Clairnote SN

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

Excerpt from The Blue Danube Waltz in Clairnote SN music notation

Play the Notes You See

Clairnote SN gives each note its own vertical position on the staff. The relationship between the notes you see and the notes you play is simple, direct, and consistent — not complicated by key signatures or accidental signs.

The C major scale and the five black key notes in Clairnote SN and traditional music notation
The C Major Scale and the Five "Black Key" Notes in Clairnote SN and Traditional Notation

Notes appear in one of four basic positions on the staff: (1) on a line, (2) "sitting" just above a line, (3) on a ledger line between two lines, and (4) "hanging" just below a line. Adjacent staff positions are always a half step apart (1 semitone).

Five chromatic notes in Clairnote SNand traditional music notation

The vertical positions on the staff alternate regularly between spaces and lines (including ledger lines). This consistent visual pattern makes individual notes easier to identify and interval relationships easier to see.

Notes an octave apart look the same because the staff's line pattern repeats with each octave. If you can read one octave you can read them all. This makes it easier to identify notes, to identify the interval between notes more than an octave apart, and to play music in a different octave than the one in which it is written.

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

Play the Intervals You See

Clairnote SN represents intervals clearly and consistently. As with notes, the relationship between the intervals you see and the intervals you play is simple, direct, and consistent. For example, you can see the difference between the whole steps and half steps that make up scales. Whole steps are always line-to-line or space-to-space, while half steps are always line-to-space or space-to-line.

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

Similarly, you can see the difference between major and minor thirds, the building blocks of chords. Major thirds are always line-to-line or space-to-space, while minor thirds are always line-to-space or space-to-line. Being able to see these differences makes it easier to play music by reading the interval relationships between notes.

Thirds in the key of C Major in Clairnote SN and traditional music notation
Thirds in the Key of C Major 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. There is no need to learn to read different clefs. Clairnote SN's clef symbols simply indicate the octave register of the staff.

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 you have to learn and keep in mind in order to play the correct notes. With Clairnote SN you can simply play the notes as they appear on the staff and learn common patterns as you go.

Key signature and accidental signs in Clairnote SN

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.

Different Keys and Key Signatures in Clairnote SN 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 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 supports learning these skills. See Intervals, Chords, and Scales for more illustrations and discussion.

Thirds and triads in Clairnote SN 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 SN Sheet Music collection, 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 SN. See Software: LilyPond. The available sheet music includes a collection of fiddle tunes, a piano lesson book, and a sight-singing lesson book.

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

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