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Questions tagged [notation]

For questions about understanding notation and the use of it. If the question is about a specific type of notation like tablature, that should also be tagged. Questions about how to input specific notation are best served with the engraving tag.

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66
votes
5answers
50k 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 ...
62
votes
4answers
173k views

What is the relationship between “do re mi” and note letter names?

When the people sing the song, we use do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, si, ect, but some time I hear that the music people say A, B, C, C flat, ect. Is their relationship or are they two different things?...
59
votes
7answers
19k views

Why are there both sharps and flats? [duplicate]

If we can get away with just having sharps (aka black notes on a piano) then why complicate things and add flats as well? For example, if I have a C# why call it Dflat? Why not just leave it as C# and ...
47
votes
3answers
21k 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 ...
43
votes
9answers
17k 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, ...
41
votes
8answers
8k 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 ...
39
votes
3answers
8k 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 ...
38
votes
10answers
28k views

Is there any practical difference between 3/4 and 3/8 time?

Is there any practical difference between 4/4 and 8/8? regards a common and unusual time signature; both 3/4 and 3/8 time are pretty common. What difference in performance is implied in the the ...
38
votes
2answers
113k 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 ...
37
votes
6answers
7k views

Why do people sometimes write notes as E♯ or C♭?

Instead of writing F or B, sometimes people use E♯ or C♭ to write these notes. Are there any advantages to this notation?
34
votes
10answers
41k 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 ...
32
votes
12answers
25k 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?
32
votes
8answers
11k views

Does an accidental apply to all octaves?

I've been playing French Horn for 20 years, and thought I had most basic concepts regarding accidentals understood. But the other day I came across the following image via Wikipedia, which had me ...
30
votes
10answers
11k 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 ...
30
votes
7answers
8k views

Why do E♯ and F♮ not sound the same (according to Wikipedia)?

I was just reading the Wikipedia page on the note F (as I do every evening) and was confused by this part where it says that even though F♮ and E♯ are enharmonic they “do not sound the same”: E♯ is ...
30
votes
8answers
8k 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 shows ...
30
votes
1answer
4k views

What do the letters D and E above the staff represent here?

A mystery from a musician friend of mine: In the Alpine Symphony by Strauss, the oboe, Eflat clarinet, and bass clarinet/C clarinet have these D's and E's scattered throughout the back half of the ...
29
votes
4answers
11k views

What does it mean when two notes are stuck together?

I mean something like this: I'm guessing it means they're played together but I'm not sure. Also, does the sharp apply to both pitches or just the G?
29
votes
3answers
52k 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.
29
votes
4answers
2k 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 ...
29
votes
2answers
81k views

What does a triangle mean in chord notation?

For example, what does the △ mean in C△7?
28
votes
4answers
51k 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 ♭ is ...
27
votes
5answers
16k 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 ...
27
votes
2answers
40k views

Unknown notation - thick horizontal bars between notes

I haven't the faintest idea of what these bars could mean. They're thick and mostly horizontal with a slight tilt. Some sort of run perhaps? How do you effect the dynamics/notes these bars are ...
27
votes
5answers
1k 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...) ...
26
votes
4answers
4k 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?
26
votes
6answers
5k views

Why you need a rest here in this score?

Beginner warning :-) This is the piano sheet music for Elgar’s Variation, Nimrod. Please do note: I am currently learning time and key signatures with my theory teacher, but in looking at the ...
26
votes
5answers
2k views

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

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? ...
26
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
25
votes
17answers
8k 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 ...
25
votes
4answers
18k 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 ...
25
votes
5answers
5k views

Why are double staff pieces of music not properly aligned for Middle C?

I am a guitar, flute and (a long time ago) bassoon player. I can play a few things on a keyboard, badly, in short: I know how it all works. I'm trying to help teach my wife to play a harp. It has a ...
25
votes
7answers
46k 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 ...
24
votes
7answers
4k views

Is it true that cut time means “play twice as fast as written”?

I was just reading an e-book and saw this sentence which really confused me: "Played twice as fast as written" - This isn't what cut time actually means right, or are there situations where cut time ...
24
votes
1answer
3k views

“inuendo” in a piano score

I have a question about music notation: - - - in - - - u - - - - en - - - - - do - - It appears in a music book edited by Willard A. Palmer, Bach, Prelude in C Minor, BWV 999, measure 26 to 29. Can ...
24
votes
3answers
11k views

What does a straight line connecting notes on different clefs mean?

What is the meaning of the straight lines between notes in opposite staves, as shown in the picture? I keep seeing it, but Google and Wikipedia are not helping me.
24
votes
4answers
1k views

Where do the double accidentals go in “theoretical” key signatures?

Recent questions led me to discussions of theoretical keys, which are defined by Wikipedia as keys with at least one double accidental in the key signature. (Unfortunately, the source of that ...
23
votes
4answers
4k 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 ...
22
votes
4answers
2k views

Should one write ♯ or ♭?

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, ...
22
votes
1answer
41k 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 ?
21
votes
5answers
5k views

If between E and F is a halftone, why can F not be an E♯

A ♯ raises a note by a semitone or halftone. I'm confused. If E and F are a halftone apart, why can't F be E♯?
21
votes
2answers
4k views

Two whole notes on the same measure, what does it mean?

I'm starting to analyze the Slavic March by Tchaikovsky. In measures 6, 8 and 9 the Clarinet has these repeated whole notes, but I don't know what they mean (I'm not a clarinetist). The bassoon/...
21
votes
3answers
4k views

What do these three diagonal lines that cross through three measures and both staves mean, and what are they called?

I think they indicate that you repeat the previous three measures, but I'm not entirely sure.
21
votes
4answers
2k views

Fermata over a rest at the end of the piece?

Why? It seems to me that as soon as you stop the instrument from making a sound at the end of the piece, it's done. I understand that the final rest is necessary to fill up the measure, but why put ...
21
votes
1answer
2k views

What is the meaning of this small vertical line?

During this question about "China Gates" by John Adams another question came up: What is the meaning of the little vertical line in bass clef bar 4 in front of the C? The same mark re-appears ...
21
votes
3answers
3k views

Why does the octave number change 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 ...
21
votes
3answers
1k 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 ...
20
votes
8answers
20k 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) ...
20
votes
5answers
5k views

Why crescendo or decrescendo over one long note in piano music?

That C-chord on measure 6 of the system, from Grieg Piano Sonata, Op. 7, IV. Finale - Molto Allegro: Why couldn't they just mark that D7 chord with a p? That G chord is marked pp. Once you press a ...
20
votes
4answers
9k 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 pretty ...