The methods, rules, and conventions for representing music visually.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

49
votes
5answers
25k views

How do you draw a quarter rest with a pen/pencil?

It seems to me that the quarter rest we see everywhere was drawn with a calligraphy pen. I don't have one of those - I have a sharpened/mechanical pencil or a ball-point pen. So usually when I try to ...
34
votes
9answers
7k views

Key signature for writing in modes other than major and minor

I have trouble deciding what accidentals to put in the key signature for pieces in Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian or Mixolydian modes. There seem to be trade-offs associated with each choice. For example, ...
28
votes
2answers
34k views

What does a small x-like symbol before a note mean?

I've been playing piano by ear for a long time and now I am trying to learn the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata. I am a little confused about the meaning of a little cross placed right before a ...
28
votes
3answers
2k views

How to interpret half notes combined with thirty-second stems?

I want to play Also Sprach Zarathustra (IMSLP PDF), but there is something I don't understand there. In the first few bars there are 4 half notes beamed in pairs as thirty-second notes. Because the ...
27
votes
1answer
4k views

Why is C the base note of standard notation and keys?

Why is it that notes "start" with C? In key signatures, for example, C Major is the basis and accidentals are added for all other key signatures. I know that the musical alphabet starts with A and ...
26
votes
3answers
2k views

What is the origin of the up bow and down bow symbols for bowed string instruments?

My brother is a beginning cellist and I was helping him annotate "up bow" and "down bow". I find it particularly strange that the "up bow" symbol is similar to a V. Intuitively, I would have thought ...
26
votes
4answers
1k views

Has music notation become more prescriptive?

Another question asks about the Meaning of 1/1 and 1/2 beneath pedaling marking near some sustain pedal markings. It looks like they are used to specify a particular amount of pedal to use while ...
25
votes
10answers
7k views

Why do we use such complicated notation?

I have just started learning about music from the internet. I have learned how to play the piano, but I don't have a real piano so I am playing a virtual piano. In my opinion, the notation which is ...
23
votes
16answers
3k views

How to help students remember Half vs. Whole rests

The symbols for the half rest and whole rest are pretty much the same and in the literature my students play we rarely encounter them. Is there a good, memorable way to describe which is which to ...
23
votes
11answers
6k views

What does this note - B# - mean?

I'm confused as to how I should play the second note below, B#. Does it mean it's C? It is possible? In which case, why is it written like this, and not just C?
23
votes
4answers
2k views

Piano with two treble clefs and 8va on grand staff

How do you play the notes in the red square? On the upper staff, the lower chord is G but the note in the lower section is also G. Do you just ignore it?
21
votes
7answers
3k views

When to use a dot or a tie in music notation?

Let's say I have the following piece in 4/4, Should it be notated as: or Are there any specific rules? From my previous experience, I believe the second one is the correct notation since it ...
20
votes
4answers
3k views

How is it that 12 eighth notes fit in a measure labeled as common time?

I am looking at Franz Liszt's Consolation S.172 No.3. I have checked out two different music scores of the same composition and they both have the same time signature (standard), however the base line ...
20
votes
4answers
1k views

Why do we need note names like B♭, D♭ etc.? Why not use only A♯, C♯ and so on?

The very same sharp/flat tones can be written in two ways: C♯ is the same as D♭ D♯ is the same as E♭ …and so on This is so confusing. What is the reason for it? ...
20
votes
1answer
20k views

What does a triangle mean in chord notation?

For example, what does the △ mean in C△7?
20
votes
3answers
652 views

Ornamentation symbol consisting of two stacked slashes //

I'm transcribing a book of 18th Century music and have come across several instances of the notation shown in the image. A few fellow musicians I've asked, and the online Dolmetsch guide to musical ...
19
votes
4answers
10k views

What are the Solfège names of the semitones between the basic do, re, mi, etc?

What are the names of all the notes in a sol-fa scale, especially the chromatic notes between the basic Do, Re, Mi's.
18
votes
6answers
5k views

Relationship between 3/4 and 4/4

I understand the meaning of music notations such as 3/4, 4/4 and so on. The first number is the number of beats per measure, while the second number is the note-duration (quarter, half, one-eighth) ...
18
votes
2answers
4k views

Is “16va” proper notation?

Is the notation "16va" or "16vb" ever used to mean to transpose what is written up or down two octaves? I cannot think of how else you would represent the highest and lowest notes on a piano without ...
18
votes
6answers
13k views

How many (major and minor) keys are there? Why?

I am wondering about how many major and minor keys there are and why. Here are some suggestions: 24 keys One could argue that there should be one major and one relative minor key for each of the 12 ...
17
votes
4answers
859 views

Should one write # or b?

In the staff, would one write enharmonic notes with # or ♭? Does it matter which you'd use and why? For example: In the key of C Major, would it be better to write this passage with an A#, as it is, ...
17
votes
3answers
4k views

Rest above a note in a piano piece

I am playing a piece and wondering, what the heck is the rest making there above the note? The piece is in 3/4 so I see no purpose of the 1/4 rest. I've been googling around but did not find any ...
17
votes
1answer
826 views

How do you read Graphic Scores?

I recently found out about the graphic notation. I was reading up on it on wikipedia, but there was very little information about how the scores are read besides you read them left to right. There is ...
17
votes
3answers
676 views

What are the limitations of the ABC notation format?

This question came up in a discussion on Meta, and I thought it might be a good question to ask on the general site. ABC notation is a relatively simple text-based format for writing music scores ...
17
votes
4answers
447 views

Is there a Relative Pitch Clef?

To start out: I am more-or-less familiar with all the standard musical clef notations, including F, C, and G clefs; as well as the fact that clefs can be movable (tenor clef, french violin clef...) ...
16
votes
4answers
4k views

Symbols “M”, “C”, “D”, and “P” in Guitar Tablature

I was reading a songbook by Richie Kotzen, and in the song "Shine" (which he played with Mr. Big), there's a rythm guitar part that goes like this: What do the symbols M, C, D and P mean? I'm ...
15
votes
3answers
2k views

Music Notation - Little notes

Can someone please tell me what the little notes (4 bars after C) are called?
15
votes
3answers
2k views

Free software to create a score from scratch

What open source softwares are available for creating a music score? I have Logic X but I don't think it's geared well for that kind of thing.
15
votes
1answer
16k views

What does “NC” mean?

On some tabs, I sometimes see a "NC" text on top of the tab. What does it mean ? How should it be played or interpreted ?
15
votes
3answers
926 views

Why the octave number changes between B and C?

I noticed that everywhere I read about music in scientific pitch notation, I see the notes in ascending pitch as in: A2 B2 C3 D3 E3 F3 G3 A3 B3 C4 Instead of what I expected, which was A2 B2 C2 D2 ...
15
votes
3answers
1k views

Origin of the 'squigly line' used for quarter note rest?

This has been driving me nuts - I can't find a single thing on the net that would indicate why the quarter rest is penned the way it is. Did it evolve from some initial or abbreviation or was it ...
15
votes
5answers
754 views

Why is a note sometimes a 4th and sometimes an 11th?

If I play the chord: GBDA, then this is considered a Gadd9. But if I play the 3rd above the 5th (GDB), it is not called a 10th. Why don't we refer to all notes by 1-7, and is there a system to ...
14
votes
4answers
2k views

How to interpret this chord notation?

How do you interpret this couple of notations? In Bar 2, Fm / Ab, what does the slash do? Do I play either chord or both? In addition, in Bar 3, what does the /9 mean?
14
votes
4answers
9k views

Why note B is marked with H in Scandinavia and Germany?

At least in Scandinavia and Germany two notes are marked differently than in most other countries: B -> H B♭ -> B I have heard that this is due to mistake in interpreting messy sheet notes, as ♭ ...
14
votes
2answers
2k views

What do Four Vertical Dots mean?

I was looking through a score by Bartok (5th String Quartet) and came across a symbol I didn't recognize. There is a dot between each line in the clef. What does this mean? Edit: Here's another ...
14
votes
11answers
2k views

Can legato notes be played staccato?

I've been working on this piece by Sousa, and I came across this oddity: Does this mean to play these notes somehow legato and staccato at the same time? If so, how would I play it? If not, what ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

On the piano, how should you play staccato with the pedal?

In some pieces, there is a pedal designation along with staccato. How should this be played?
14
votes
4answers
16k views

What is the difference between sharp note & flat note?

In guitar or generally in any musical instruments, what is the difference between sharp notes & flat notes? For example : Are A♯ & B♭ the same? And are C♯ & D♭ the same? Does that make ...
14
votes
1answer
322 views

Do accidentals earlier in the measure affect a trill?

I was attempting to help someone understand all the markings in a piece with which they are unfamiliar. One, however, has given me pause: Now, I know the rule for a trill is that it ordinarily ...
14
votes
4answers
3k views

Capitalization of key names (C Minor vs. c minor)

I was taught when I was young that minor key names should be written with the note in lowercase, as well as the word "minor". Nowadays on recordings, etc., I usually see both capitalized. What was ...
13
votes
7answers
2k views

Do accidentals override key signature?

I am wondering how the accidental in the first chord (see what is circled) is played? Does any accidental simply move the note up or down a half-step from what the note is supposed to be based on the ...
13
votes
3answers
1k views

What does Grt. and Sw. mean in this organ score?

I've come across a piece of sheet music for an organ and I was just curious what the Grt. marking above measure 1 and 17 means and what the Sw. marking above measure 9 means. I've seen it before in a ...
13
votes
4answers
814 views

“Correct” notation for a minor chord?

Over my career as a musician, I have seen many different kinds of notation for a minor chord for example each of the chord symbols below represents an A minor chord: Am Amin a A- Is there a ...
13
votes
2answers
6k views

Unknown Notation - Thick Horizontal Bars Between Notes

I haven't the faintest idea of what these could mean. Some sort of run perhaps? How do you effect the dynamics/notes these bars are referring to? EDIT: For reference, this specific example is ...
13
votes
3answers
1k views

What are all these symbols in some old sheet music?

Looking at this sheet music of Pietro Antonio Locatelli's "L'arte del violino" Op. 3 we see that the sheet music is pretty old. I have no idea if this is perhaps the original one or not but it does ...
13
votes
2answers
279 views

What did ancient cuneiform notation look like, and how did it work?

I looked at Wikipedia of course... According to Wikipedia: The earliest form of musical notation can be found in a cuneiform tablet that was created at Nippur, in Sumer (today's Iraq), in ...
13
votes
2answers
2k views

With sheet music, what happens with sharps and double sharps that are already sharped in the key signature?

For example, let's say the key signature has an f sharp and then also an individual f note has a sharp next to it. Are they just emphasizing the f sharp or does that actually become a g? Same ...
13
votes
3answers
884 views

How can I force LilyPond to repeat a chord symbol (relates to alternate endings)?

In chordmode, LilyPond chooses not to display chord symbols when they are the same as the preceding symbol, which is usually the right behavior. However, this behavior gets weird in the context of ...
13
votes
4answers
1k views

What does the “+” symbol mean in a keyboard piece when attached to a note?

In a Daquin pipe organ piece, "Noël «Suisse»" from his "Livre de Noëls", I see this notation in the Right Hand system: This is notated this way in the Oxford Book of Christmas Organ Music. How ...
13
votes
1answer
605 views

What does a single square bracket next to a single note mean?

I just stumbled on a bit of notation in a music score, and I'm stumped as to what it means. It's a single square bracket, spanning the whole staff, to the left of a single note. This is measure 58 ...