Minimal 6-6 Notation System by Paul Morris

The images below show a C major scale and a chromatic scale for each version.

Colored Notes Version

Rectangle Shape Notes Version

Flipped Notes Version

Dotted Notes Version


Diamond Shape Notes Version

Compare With Traditional Sheet Music

What? Why? and for Whom?

This system provides the advantages of having a visible 6-6 pitch pattern while only diverging from traditional notation in minimal ways that are additive and do not disrupt the semantics of the traditional system. It 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.

6-6 Pitch Pattern

As shown above, there are several versions of this notation system that each represent the 6-6 pitch pattern (i.e. the two whole-tone scales) by using two different kinds of note heads.

  • Colored Notes Version - uses colored note heads (e.g. turquoise and purple)
  • Rectangle Shape Notes Version - uses oval and rectangle note head shapes
  • Flipped Notes Version - uses oval note heads in two different orientations
  • Dotted Notes Version - uses oval note heads that either have a dot in their center or do not
  • Diamond Shape Notes Version - uses oval and diamond note head shapes

Because this minimal 6-6 system simply adds a visible 6-6 pattern to the traditional system, the traditional semantics are not altered or disrupted.  If you can read this system you can read traditional notation and vice-versa, so it is easy to switch between this system and the traditional one, or use them both interchangeably. While the 6-6 pattern is especially relevant for musicians playing an isomorphic instrument (like a janko keyboard) or a 6-6 Colored Traditional (7-5) Keyboard, it also offers benefits to all musicians regardless of what instrument they play. (As with the "6-6" pattern, a "4-4-4" tri-chromatic pattern could also be implemented with three note head colors or shapes, etc.)


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 – differences which are not visible in traditional notation. In short the 6-6 pitch pattern makes visible the basic interval patterns that make up scales, chords, melodies, etc. See the demo PDF files linked above for illustrations of intervals.  Notice how, assuming there are no accidental signs (only a key signature)... Minor 2nds will always be two different kinds of note heads.  Major 2nds will always be the same kind of note head.  Minor 3rds will always be two different kinds of note heads.  Major 3rds will always be the same kind of note head, 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. (The same "visible reminder" effect will also occur for notes altered by accidental signs.) 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.


The 6-6 note head pattern makes 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. However, the difficulty of reading in multiple clefs in traditional notation could be addressed in one of several other ways, in keeping with the "minimal" approach.  The goal would be 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.

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. In March of 2023 Morris added the files and images for the colored notes version, rectangle shape note version, flipped note version, and diamond shape not version, including the links to the LilyPond files for each version and the MuseScore plugin for the colored notes version. Originally this page only had images and files for the dotted notes version.