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Chromatic notation for Hayden duet

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I’m sharing this in case anyone else is in similar position and will find this usefull, not to preach to people who feel comfortable with traditional notation.


Before my long break from concertinas I have come to realize, that I deeply loathe western music notation and it’s overcomplicated and convoluted nature. The rhytmic part works just fine, but non-proportional vertical pitch placement and non-repetitive octave positioning makes it impossible for me to sight read it thus limiting my options only to scores I can fully memorize, which in my case simply does not work for more advanced duet repertoire.


The answer to this was chromatic notation - in which I fell in love instantly. Combined with isomorphic keyboards such notation finally made both music and music theory understandable and I could sight read it fluently after just a day of getting acquainted with my chosen system. But there was one huge problem - back then there was no software for easy convertion from traditional to chromatic, one had to use lext based Lilypond or graphic software to create scores and the only option with playback capabilites was percussion track workaround in pricy Finale - all options tedious and thus practically useless...


But no more! To my delight a fork of Musescore2 was made during my absence, which enables the use of many of existing chromatic notation systems! And now I’m like a kid in a candystore, because I can now convert ANY sheet music available in musicXML format in just few clicks! 


But enough about my personal story. There is one notation system, that I find particularily straightforward when used with Hayden keyboard - Parncutt 6-6 Tegragram http://musicnotation.org/system/6-6-tetragram-by-richard-parncutt/ 

In it’s essence, it is a piano roll with a twist - assignment of naturals to spaces/lines shifts at semitones, just as rows in Hayden, making it very straightforward for me to sight read it. Moreover, this Musescore fork allows not only staff adjustment, but also colorcoding notes, so now I can have LH and RH lines, including overlap zone, in true vertical octave positions without any ambiguity (this however requires some manual work with reversing and scaling stems properly, but this takes about 10 mins for 50 bars). Now I can finally directly see how accompaniment relates to melody and how harmonies are formed between hands without having them mentally translated - being a graphic designer by trade I’m very sight oriented person.


The fork can be downloaded here: https://clairnote.org/dn/software-musescore/ Unfortunatelly ready to install pre-compiled version is only available for Macs and you have to compile it yourself for Windows or Linux. The second drawback is that there seem to be no active development going on and the app itself is now six years old, there are only very limited instructions for it and it is a bit buggy, but nothing game breaking if you save often. 

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I'm guessing there's a whole big world of alternate notation systems out there. I am, after years on many instruments, thoroughly indoctrinated to the traditional system, but that doesn't mean there aren't good alternatives to consider out there (he said, typing on a QWERTY keyboard, another system folks have tried to reform/replace for over a century). It would interesting to see a piece side by side in traditional notation and the system you are exploring.



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Whatever. Music is for the ear, not for the eye, and any notation system is just like any attempt to describe food with words.


I understand that you, Lukasz,  are a very accomplished instrumentalist, so if that system got you to where you are... great, congrats! If your explorations help others to find their personal key to unlock music for themselves, perfect!


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11 hours ago, RAc said:

... any notation system is just like any attempt to describe food with words.


A better analogy might be to compare music notation systems with recipes for food. Both are an instruction for how to create the music / meal. Recipes can use different "notations", e.g. quantity by weight or volume etc. We will all have our own preferences, but each type of recipe gives us the opportunity to create a similar dish.


11 hours ago, Ken_Coles said:

It would interesting to see a piece side by side in traditional notation and the system you are exploring.


Indeed it would. I can understand how one can read music from ABC notation or tonic sol-fa but, like Ken, I'm happy with western classical notation. Nevertheless, Łukasz, if you could produce a PDF of the two systems side-by-side it would be interesting.



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Like Ken and Little John, I grew up on traditional classical notation, and I’m afraid that if confronted with a system like this that looks confusingly like familiar notation I would be forever stumbling over trying to play it like the system I’m used to.

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So here is an example, just couple of simple bars. This is a continuous staff, each four lines are F, G, A, B of consecutive octaves, I have left cleffs for you to orient yourself, and added a quick reference of where natural notes are on. I use color coded notes because on continuous staff there sometimes is overlap of LH and RH lines and all black noteheads cause a mess. Now it should be clearly visible how this system is a natural pair for Hayden keyboard. 


@David: that is a valid concern regarding my chosen system as you can see in linked example. However, chromatic notations come in certain "families" ('6-6' in this particular case, you can find out more at musicnotation.org), with different graphical details, some designed specifically to adress this confusion. Musescore can represent some of them. The original source for the fork, Clairnote page, has two subsystems, SN and DN exactly to lessen the confusion if someone wants to remain "bilingual", as DN uses hollow/full noteheads for pitch instead of length of note. I have chosen this particular over more distinct alternatives exactly because I needed to remain bilingual.

@Thread: Of course, to each their own. As I said, I merely share the sources to those who might be interested once there finally is a way to easily translate systems so that "score availability" argument is no longer valid (at least not so much as six years ago, when I first raised the topic here on c.net). I have been raised in QWERTY tradition and have never felt the need to switch to Dvorak or other alternatives (which in case of Poland is less abstract topic than it seems, as we had a period of competing implementations of missing symbols and I actually had to retrain muscle memory for modifier key when I switched from PC to MAC), but I do find sticking to Imperial units over adapting metric system a bit... stubborn. Including food recipes :D And as a graphic designer there is no way anybody can convince me, that US paper sizes shouldn't burn in hell :P


notations comparison.pdf

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  • 4 weeks later...
8 hours ago, Nighthawk said:

Very interesting, thanks for sharing.  I find this quite appealing and will give it a try the next time I arrange something for Hayden.


If you have any questions on how to actually use this Musescore fork, feel free to ask, as it comes without any instructions and has some non-intuitive elements to it at first preparation/template making stage.

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