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standard notation as used to:
(took me a long time to get a feeling for the inconsistency in the number of line/spaces and intervals)


Maybe it could have been made more intuitive:


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What a terrible proposal. The "problems" he's trying to fix are actually features of the Western notation system.

Despite the intentionally click-bait title, this video explains how and why our current notation system came about, and why various proposals to "fix" didn't get any traction:



Since he's the guy in charge of MuseScore, he know what he's talking about.

Plus, it's a really well done video.


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Thanks, very interesting.

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Originally Posted by dcuny
What a terrible proposal. The "problems" he's trying to fix are actually features of the Western notation system
I too have pondered over whether there are better ways to notate music and went through a fair few of the "fails" that he shows, before concluding that, despite its apparent clumsiness, standard notation seems to offer fewer problems than other systems.

One that he highlighted as one of the better tries was mostly just rotating the staff to vertical, which seems reasonable enough, though that creates another issue that isn't always obvious ... our eyes are better at seeing variation from the horizontal than they are from the vertical, so vertical staves are actually s little harder to read.

If one remembers that we were hunter-gatherers, then it should be fairly clear why we more easily perceive variation from horizontal ... things on the horizon are important for early sighting of prey and predators. It's also why we prefer faders and VU bars to be vertical rather than horizontal.

Last edited by Gordon Scott; 01/30/24 02:51 AM.

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I actually love music notation.

It's like reading a book.

Do they want to change the alphabet too and replace it with emoticons or something?

I wouldn't change a thing about it.

Some of these YouTubers seriously need to get a life.

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I never learned fifth notes... quarter, eighth, sixteenth, yeah.


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I have no problem at all with normal music notation.

It's actually quite an efficient way to pass on a lot of information.

I have had some rare problems with people who do not notate music properly. There is often more than one right way to notate a piece of music, or a passage. The person doing the chart, should choose the way that makes it easy to sightread.

I like it the way it is, and see no need to change it.

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I had some problems with his explanation of the existing system. For example, he didn't seem to understand the significance of clefs when describing where the notes fall on the staff. Or the continuity of pitches spanning the treble and bass clefs.

While I agree there are lots of things one can find fault with, and many conflicting 'rules', the existing system of notation system seems to work well. I've written for symphony orchestra and everything smaller, and people seem to understand what I write with no arguing.


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The guitar world and other stringed instrument world figured out a good way to do this with tab. I can read tab just as easily as standard notation. Since there are so many ways to get the exact same note and pitch on stinged instruments, tab can be really useful. But, yeah, standard notation is not something that needs fixing.


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Originally Posted by etcjoe
The guitar world and other stringed instrument world figured out a good way to do this with tab. I can read tab just as easily as standard notation. Since there are so many ways to get the exact same note and pitch on stinged instruments, tab can be really useful. But, yeah, standard notation is not something that needs fixing.

I'm just the opposite. I can't read tabs unless it is accompanied with notation and even then I have trouble with tabs.

I agree standard notation does not need fixing.


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Originally Posted by MarioD
Originally Posted by etcjoe
The guitar world and other stringed instrument world figured out a good way to do this with tab. I can read tab just as easily as standard notation. Since there are so many ways to get the exact same note and pitch on stinged instruments, tab can be really useful. But, yeah, standard notation is not something that needs fixing.

I'm just the opposite. I can't read tabs unless it is accompanied with notation and even then I have trouble with tabs.

I agree standard notation does not need fixing.

I started out that way but over time, i found I didn't need the notation. I really found it easier to see chords in tab vice notation. Sometimes when I see a chord in notation it throws me because I have to figure out "where" the chord should be on the neck, of course this is sight reading. If I am learning something from notation, I am taking the time to find out the best place to play everything written as there are so many choices on the guitar for the exact same inversion of every chord if the notation was not marked up for guitarist. Some transcriptions in notation are and give fingerings etc. Some give chord diagrams and so on. There are many ways to enhance the notation. Thankfully I am not thrown into a lot of sight reading situations!!


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Originally Posted by etcjoe
The guitar world and other stringed instrument world figured out a good way to do this with tab. I can read tab just as easily as standard notation. Since there are so many ways to get the exact same note and pitch on stinged instruments, tab can be really useful. But, yeah, standard notation is not something that needs fixing.
Tab frustrates me.

When reading notation, I get the note values, the note timing, and a lot of expressive details all in one line. When reading tab, there is the advantage of displaying fingering, but that part does nothing to express timing or expression.

Of course, there is more than one correct way to do this.

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Originally Posted by etcjoe
The guitar world and other stringed instrument world figured out a good way to do this with tab. I can read tab just as easily as standard notation. Since there are so many ways to get the exact same note and pitch on stinged instruments, tab can be really useful. But, yeah, standard notation is not something that needs fixing.
Yes - tablature assumes that you already know the melody and rhythm, so it only needs to communicate the fingering.

It's an example of where a hybrid solution to a specialized problem works very well. Rather than trying to make one solution do both things, you can use Western notation and tab to get the job done. Or include an audio file for those that choose not to read Western notation. wink

I was going to say "standard" notation instead of "Western" notation, but it's only "standard" depending on where you happen to be.

And you know the old saw... The great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from. laugh


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Yes the combo of tab and Western notation fulfills my needs quite well for an unfamiliar tune.


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Originally Posted by dcuny
<…snip…>
It's an example of where a hybrid solution to a specialized problem works very well. Rather than trying to make one solution do both things, you can use Western notation and tab to get the job done. Or include an audio file for those that choose not to read Western notation. ;)<…>
That's a workaround, but for reading, I can't combine the tab with the notation. I especially can't sightread.

To me, the solution is to know the notes on the fretboard, and read the notation. But guitar is my 7th instrument, I don't have many occasions to read music on it, so to tell the truth, I'm not very good at reading on the guitar. Simple melody lines, that don't require hand position movement, is it.

I would think if you want to eventually sightread guitar, that would be the way to do it. After all, that's how violin players do it.

Sax and wind synthesizer is what I'm best at. If the rhythms aren't too tricky, I can sightread. If they are quite tricky, a little woodshedding is in order.

I can't think of much I'd do to improve standard, Western notation, but I can think of a lot of things I could do to improve some charts that people have made.

One big one for reading a song I've never heard. Instead of saying brightly or with energy, give me the mm= or the standard Italian tempo designation. For example, if you say allegro, I know it's between 112 and 120 beats per minute.

Stick to the standard notation markings, and it's a lot easier to read something I'm not familiar with.

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