Minimal 6-6 Notation System by Paul Morris

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What? Why? and for Whom?

This system is a minimally radical 6-6 music notation system designed for those who are averse to adopting an alternative notation system or who do not like the chromatic staff approach.  It provides the advantages of the 6-6 approach with as little divergence from traditional notation as possible.

6-6 Pitch Pattern

The 6-6 pitch pattern (i.e. the two whole-tone scales) is represented by note heads that either have a dot in their center or do not have a dot.  Solid/black note heads have white dots and hollow/white note heads have solid dots.  Because this 6-6 system simply adds this visible 6-6 pattern to the traditional one, the existing semantics of the traditional system are not altered or disrupted.  If you can read this system you can read traditional notation, and vice-versa.  There is very little reason not to use this system since you can easily switch back to traditional notation, or use them both interchangeably.  One could say that this system offers full “backwards compatibility” with the traditional system.

Of course, the 6-6 pattern is especially relevant if one is playing a janko keyboard, a 6-6 Colored Traditional (7-5) Keyboard, or is simply approaching one’s instrument in 6-6 terms.

(Some other possibilities for the 6-6 pattern are to use different note head colors or shapes like ovals and rectangles, or ovals and diamonds.  These shapes were tried and the notes with dots seemed preferable.  Similarly, a “4-4-4” or tri-chromatic pattern could be implemented with three note head shapes or colors, etc.)

Intervals

Even with the traditional diatonic staff (as opposed to a chromatic staff) having note heads that reflect the 6-6 pitch pattern makes it much easier to identify intervals quickly and fully.  It makes it possible to see the difference between major and minor seconds, major and minor thirds, major and minor chords – to see the interval patterns that make up scales, chords, melodies, etc.  None of this is possible in traditional notation.

See the Demo File (PDF) for illustrations of intervals.  Notice how, assuming there are no accidental signs (only a key signature)… Minor 2nds will always be one dot-note and one regular note.  Major 2nds will always be two regular notes or two dot-notes.  Minor 3rds will always be one dot-note and one regular note.  Major 3rds will always be two regular notes or two dot-notes, etc.

Key Signatures

Once musicians gain some familiarity with the 6-6 pattern it will also help them learn to play in different keys / key signatures.  If a note is sharp or flat because of the key signature it will have a different appearance than if it were a natural note – a direct visual reminder to play it as a sharp or flat.  One simply needs to remember whether the key signature contains sharps or flats.

Additionally, the intervals between a given note and the surrounding notes also indicate whether to play it sharp or flat (especially when there are no accidental notes / accidental signs involved).  Basically, because the intervals between notes are easy to see, making it possible to “read by intervals“, this will help prevent “forgot the key signature” mistakes.

Clefs

The difficulty of reading multiple clefs in traditional notation could be addressed in one of several ways, in keeping with the “minimally radical” approach.  The goal is to make orientation in different clefs easier without breaking with the traditional five-line pattern for each clef.  (This aspect is optional and experimental.  One possibility is to use it as a temporary educational aid for teaching different clefs to beginners.)

One possibility is to make the bottom line of the treble clef (E) and the top line of the bass clef (A) dotted or dashed.  That way the four remaining solid lines represent the same notes in both treble and bass clef (G, B, D, F).

A second possibility is that the staff line representing a given note (i.e. G, B, D, or F) could be a dotted or dashed line in both bass and treble clefs.  This could be extended to other clefs as well – the Alto clef has G and F lines, and the Tenor clef has an F line.  So a dotted F line would appear in all four of these clefs.

A third possibility for piano music is to simply write the music in the left hand staff in a transposed treble clef – transposed down so that there are two ledger lines between the left and right hand staves instead of one.

Finally, in any case the 6-6 note head pattern would also make it easier to read music in different clefs since the same note in different octaves and in different clefs would always have the same kind of note head (dot-note or regular non-dot-note).

Meta Data

This system was introduced in August of 2015 by Paul Morris (although he still prefers Clairnote).  See also Classic Nydana a somewhat similar system that also has a diatonic staff and a 6-6 note head pattern.