Clairnote SN

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 SN 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 SN music notation

The vertical positions on the staff alternate between line-notes and space-notes. This consistent visual pattern makes individual notes easier to identify and interval relationships easier to see.

Thirds in the key of C Major in Clairnote SN 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 SN music notation showing octaves

Traditional rhythm symbols are used in Clairnote SN. (Unlike standard Clairnote.)

Half notes and quarter notes in Clairnote SN

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 SN 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 SN 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 SN 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 SN'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 SN 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 SN you simply play the notes as they appear on the staff.

Clairnote SN’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 SN

Sheet Music Videos

A taste of reading music in Clairnote SN music notation.

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


Sheet music in Clairnote SN can be created with LilyPond – free (and open-source) music notation software. Use LilyPond to create new sheet music from scratch or to automatically convert existing music files into Clairnote SN. See Software: LilyPond.

Blue Danube Waltz excerpt in Clairnote SN music notation