Just out curiosity (because for practical needs I'll still just use music paper) but is there any music notation system which is best suitable for squared paper?

I mean, obviously I can just dray five lines and use just regular musical notation or I can just use something that invokes letter notation (like some computer formats do - for instance, GUIDO_music_notation ) but what about something that takes advantage of the very fact that we have some squared paper?

  • just for clarification, do you mean landscape by squared paper?
    – nath
    Jan 22 '18 at 14:45
  • @nath well, sorry for being unclear, may be there's just another term in English but I meant just regular squared paper like in students notebook.
    – shabunc
    Jan 22 '18 at 14:48
  • 8
    @nath: I think the OP means quadrillé or other grid paper.
    – Remy
    Jan 22 '18 at 15:46
  • 7
    I've seen squared paper on paper packages often in the US for what we called "graph paper" in school. I think using graph paper for a kind of piano roll style notation sound like a great idea. It would make it easy to use it as a guide for programming step sequencers or MIDI sequencers that use a piano roll layout. Jan 22 '18 at 17:08
  • 1
    @nath: "Portrait"/"landscape" refers to orientation, not shape (though the fact that you can choose between them suggests you are working with non-square paper for sure). Jan 22 '18 at 20:34

I am not aware of any commonplace music notation system utilising a square grid, but perhaps someone with more exposure to contemporary music can better answer this question.

The main point of music notation is to communicate between the composer and the performer. The reason we use what we use is not that it is better than other ways to notate music, but that it's more familiar. When composing, you should probably only deviate from this if you have a good reason to do so.

On the other hand, I have found square grids useful as an analytical tool. Especially in highly polyrhythmic music, quavers and semiquavers can obscure the real content, whereas laying it out on a grid can clarify the different layers of activity.

In summary, what notation system you use should depend on what purpose you want it to serve.

  • An additional use of graph paper in analysis would be the various range graphs used by theorists like Bernard when looking at Varese and theorists like Clendinning when looking at Ligeti. Such graphs with time on the x-axis and pitch on the y-axis are helpfully for clarifying the sometimes extreme ways that such composers use the full range of pitch space. Jan 22 '18 at 18:59
  • @PatMuchmore just to avoid confusing some readers: standard sheet music has time on the x-axis and pitch on the y-axis. What you're suggesting is a less-quantized version, which some of us might refer to as a running Fourier Transform graph, or better yet a spectrograph en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrogram Jan 23 '18 at 13:05
  1. I am not aware of a concrete example yet, but I am sure you will find something when you search for music by Karlheinz Stockhausen and Mauricio Kagel. Iannis Xenakis may also have used squared paper, but he transcribed everything in the end onto traditional music paper.

  2. If you look for pieces of Electroacoustic Music you will also find something.

  3. Furthermore, squared paper is sometimes used to sketch rhythms.

  4. It is used for pieces in graphical notation, e.g. Jax de Léon

  5. Last, if you rotate your squared paper by 45 degrees, you could draw early 16th century music in a beautiful style. :)

  • 1
    I can confirm that Xenakis used graph paper sometimes, at least in sketches. I saw several at a small exhibition of his scores and sketches. I feel like I should get the bit about 16-century music, but I don't. I guess it ruins the joke to explain it too much, but maybe a hint? Jan 22 '18 at 18:56
  • 2
    @PatMuchmore A picture is worth a thousand words
    – endorph
    Jan 22 '18 at 22:28
  • Also, Morton Feldman was known to use Square / rectangular shapes to depict music. For example his “intersection #1”. Not a grid per se, but he was definitely thinking in square blocks of sound Jan 23 '18 at 11:12

piano roll notation could fit in squares.

as in what you see in DAW software in the note display.

it's NOT a very good notation, though. there are lots of deficiencies that standard notation does the RIGHT way. (While getting other things wrong.)

Why do you CARE that it fits in a SQUARE?

ok, sorry. my attempt at humor...

  • 3
    If you hide two notes in a cave guarded by a female horse, then it's a Mare hiding a Square Pair in a Lair Jan 23 '18 at 13:08
  • good to know. good to know. ha ha. Jan 23 '18 at 20:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.