Names of Notes and Intervals

Clairnote can be used with the standard names for notes (C, D, E…) and intervals (major 3rd, minor 3rd…). This offers practical benefits for musicians who want to, or may need to:

  • Be able to easily communicate with other musicians
  • Be fluent in the common language of music theory
  • Learn to read traditional notation in addition to Clairnote

Of course, it is also possible to use Clairnote with an alternative nomenclature instead.[1]

White-key notes in Clairnote music notation

Clairnote’s key signatures and accidental signs make it possible to use the standard nomenclature. They clarify the names of enharmonically equivalent notes — notes that have the same pitch (in twelve-tone equal temperament) and the same position on the Clairnote staff. A good example of these enharmonically equivalent notes are the black keys on a piano keyboard:

Black-key notes in Clairnote music notation

Each of these “black-key” notes can have one of two different names, assuming no double-sharps or double-flats. We are not used to having notes on the staff that do not have a single primary name, but we are used to this when it comes to instruments, so it helps to think of it in those terms. The black keys on a piano have two “equally primary” names, as do the “black key” frets on the guitar, etc.

When you see one of these “black-key” notes on the Clairnote staff you would refer to the accidental sign (if there is one) or the key signature to determine the name of the note. This is very similar to how it works in traditional notation. To determine the name of any note on the traditional staff you always need to refer to the accidental sign (if there is one) and the key signature.

The difference is that in Clairnote you already know enough to play the note based on its staff position alone (without referring to an accidental sign or the key signature). Also, the only thing you have to remember about the key signature is whether it is a sharp key or flat key, since that is enough to tell you whether the note is a sharp or flat. This is because any given key may contain either sharp notes or flat notes but not both. For example, the key of D major (D E F# G A B C#) is a sharp key because it has two sharps. A musician playing in D major that sees an F# note will know that it is an F# and not a Gb because the key is a sharp key, as indicated by the key signature.

See key signatures and accidental signs for more details.

Thanks to Clairnote’s accidental signs and key signatures, Clairnote can be used with the standard nomenclature and convey all of the information conveyed by traditional notation. This includes differentiating between enharmonic equivalents. Whether that differentiation is relevant or not is a matter of long-standing debate. Fortunately, anyone can use Clairnote no matter which side of that debate they are on.

Next: Clefs

  1. There are various alternative nomenclatures that re-name the notes and intervals using a simpler twelve-notes-per-octave approach, and eliminate distinctions between “enharmonically equivalent” notes and intervals. This entails a revision and simplification of much of traditional music theory as well. Clairnote can be used with such an alternative nomenclature by simply ignoring or removing the key signatures and accidental signs that indicate the traditional names of notes. Distinctions between “enharmonic equivalents” would no longer be necessary since there would always be a simple one-to-one correspondence between each note’s name and its visual representation on the staff. Clairnote would work particularly well with an alternative nomenclature that highlights the 6-6 pitch pattern (like Dan Lindgren’s SaLaTa). Return