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Clairnote: an Alternative Music Notation System

Clairnote is a notation system that makes music easier to read and learn. It gives each of the twelve notes of the chromatic scale its own vertical position on the staff.  Unlike on a traditional staff the vertical distance between notes is always proportional to their difference in pitch (their interval). Hollow and solid note heads are also used to indicate pitch (instead of duration, a better use of the most visibly prominent feature of a note).

Chromatic scale in Clairnote music notation

Key Signatures and Accidental Signs

Key signatures and accidental signs are not required. Simply play the notes as you see them on the staff. There are no extra steps, no need to mentally process and modify notes (A) according to one of fifteen different key signatures that you have to memorize and constantly keep in mind as you play, or (B) based on temporary accidental signs: sharps, flats, double sharps, double flats, or natural signs.

(Clairnote has its own version of key signatures and accidental signs that convey all of the same information conveyed by traditional notation, like the different names of enharmonically equivalent notes. However, they are supplementary and do not complicate the process of reading music.)

Octaves and Clefs

On the staff the pairs of two lines always represent the same two notes (E and G-sharp/A-flat). Notes an octave apart always fall on “the same” line or space. Any given note is easy to identify since it looks the same in any octave.

Since every octave on the staff has the same appearance, there is no need to learn to read music in different clefs (i.e. bass and treble). Clef symbols in Clairnote simply indicate the octave register of the staff, and do not affect the position of notes on the staff. See Clefs.

Octaves in Clairnote music notation

Intervals, Chords, and Scales

Clairnote represents intervals directly and consistently. Differences between intervals are clearly visible making it easy to see the relationships between notes and understand the basic patterns of music found in scales, chords, keys, etc. Clearly seeing each interval as you play it may also help with learning to improvise and play by ear, skills that typically involve playing by interval (i.e. relative pitch).  In the following illustrations you can see the consistent interval patterns that make up major and minor scales and triads. See also Scales and Intervals.

Major and minor scales in Clairnote music notationThirds and triads in Clairnote music notation

Rhythm Symbols

Clairnote uses all the traditional rhythm notation symbols except that (A) hollow and solid note heads are used to help indicate pitch instead of duration (a better use of this highly visible aspect of a note), and (B) half notes have a double stem to distinguish them from quarter notes. These double stems can be seen in the music excerpt below. See also Rhythm Notation.

Sheet Music and Software

You can download free examples of sheet music that are created with LilyPond.  LilyPond is free and open-source music notation software that anyone can use to automatically convert traditional music files into Clairnote. Below is an illustration of a few bars of piano music in Clairnote. See also Sheet Music and Software: LilyPond.

Blue Danube Waltz excerpt in Clairnote music notation