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

Explicit and Direct — Each of the twelve notes of the chromatic scale has its own unique 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 music notation

Consistent and Intuitive — It is easy to see the interval relationships between notes because they are represented clearly and consistently by the vertical positions of the notes on the staff. Hear what you see and see what you hear.

C major scale in Clairnote music notation

Whether a note is solid or hollow is its most prominent visual feature, so solid and hollow noteheads are used to help convey pitch rather than duration. The vertical positions on the staff alternate between solid and hollow noteheads.

Solid and hollow notes in Clairnote music notation

This visual pattern makes individual notes easier to identify and interval relationships easier to see.

Thirds in the key of C Major in Clairnote music notation

Any given note looks the same in every octave. This makes it easy to identify notes and easy to play music in any octave.

C major scale in Clairnote music notation showing octaves

Traditional rhythm symbols are used except half notes are given a double stem to distinguish them from quarter notes.

Half notes and quarter notes in Clairnote

Look and Listen Closer (AudioVisualizer)

Below you can see and hear scales, intervals, modes, and/or the notes you play on an on-screen keyboard. For scales and modes, look for the different interval patterns (whole steps, half steps, etc.) that make up each one. Notice how these interval patterns remain consistent when you transpose the scale or mode to a different root note. For intervals, notice how easy it is to identify them and to differentiate between them.

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

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, and if you can read one octave you can read them all.

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 have to be learned and remembered in order to play the correct notes. With Clairnote you simply play the notes as they appear on the staff.

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.

Key signature and accidental signs in Clairnote

Sheet Music Videos

A taste of reading music in Clairnote music notation.

(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 automatically convert traditional music files into Clairnote. (See Software: LilyPond.) A collection of fiddle tunes, a piano 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):