which note is which. I know that the second line from the bottom is a G, beats me what's that thing 3 lines above the regular lines
- It's hard to capture what's happening. Chords on top help
- Having to identify notes in G clef, F clef (and C clef sometimes)
- It's an absolute mess when you have lots of simultaneous notes
I know there are a lot of historical, instrumental or music-theoretical reasons things are like that, but there's room for improvement
I just wouldn't think of twinkle twinkle little star when designing it, I would think of something more complex (and Let It Be, props to him, is not very complex but also not very simple)
(And that's not touching the issues with the piano, that's another load of items)
But then again, probably wouldn't have gotten to the front page without the word "redesign"
I understood the scope of the OP's suggestion. I just thought it could've been presented more clearly. The fact that tons of the comments here are directed at the idea of this notation as a replacement would seem to bear this out.
For my thoughts on the notation itself, see this post: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9831337
At this point, we should just all agree that article titles are at least slightly sensational. If no one on HN debated the clickbaitiness of a headline, comment volume would drop dramatically.
Edit: reordered the paragraphs.
 I say "some sense," because tabs are still fairly limiting, particularly in depicting complex rhythms. Traditional sheet music is still very common (and, I contend, indispensable) for advanced guitar study.
True, and in the Piano you have to care about which finger to play it with (which is a similar problem)
This sort of "piano-roll" notation has the nice feature that the elements are easy in theory to parse: time goes along one axis, pitch goes along the other, and you just do what it tells you. As far as notation for Western music goes, it does have some disadvantages.
All twelve pitch classes are spaced equally, so the scalar structure of tonal music is harder to make out. I can tell just by glancing at a page of sheet music whether it is tonal or atonal, and I can't do that here. All the notes kind of look the same (though I'm sure this is true for someone who isn't fluent at Western notation trying to read sheet music!). One way we tried to ameliorate this in Rock Band was to color different groups of notes differently, so you had a lot of features to grab onto (e.g., the boundary between E and F is the boundary between blue and green).
Durations are completely visual, which is nice from a intuitive point of view but means that it's harder to parse the underlying pulse and rhythmic structure of the music. A grid might help here. (I was constantly insisting that the grid in Rock Band be made to be as helpful as possible.)
Anyway, it's a nice visualization of keyboard music, and I don't doubt that this is easier to understand for people who don't read music already. I wish he had chosen a less hyperbolic title, though.
Maybe sheet music can be improved upon, but the real question is should it? Sheet music is easy enough to learn, and once you learn it, all music opens up to you.
And, all that being said, learning to read music is really not very difficult. There seem to be a lot of complaints from the HN crowd about music notation, but learning to read music is wayyy easier than learning a new programming language. Seriously, just get over it and learn the system that everybody else uses, and you will be able to play any piece in just about any repertoire on the planet.
Granted, sight-reading skill is a matter of degree. I can read a jazz band gig, but would struggle with complex modern orchestral music. In musical styles that I'm familiar with, I can often make a good enough guess about what's next, that I only have to focus my attention on the dangerous bits. My attention often wanders away from the page.
I used to think that sight-reading was something that had to be learned, starting at an early age. I don't know if I still believe that, but I know that most adults who attempt to learn, find it to be prohibitive. This is one reason why it would be great to find an alternative. Even a piano with keys that light up.
Of course, it is not exactly a substitute for sheet music, but it is eminently readable to the novice.
However, you can't create such a notation for every situation because, some times, piano pieces are hard and notation is not going to make things easier. There's hardly a way to clearly see the notes you have to play and their timing when there're multiple notes in different melodic lines. with different rythms: it's just hard and it's not because of the notation.
I wouldn't say it's not challenging, but it's out of place, thus tedious. As other people said, it's an abstraction for people doing the art, IMVHO it's not important unless you are doing the art.
But it's not just for pedagogy. It's a practical tool for musicians, because it lets you throw people together to make coherent music quickly. This could be just playing string quartets in somebody's living room, or running a large performing ensemble. The size of one band that I'm in virtually ensures that there will be at least one new member or substitute at every performance. The ability of players who can read the stuff influences what can be composed.
And a lot of this music isn't even commercially viable for the people who play it (such as in my case), but there's just the enjoyment of exploring the world of written music.
And it's NEVER too late to learn.
I also had tremendous difficulty learning basic addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts compared to most of my friends. And I don't play video games.
I do enjoy listening to music quite a bit, but I think I am a person who doesn't have an ability to play it.
In general, musical sight reading requires specific practice most people are not exposed to. Even if you play instruments fairly well, sight-reading practice is not something you implicitly pick up. I play piano for hobby over 30 years, took lessons time to time, but it's only recently I consciously started practicing sight reading and the effect is remarkable. It's a very specific exercise, different from just practicing a piece.
And there is the individual difference. My son is very visually-oriented, that he can make sense complicated figure at one look, but he's having hard time reading long sentences. Some people may just not good at read music.
I will state that group instruction via band class at certain ages is perhaps the worst possible way to develop a love for something ("practicing was a chore...")
I too started note by note, then measure by measure. I felt like a total idiot! Gradually it became "phrase by phrase" and then turned into this surreal feeling where my eyes wander a few bars ahead and somehow my hands catch up in time. I wish everyone could experience that. I was just SO clumsy at first and I started SO late. I'm SURE you could do it given practice.
But I don't have any difficulty with reading text, and enjoyed reading a lot as a kid so in that sense I am not dyslexic.
it already simplifies reading A LOT.
You shouldn't be counting.
Any decent pedagogical training is going to introduce the lower and higher notes one at a time. And 'decent' can include self learning. Have some patience and don't try to jump into advanced things right off. You will just learn bad habits.
Say you know by sight all the notes g below middle c. The next exercise should introduce the f below middle c. When you see it it will be the one and only note you haven't trained on, and before you know it it will be trained into your muscle memory. Soon you will just see all the notes and know what it is. No counting required.
We are talking a couple of weeks here. A note a day, say, will get you pretty far - scores almost always change clefs before going 14 semitones above/below the staff.
Some people will do anything to avoid learning in a disciplined manner, and then spend years never advancing or fighting their bad technique. Take a bit of time, and the world of music is opened up to you.
Analogy - imagine somebody asks you to teach them how to pitch (baseball). You ask to see their current throw and it is some weird, lurchy, shot put type of throw. You show them a standard over shoulder release. They say no, they want to keep their current style, and maybe, just maybe, over many months, first remove some part of the weird lurch. In six months, then maybe they'll raise their hand a few inches. After that is working over several months, then maybe they'll start moving their hand behind their shoulder just a bit. Why, in just 10 years they'll be able to throw a ball!
It's crazy. If you want to pitch a baseball, just learn the movement that is required. If you want to play piano, learn how to hold your hands, and learn to read the music on sight. If you want to play guitar, learn the correct way to hold the strings with the left hand, and learn the proper plucking/fingering of the strings with the right hand. Etc. It's a few weeks of boredom, followed by a life time of being able to play.
actually I find it very zen, and love to go back to the beginning exercises, seeking absolute, unthinking perfection, letting each note ring for several seconds. Learned that from reading about Horowitz, and it works. But it is a bit much to expect 'zen' from a beginner that just wants to play some Billy Joel tune. To them I say Billy Joel did this to get the skill to play his songs, and you are probably not more a natural genius than he is, so you probably can't skip over what he had to do.
Leaving out exact note durations is intentional, and probably the main reason why it's so easy to read. The shaded tails from notes just have to evoke what's already in your head.
An amazing collection of functional/beautiful/arty alt music notation can be found in "Notations 21", edited by Theresa Sauer. One score per page, all wildly different in their approach to encoding music. Just wow.
This video has some images from the book:
This is basically just tablature for piano. Great for simple pieces, unweidly for anything more. Can you imagine notating Fur Elise with this? That's a fairly cmomon beginner/intermediate piece. Or etudes? Or any excercise that develops techincal proficiency?
Maybe it has a place, but like tab or lead sheets it is not a replacement for sheet music.
In my app, I figured I'd try to distill written music down to its basic elements — pitch and time — and allow users to draw on notes arbitrarily, with the equal temperament pitch grid as a guide and pitch/time snapping available as an option. (As an aside: the pitch axis is basically a logarithmic graph of tone frequnency — cents from A440. Because of this, I can swap out the equal temperament scale with basically any arbitrary scale. I've implemented *.scl file import and have been playing around with odd non-equal tunings from huygens-fokker.org's archive, though I don't know if this will end up in the final user-facing product.)
: Early demo video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ra8OvnoxKQw
Someone else suggested that this was a notation with which they were familiar, from an old hymnal of the (U.S.) denomination affiliated with the college I attended. I had assumed it to be quite an old system as the hymnal appeared quite antiquated. Still, it doesn't surprise me that it (only?) dates to the 1930s, nor that there would still be churches using it. Many old Reformed churches have short institutional memories but nonetheless cling to assumed traditions. That, and the Frisians are, stereotypically, an old, stubborn people.
IMO, an experienced sight reader would have more difficulty sight reading more complicated music using this notation.
- Traditional notation is instrument-agnostic.
- It may be easily printable, but a staff is easily writable. With just a pen and a ruler, I can produce a neat staff in ~10 seconds. The ruler is optional if I don't
care about prettiness. With this, you more or less have to print it: getting the spacing right by hand would be quite difficult.
- I have mixed feelings about the the traditional representation of key. Missing a sharp or flat in an unfamiliar key is probably my most common error when
reading sheet music. OTOH, The traditional notation tells me which sharps and flats to use. With this system, I have to already know the structure of C# major if I want to noodle around (always). This would seem to be more hostile to beginners.
- The precision issue has already been brought up many times, but I would add that all the lost information is an archival disaster. It might seem superfluous since
we have recordings, but given the rate of change in technology, access to data in old formats is by no means a certainty. Since this notation basically requires you to have heard the song in order to play it, it would become incomprehensible pretty quickly.
It seems to me that most of the complexity of musical notation reflects the "essential" complexity of actually playing the music. For example, consider key: even at the level of simple rock songs, a basic grasp of "key" is absolutely essential, and if you're playing a piano, this means you have to know which sharps and flats to use. If this seems pedantic, consider that the main difficulty of learning to play a piece is dexterity. It's going to take a bit of effort just to make your fingers hit the damn keys. Since this effort has to take place anyway, the little bit of extra effort to learn notation doesn't seem like much to ask. Besides, the amount of notation required to play pop songs is relatively small - that rendition of "Let it Be" contains about 10 symbols, most of which are related.
This isn't to say that traditional notation is perfect, or even good. It is rather baroque, and I'm open to a "redesign," as long as it really solves the problem. This redesign isn't useless, but its scope of usefulness seems so limited that I'm not really sure it's worth it.
I think very visually and find watching someone play a song on youtube infinitely easier than trying to learn with the equivalent sheet music. I really feel like this comes down to a left brain/right brain thing but I'm not sure how true that generalization is.
Are more visual approaches like youtube tutorials or this redesigned sheet music the way of the future? I wonder if it might it be detrimental to take this approach from the start?
I gave up, somewhat frustrated, and then saw this post. Here is my experience:
- The top to bottom timescale is easy to get use to and makes sense, given that you need a wide space just to fit all the keys. I placed my iPad on the piano in horizontal mode and could well imagine an app that scrolls the sheet for me, for time progression. Edit: Sorry, I was so excited about the article, I did not even see that it goes on after the notes, where the author talks about this.
- With the standard sheet music, because decoding was so inefficient, I would first figure out the keys and then try to memorize the finger pattern as quickly as possible, so that I don't have to decode the notes again. With the new notation I got lazy and kept my eyes on the sheet for the whole time, which actually slowed me down. I had to remind myself to memorize more. Just something to get used to, I guess.
- The notation does not give an exact rhythm, which I actually loved. If you've ever heard the song, you quickly figure out what the rhythm is supposed to be. The minimal rhythm notation is great, because it's not in the way of the notes.
I had a lot of fun learning the start of this song, and I would love to see more. I always wanted to learn some Beatles songs, and the sheet music that my mother bought so many years ago was always too complex to be fun. With this notation, songs like that are a lot more approachable. I don't think it makes sense for classical music, where the timing is not as obvious, but for pop and folk songs, or playing along to Studentenlieder ("im schwarzen Walfisch zu Askalon", anyone?), it seems like a great choice.
One minor sugestion to the original author: It would be great if the grey lines that correspond to the black keys would be bolder and darker. I had trouble seeing them, but I don't have the best eyesight...
However, I'm skeptical that this is it. First, looking at the 2 notations of "Let it Be," we can see that the new notation does not convey the same data, or even a simplified version of it. It's a different version of it. I find that odd.
Second, I don't think learning music notation is very difficult. I learned to read treble and bass clef when I was 5 years old. It was much harder trying to make my fingers press the right keys at the right time than memorizing which circle on which line matched with which key or note.
Looking at this, I'm reminded of Laban notation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laban_Movement_Analysis) and Benesh Notation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benesh_Movement_Notation) for notating dance. Both are very complicated and essentially never used by the people who actually do the dancing. Furthermore, I'm told that Benesh, for example, allows a notator to add written (human-language) notes below the staff to convey additional information. In other words, they know it doesn't convey everything it's supposed to.
So what do dancers do? They learn from video. They watch the masters who went before them directly performing the movement. Frankly, I think it would be great to see something similar for music. Having a video of someone playing a keyboard from above, possibly with a graphical overlay showing the notes pressed would be way better (in my opinion). (Which isn't to say it's without issues - far more bandwidth, video codecs, playback hardware, etc.)
There's a passage in a piano piece I'm having trouble with and I tried watching videos of pros on youtube to figure out how to play it. It was frustrating and almost useless. The video goes by too fast. Granted, I was looking for technical details, not notes, but I think notes would be almost as hard.
E.g. Can you tell what notes are being played in the video below?
Here's another fun one to try:
One thing it glosses over is how the format responds to greater range. It acknowledges the fact that only 3 of piano's ~7 octaves are shown, but it doesn't address how much difficult it would be to read if there were notes in both the C2 octave and C6 octave at the same time. It gets much more difficult to line up the timing in that case because your eyes would be scanning frantically every note.
In traditional sheet music, notes played at the same time are never more than an inch or two apart. Will this format support sheet music's equivalent of 8va to keep notes properly within visual range?
But then you end up with the same problem you get on guitar: beginners use tab as a crutch and don't develop skills as readily as they should once they're over the beginner hump.
Ledger lines preserve the melodic contour but it's harder to read the notes. 8va's stay within the regular five lines you know how to read, but fragment the melodic curve. This way has the advantages of both the above and the disadvantage of neither.
(The lack of key sig in that image is a limitation of the software it was printed out from, I think; it should start in E and change around a bit afterwards. The "3"s are that software's way of printing tuplets.)
I'd love to see what the equivalents of both approaches would be in this notation.
That double treble clef is called the super-treble clef and I've only ever seen it in the appendix of a book called the science of sound.
It does lead me to think that a simple piano roll layout, like the ones found in Logic and other digital audio workstations, would be useful for those of us who are terrible at sight reading music.
This is silly. Standard notation isn't absolutely perfect but it's pretty darn good. If a symphony can come out of dozens of musicians consistently by using standard notation I think we are OK.
I think the problem often has to do with not wanting to put in the time to master not only the notation and the instrument but also the hours and hours of work required to crate the synaptic connections necessary to read and play without thinking.
It's like complaining about vim because it is hard to learn. The problem isn't vim, the problem is the person who doesn't want to do the work.
Given the amount of information on a page though, you would have to at least match that, otherwise you spend to much time flipping pages and not as much time playing.
It isn't surprising, the first time anyone tries to master something a bit more complicated their initial thought is "this is soo confusing! Why doesn't someone design something easier to learn!" and for the motivated ones they may follow through.
The problem is then that they have mastered their "easy" thing and now their trying to do more complex things, or in this case describe more complex music, and wham, suddenly they just can't seem to make it work. But had they actually mastered music notation first they would have mastered a system that has successfully expressed a wide variety of music, styles, and levels of complexity. So they wouldn't end up stopping in the middle of their "progression" to go back and learn a new system because their old system pooped out on them.
1. treble/bass clefs are not consistent: one is EGBDF, the other GBDFA. eg instead of the third line always being a B, it's a B in one & a D in the other!
2. having to remember sharps & flats. ie, despite the note being F, you have to remember that it's not really an F, but in this case an F# or Fb.
1. make the clefs consistent: make them both 6 lines, and both EGDBFA. this means adding an E to bass at the bottom, and an A to the treble on the top. now a student has to remember only one format and note positions are consistent. the third note is always a B regardless of the treble or bass clef.
2. to resolve flat/sharp issue, especially for complex keys with many sharps/flats, use the note's head shape to distinguish. ie, instead of just an oval head to represent a note's pitch, use for example a round note head for a normal G, a square note head for G# and a triangle note head for Gb. that way no matter what the key, your eye can easy and immediately recognize that that G is not in fact a G, but a G# or Gb. after all we already use note shape (solid/hollowness) to indicate duration. why not go a step further and make realtime parsing easier by making the notehead shape indicate sharp/flatness?
Experienced musicians don't look at a key signature and say "okay, so I need to perform so-and-so particular substitutions", they look at a key signature and say "okay, so it's in the key of X".
as far as note being able to determine the key, that'll still be specified as now - this is an additional visual hint.
The octaves are seemingly delimited by solid black lines, but these lines actually represent the note C#, counterintuitively. My feedback there is that you've been staring at this too long if you think it immediately resembles a piano keyboard. Make it look more like a piano keyboard if you want it to be more readable than sheet music for beginners.
Make the example of your notation match the example of traditional notation. There should be three notes in the right hand at the beginning of Let It Be.
When I took piano lessons as a kid, I never had a hard time reading the music. It looks really complicated knowing nothing and jumping straight to Beethoven, but realistically, you'll learn to read sheet music a lot faster than you'll learn to actually play it.
I only took lessons for a few years, but by the end I was able to read sheet music that I had no hope of actually playing.
And then there's hundreds of years of music using the existing notation, so anybody serious about music will inevitably end up learning the old notation anyway.
Disclosure 2 - I'm generally a horrible musician, but when I was very young, my Grandma Yvette taught me to play the fiddle before the Suzuki program tried to save me and show me the violin. French Canadian fiddle music is all about patterns and so it's possible that that shaped my brain to look at music and its theory as a set of patterns.
However, those aside, I wonder about a tool like Musix (or Musix Pro) for notation. Within about five minutes of playing with the app, I felt like I had absorbed more real, practical music theory than in my years of formal instruction. Entire melodies started to make intuitive sense to me.
I wonder if a tool like Musix could be useful as a notation tool?? It still makes timing difficult to express and it would likely completely break with more complex pieces so I can't picture it seeing much uptake amongst highly experienced musicians, but I feel that if I had been exposed to an isomorphic notation at a young age, I'd be a significantly better musician today.
Anyone with more experience care to weigh in??
Professional notation software is an utter shit show. Microsoft Surface 3 launched with an interesting touch screen notation program in their promos. Stuff is out there, though notation isn't as popular (or nearly as well done, or as immediately rewarding) as some of the other apps like Ableton Live.
I hope this doesn't entirely replace staff notation. The reason for this is because of its connection to music theory. Once I got to a certain level with the violin, I didn't have to think about how notes mapped to the violin physically, but was able to think more in terms of music theory (or at least it was rather easy to switch between the two). This opens up an entire world if you start tinkering with improvisation and gives you a common language with other musicians.
I think staff notation is also quite amazing because it represents music in such a way that it can be easily understood by musicians of many, many instruments at a glance. Imagine writing a symphony of however many instruments in different kinds of notation, or being the conductor who has to read it all simultaneously...
All that being said, I could totally imagine a world where a huge percentage of musicians (especially amateurs) learn only these easily readable musical languages, while people who want to dive deeper learn staff.
It's an interesting approach; there are apps that will do something similar to this. They're very much like guitar hero. Some of the newer electric pianos will even illuminate the keys in the correct order.
I think one of the reasons that guitarists use tablature is that using sheet music notation for the guitar is more difficult to learn (at least to me). I've struggled with the guitar because I haven't put in the time to get my head around translating between manuscript and which strings/frets I need to be using. Violinists don't seem to have the same problem, but perhaps that's because most violinists are classically trained whereas most guitarists aren't?
Some sheet music for guitar also has note-level annotations for string number and finger positions, which does the above for the guitarist.
It is also much easier to see intervals. A minor 6th for example would always be a certain number of lines/spaces away, no matter the key. Octaves are obviously also easy to recognize.
I think a couple things are confusing and not as clear as they need to be past the beginner level. For example dotted notes. Counting something like dotted 8th notes or recognizing a dotted note would be hard. You can see a similar confusing rhythm in Linus and Lucy, where the 8th note at the end of each measure is held into beginning of the next measure.
It's pretty neat and a unique project. Pretty cool and I could actually see it being used in for things like Elementary School Music class.
I've recently been learning a tracker program called Renoise , and the vertical orientation is a very nice change compared to other DAWs I've used (Reaper, GarageBand, Logic Studio).
Reading sheet music has always been a huge chore for me, so I generally seek out guitar tabs instead when it's possible. Vertical sheet music without the staves would be amazing for people who know music theory but never had the need to learn sheet music like myself.
I still prefer the Hummingbird notation  though. Instead of this, it improves the classical musical notation without creating an entirely new notation. It's relatively easy to go from hummingbird to classical notation and vice-versa.
I think this kind of approach is defined essentially by a closer mapping between the sheet and the physical world (which is, according to usability tenets, something good). So, under this "definition", we can consider other approaches which are very popular and indeed work: guitar tabs and "Guitar Hero"-like games.
In the wise words of Thom Yorke, "anyone can play guitar", and I think this is - nowadays - mostly due to guitar tabs. Tabs make it very easy to step into guitar playing. So, I think, it's not a surprise that these approaches are so popular, as they have a easier learning curve for beginners, which is in itself also not a surprise if we consider the usability principle of close mapping with the real world. Traditional music notation just has more layers of translation, so to speak.
So, what are the drawbacks of this? I can think of three, which might explain why these approaches aren't promptly adopted by traditional music education:
1) As this is, essentially, a closer mapping to the physical world, said mapping has to be "done" to a specific instrument. An alternative notation such as this one or guitar tabs wouldn't be very helpful for, e.g., wind instruments. So, with this we would create specific "languages". Arguably, having musicians understand an universal language is a good thing - I'm no piano player, but I can read a piano sheet;
2) Repertoire, generally. The amount of music written in traditional notation is just huge, the inertia to start writing stuff with a different notation would be a problem;
3) Dynamics: I think these approaches overlook dynamics. It's not only about what and how long you play, it also about how you play it. For wind instruments, e.g., the dynamics can get quite complex - if a pianist has to read 5 notes, a flute player has to read one but with 5 dynamics annotations. This is, however, somewhat addressed in guitar tabs, as there are quite excellent tabs with not only dynamics annotations but also instrument-specific techniques. Maybe, in this approach, circle sizing could be used to communicate velocity?
I think they call an instrument with this property "chromatic", but I'm not sure.
Actually, perhaps somebody can explain why the black keys were invented. Because their existence makes little sense to me. For example, a guitar is a chromatic instrument, and can be played perfectly fine without any difference between "black" and "white" notes.
- Black keys are a reference. Either by touching them or by looking at them, you can always know where you are. Not so easy with all the keys being the same.
- The size of the keyboard is more or less adapted to our hand size. The distance between whole tones is similar to the distance between our fingers. A fifth is as wide as my hand, and I can play an octave without much effort. Making all the notes the same shape would change that and those common intervals would be more difficult to play.
- Our hand is not flat. The fact that some notes are higher than others makes playing more comfortable.
- Range. Same-shaped notes would occupy more space (unless you make them smaller than white notes, which would be uncomfortable) so either you get way bigger pianos (as if they were small) or pianos with less range.
There are probably more reasons why the black keys are there, these are just top off my head.
I think there is another advantage (to merely having the white keys) besides just transposing being easier. And this is that the same intervals will always have the same spacing on the keyboard. I guess this should be my main argument for this type of layout being more natural.
Besides, we already have the ideal chromatic keyboard layout:
My biggest gripe with this notation is that it assumes you're playing in a key, so the lines go <D E F# G...> for the key of D. That causes the spacing for a D chord and an E chord to look different, even though they're composed of the same intervals.
It never sticks, because there's literally an entire industry devoted to traditional notation and traditional keyboard design.
Meanwhile in pop and electronica everyone started using button grids to trigger loops and samples, and the notation thing was almost completely bypassed.
This is very, very limited a anything busier than a few block chords - which includes a lot of music - will be too dense for it.
Notation evolved in an ad hoc way, so there's certainly a lot wrong with it. But it's good as an efficient representation of music. Most of the examples here would fit on a single line of notation - so this model is around four to eight times less dense.
Try setting something simple like Bach's Prelude No 1 from the WTC and you'll see how inefficient it is.
2. The 2-3 key structure makes it obvious where each note is, it would be extremely difficult to find out where the notes are if all keys looked the same.
3. How often do you need to transpose music?
With traditional sheet music, you can see all the notes you need to play clearly in one place.
With this one, if your left hand is playing in lower octaves, and right hand playing in higher octaves, your eyes will have to move around a lot just to know which keys to push. This is in addition to moving your eyes around the actual keyboard to make sure you're hitting the right keys.
However, I do like the simplicity of using this system to learn a fairly basic song.
Interesting read though. For something not so 'serious' (e.g. not a Concert piece), it could definitely make the correlation easier.
For pop music, fake books are easier. That's how you play pop music.
Just imagine if Guitar Hero had been done with traditional sheet music. I don't think it ever would have taken off.
I'd use it though, even though I can read music I like to use tabs for guitar. This would be nice for me since I don't play piano, but would like to play a simple tune once in a while.
I don't think it'd work well in paper/book form, but on a scrolling screen I think it'd be a great learning aid.
1. This, and all other similar modern attempts, is interesting in that it has so much in common with the very earliest forms of music notation. We have as a basic, "this is me telling you how this is supposed to sound" example as far back as the 7th century, in which you had written words with markings above, below, and around that are meant to guide chant practitioners about where to go next to shape the musical phrase. This is also the origin of modern punctuation in written language.
These attempts are remarkably similar in my mind to the early attempt to guide people. They strike me as memory aids more than anything. As in, I've heard this before, I know how it is supposed to go, I just need a little help here.
When I say origin above, I'm talking about the western tradition of music. The eastern tradition of music evolved very differently (both in terms of music notation and the notion of punctuation), and you can trace early concepts of music notation back a couple of thousand years b.c. But I'm not talking about that.
2. The history of music notation roughly follows the history of the study of music theory in a cycle: is the point to understand and describe what happened in the past, or is the point to prescribe what should happen in the future? People have been fighting this battle for centuries (again, there's a parallel here between language and music), and we continually go back and forth.
Notation methods carry that same problem with them. What are you trying to do? What problem are you trying to solve? I'm not going to say that modern standard music notation is perfect, but it's a good balance of both prescription and description.
3. Speaking of balance, there's another element that's been mentioned already: creation vs. performance. A good method of notation has to be easy to write, not just easy to read. It has to be specific enough that composers who want to care about details can clearly define them, and I think this method is sorely lacking in that regard.
4. Re: ledger lines. These are a modern, notational "convenience" that was brought about by printing technology making it reasonable. And because performers hated music without them. Music before the 18th century did something that is much more reasonable in my mind, but in practice is difficult to manage. The clef symbols used to be moveable. They sort of still are. The difference between alto and tenor clef is that the c is on a different line.
In pre-Baroque music, there were only 4 staves instead of 5 and the clefs moved all over the place to accommodate the fact that there were no leger lines. The clefs would switch to a different line in the middle of a phrase or just change completely from a c-clef to a g or f clef.
This kind of shifting around is, needless to say, extremely taxing on the performer. But very convenient for the writer and publisher. Leger-lines were originally an acquiescence to the needs of the player, believe it or not. But you know, give someone an inch, and they'll write Strauss.
5. These kinds of visual aids have existed forever in music. But they are only useful for the performers. Writers of music have to consider vertical relationships between notes. I mean, they don't have to, but we're stuck in a musical rut where we've collectively decided that the successful music is going to be based on some permutation of I-V-I. And that's even more true of modern i.e., popular non-classical music since about 1940) than it is of modern classical.
You need to understand the conventions, and visually seeing "difficult" intervals is key to helping you write music that conforms to those norms.
In my opinion, modern standard notation is almost as good as a syntax highlighter in terms of seeing parallel 4ths, 5ths, octaves. It's not quite as good, but it's close.
The proposed redesign is . . . not so great at that.
6. Portability has been addressed by others, but I haven't seen the scalability argument yet. Let's say this works well for one person playing alone. What happens when you try to get 4 people to play together? What about 100? What about 1,000? Someone has to look at all of that and figure out what is supposed to be happening and then lead the group and know when things are going wrong. (I've conducted concerts with 8 harpsichords playing at a time. There is no way this style of notation would work.)
7. I just don't think this is viable as a redesign of piano music. A learning aid? Maybe.
7.)have not looked at sight read, since either jazz or
direct composition. I USED the simple method. tap the beat
with feet. use basic drumstick to sound melody with pots
whistle the 2nd part, etc. 3 piece band?
8.)hobby only, not stress tested like real code
9.) the auto transfer from guitar chord trellis to ORGAN
can be useful.
QUESTION: better to go deep first? and be a genius on
organ for Tchaikovsky? or just go radio plus jazz and
make it up HACKER STYLE as U go?