6-6 and 7-5 Pitch Patterns

Many notations that feature a chromatic staff exhibit either a 6-6 or a 7-5 pattern in the way that they represent the 12 notes of the chromatic scale. These patterns are generally found in the lines of a notation’s staff or in its noteheads.

6-6 Pitch Pattern

A 6-6 pitch pattern visually distinguishes the two whole-tone scales (6 notes each) within the 12 notes of the chromatic scale. This regular alternating pattern gives a consistent appearance to interval relationships, scales, and chords across all the different keys.[1] (See our tutorial Intervals in 6-6 Music Notation Systems). Here are some examples of notations with a 6-6 pattern:


6-6 Pattern Caption


1. 6-6 Line Pattern:
6-6 Pattern on Parncutt's Tetragram Notation


2. 6-6 Notehead Color:
6-6 Pattern on Parncutt's Tetragram Notation


3. 6-6 Notehead Shape:
6-6 Pattern on Parncutt's Tetragram Notation


4. 6-6 Notehead Color & Line Pattern:
6-6 Pattern on DA Notation by Rich Reed


6-6 Pattern Caption


These notation systems are: (1) 6-6 Tetragram by Richard Parncutt, (2) Untitled by Johannes Beyreuther, (3) Twinline, Thomas Reed Version, (4) DA Notation by Rich Reed


7-5 Pitch Pattern

A 7-5 pitch pattern retains a visual distinction between the seven notes A B C D E F G and the other five notes that must be represented using sharp and flat signs in traditional notation. This provides continuity with traditional notation, and a correspondence with keyboard instruments that exhibit this same 7-5 pattern. Here are some examples:


7-5 Pattern Caption


1. 7-5 Line Pattern
7-5 Pattern on Avique Notation by Collins


2. 7-5 Notehead Color
7-5 Pattern on Express Stave by John Keller


3. 7-5 Notehead Color & Line Pattern
7-5 Pattern on Collins' Notation


7-5 Pattern Caption


These notation systems are: (1) Avique Notation by Anne & Bill Collins, (2) Express Stave by John Keller, (3) Klavar, Mirck Version by Jean de Buur


More Examples

The following PDF files show scales and chords in various notation systems that have a 6-6 and 7-5 pitch pattern:


Some notation systems combine both patterns:

  • Leo de Vries’ Diatonic Twinline has a 7-5 notehead color and a 6-6 notehead shape.
  • As shown above, John Keller’s Express Stave has a 7-5 notehead color. An alternative version also adds a subtle 6-6 pattern in its notehead shapes by varying the slant of the noteheads.
  • Richard Parncutt’s 6-6 Tetragram (shown above) has a 6-6 line pattern, but it also has a subtle 7-5 pattern since the three spaces of the four-line staff are F#, G#, and A#, and the two ledger lines are C# and D#.


See the Gallery of Music Notation Systems, sorted by 7-5 or 6-6 Pattern for more examples, and the Noteheads and Pitch tutorial for more on using noteheads to indicate pitch.


[1] The regular binary alternation of a 6-6 pattern is analogous to the distinction between odd and even numbers in mathematics. In both cases a distinction between two interlocking sequences (of notes or numbers) helps with orientation and with perceiving and measuring relative differences between terms (either notes or numbers).