# How do I read this text-only musical notation from Wikipedia

I have practically no music notation experience, so please consider me a dummie when answering.

I am reading this Wikipedia article, about the clave rhythm. They use a text only notation looking like this:

``````1 & a 2 & a 3 & a 4 & a ||
X . X . X . . X . X . . ||
``````

or

``````1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a ||
X . . X . . X . . . X . X . . . ||
``````

Is this a standardized notation? Does it have a name? Where can I read more about it?

I believe that the first line specifies 'points in time' and the second specifies which of those times should have a beat. But what points in time are specified? What do the 'e', 'a' and '&' mean?

-
This is really interesting. I hadn't seen this kind of notation before. I didn't want to read the answer below so I could figure it out bymyyself and I did. I agree with the comment by Dave below. Thats how I figured it out too. – Panagiotis Palladinos Nov 2 '12 at 13:50

You are correct in your interpretation of the two lines.

In the `1 & a` example, you can see that the numbered beat is being divided up into three equal parts, and that there are four total beats per measure. This means we are in 12/8, and that each symbol corresponds to the value of an eighth note.

In the `1 e & a` example, the numbered beat is being divided up into four equal parts, and there are four beats per measure. This means we are in 4/4, and each symbol corresponds to the value of a 16th note.

Pretty much every musician you ask is going to have a different syllable for triplet subdivisions. I prefer `1 ta ma 2 ta ma`, though I've heard `la li` from a few people before. – NReilingh Nov 8 '12 at 15:13