Clairnote Music Notation

An alternative notation system that makes music easier to read and understand.

Explicit and Direct

Clairnote gives each of the twelve notes of the chromatic scale its own vertical position on the staff. There are no indirect alterations by key signatures or accidental signs. Play what you see and see what you play.

Chromatic scale in Clairnote and traditional music notation
Chromatic Scale in Clairnote and Traditional Notation

Consistent and Intuitive

Clairnote represents interval relationships clearly and consistently, making them easy to recognize. Hear what you see and see what you hear.

C major scale in Clairnote and traditional music notation
C Major Scale in Clairnote and Traditional Notation

Any given note looks the same in every octave. Once you can read one octave you can read them all. This makes it simpler to identify notes and to read music that spans multiple octaves.

Octaves in Clairnote and traditional music notation
Octaves in Clairnote and Traditional Notation

Solid and Hollow Notes

Whether a note is solid or hollow is its most prominent visual feature, so Clairnote uses this solid/hollow distinction to help convey pitch rather than duration. The vertical positions on the staff alternate regularly between solid and hollow noteheads. This makes individual notes easier to identify and interval relationships easier to see.

Thirds in the key of C Major in Clairnote and traditional music notation
Thirds in the Key of C Major in Clairnote and Traditional Notation

Clairnote uses traditional rhythm symbols, except half notes have a double stem to distinguish them from quarter notes.

Half notes and quarter notes in Clairnote

(Clairnote SN doesn't use solid/hollow notes to convey pitch, offering full continuity with the traditional rhythm system. See Clairnote and Clairnote SN.)

Clefs and Octaves

In traditional music notation the notes represented by the lines and spaces of the staff change depending on the current clef (treble, bass, alto, tenor, etc.). Piano music entails reading in two different clefs at once. In Clairnote the lines and spaces of the staff look the same in every octave and always mean the same thing in every octave, so there is no need to learn to read different clefs. Clairnote's clef symbols simply indicate the octave register of the staff.

Clefs and octaves in Clairnote and traditional notation

Key Signatures and Accidental Signs

In traditional music notation the notes on the staff may be altered by accidental signs (sharps, flats, naturals, double sharps, double flats) or by one of fifteen different key signatures that you have to learn and keep in mind in order to play the correct notes. With Clairnote you can simply play the notes as they appear on the staff and learn as you go.

Key signature and accidental signs in Clairnote

Clairnote’s key signatures and accidental signs do not complicate the process of reading notes. They only provide supplemental information — all the same information conveyed by traditional notation, like the current key, when a note is an accidental (i.e. not in the current key), and the different names of enharmonically equivalent notes.

All key signatures in Clairnote and traditional music notation
Different Keys and Key Signatures in Clairnote and Traditional Notation

Intervals and Chords

In traditional music notation different intervals and chords may look the same (e.g. major and minor thirds and triads). In Clairnote the differences between intervals are always clearly visible making it easy to see the relationships between notes and understand the common patterns of music found in chords, scales, keys, etc. Improvising and playing by ear involve playing by interval (by relative pitch), so clearly seeing each interval as you play will help support learning these skills. See Intervals, Chords, and Scales for more illustrations and discussion.

Thirds and triads in Clairnote and traditional notation

Sheet Music Videos

(Videos created with LilyPond and ly2video, with many thanks to those who work on these projects!)

Sheet Music and Software

There are currently over 600 works in the Clairnote Sheet Music Library, all available to download for free as PDFs. They were created with LilyPond – free (open-source) music notation software that anyone can use to create new sheet music from scratch or to automatically convert traditional music files into Clairnote. See Software: LilyPond. A collection of fiddle tunes, a piano lesson book, a sight-singing lesson book, and a number of other works are available under More Sheet Music.

Blue Danube Waltz excerpt in Clairnote music notation

Here are a few well known pieces from the Clairnote Sheet Music Library (PDF files):

What next? Explore Clairnote with the AudioVisualizer or start to learn to read Clairnote with the Learning Game.