Clairnote is an alternative music notation system that gives each of the twelve notes of the chromatic scale its own vertical position on the staff.  This means the distance between any two notes always fully corresponds to the interval between them (their difference in pitch) unlike on the traditional staff.

Hollow and solid note heads are used to help indicate a note’s pitch and to make interval patterns easy to see.  (This is a better way to use the most prominent visible feature of a note, as compared with the traditional system which uses it only to distinguish quarter notes and half notes.)

Chromatic scale in Clairnote music notation

Key Signatures and Accidental Signs

In Clairnote key signatures and accidental signs just provide supplemental information.  You can simply play the notes as they appear 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’s key signatures and accidental signs convey all of the same information conveyed by traditional notation (like the different names of enharmonically equivalent notes), but they are supplemental and do not make reading music more complicated than it needs to be.

Octaves and Clefs

The lines of the Clairnote staff repeat with each octave.  The pairs of lines always represent the same two notes (E and G-sharp/A-flat), so any given note will fall on the same line or space in every octave.  This makes notes easy to identify because they always have the same position on the staff.

Octaves in Clairnote music notation

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.

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  will help you learn to improvise and play by ear, skills that 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 scales in Clairnote music notationMinor scales in Clairnote music notationThirds and triads in Clairnote music notation

Rhythm Symbols

Clairnote uses all the traditional rhythm notation symbols except that hollow and solid note heads are used for pitch and interval patterns instead of for duration (a better use of this highly visible aspect of a note).  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

There are currently over 450 works in the Clairnote Sheet Music Library, all available to download for free as PDFs.  They were created with LilyPond – free and open-source music notation software that anyone can use to automatically convert traditional music files into Clairnote (see Software: LilyPond).  Below is an illustration of a few bars of music in Clairnote.

Blue Danube Waltz excerpt in Clairnote music notation

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


These videos give a sense of what it is like to read and play from Clairnote music notation.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Do Re Mi from the Sound of Music

The Blue Danube Waltz, by J.J. Strauss – Sheet Music (PDF)

Greensleeves – Sheet Music (PDF)

The Well Tempered Clavier I, Prelude I, by J.S. Bach – Sheet Music (PDF)

Für Elise by L.V. Beethoven – Sheet Music (PDF)

The Entertainer by Scott Joplin – Sheet Music (PDF)

These videos were created with LilyPond and ly2video, with many thanks to those who work on these projects!