I-Accord Music Notation by Saieb Khalil

The “I-Accord” (First accord or Iraq Accord) is a music notation system with 3 lines per octave designed by Saieb Khalil. (The first version of the text and images on this page came from his documentation of this system that he shared with the MNP. The name “I-Accord” is apparently a pun; “accord” is French for “chord.”)


1. It is based on relative values. The notes represent the relative value depending on its position w.r.t. the root note (I), which can be any note.

2. Like other notation systems of this category, it is motivated by the fact that the relative position of the note has more a musical meaning than its physical measure of frequency.

3. The lines in this system are assigned for the notes of the tonic, i.e., root chord (I chord) (I, III, V distances), while the spaces between the lines are for the rest of the notes.

4. This is to emphasize the importance of these notes, melodically and harmonically. Melodically the set of notes representing I, III and V give (relative) “stability”, rest or cadence. These notes are the one “pulling” the other neighboring notes, which are known to be “tensed” notes, looking for a “line” to rest on. Therefore, this scheme is probably beneficial for the consciousness of musical tensions, and therefore, of special importance for music students and external people trying to learn it.

5. The 3 lines are not spaced equally. The distance between each two reflect the distance between the chord notes concerned.

6. Therefore, the staff of the minor scale is different than that of major, reflecting the difference between the two kinds of scales. The distance between the two lower lines are greater than that between the middle and upper line in the major scale staff, reflecting the difference between the distance between the root note and the third, being a major third, (2 full notes), and that between the 3rd and the 5th (being a minor 3rd). For the minor scale staff, the distance differences between the lines are inverted, as it is in music.

7. The notes of the scale are represented differently from those of those outside the scale (like accidental sharped notes in C major or A minor). Here scale notes are shown as full ellipses and the rest as half ellipses. This makes it easy to distinguish any accidental without using additional signs or having to remember ones printed earlier in the staff.

8. The fact that (only) I chord notes fall on the lines, makes it very easy to recognize such chords, whether in arpeggio form or other. This is true even for other forms of I chord, such as inverted chords (see figures).

9. Being instantly able to distinguish the I chord, other chords would also be easier to recognize. A (I) chord with extra note, for example, will be easier to distinguish too. The combination will be more easily related to the original chord, and thus “understood”. The special effect of the extra note will be stressed in the mind of the music reader.

10. The system doesn’t make use of notehead “color” to represent pitch, so the traditional use of it to represent duration is possible as in traditional notation, but if half ovals were found not so easily distinguishable, especially with hand writing, then they can be replaced by a hollow triangle, with the advantages and disadvantages as shown by previous experience.

11. While it has a unique place for each pitch just like chromatic staff, it doesn’t have its drawback of too many lines.

12. The asymmetry of the staff lines gives “special position”, not only for I chord notes, but the other notes too. The system would repeat the positions of the same notes in the next and previous octaves. Thus a “C” note will have similar position in different octaves, thus making it easier to recognize, unlike traditional notation system.