Questions tagged [notation]

For questions about visual representation of music and its uses. 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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75 votes
5 answers
61k 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 ...
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  • 925
72 votes
7 answers
30k 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 ...
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70 votes
6 answers
211k views

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

When people sing the song, they use do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, (si), etc, but sometimes I hear that the music people say A, B, C, D flat, etc. Is there a relationship or are they two different ...
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  • 1,447
65 votes
7 answers
44k 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 ...
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  • 1,031
62 votes
3 answers
6k views

Found in an 1800s newspaper--what kind of march notation is this?

Does anyone recognize this musical notation? It looks like a bunch of vertical bars. Is it supposed to be read by a machine? It was found in an issue of Scientific American from 1846. I'm guessing ...
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  • 703
46 votes
12 answers
23k 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, ...
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  • 4,518
45 votes
2 answers
168k 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 ...
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44 votes
8 answers
12k 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 ...
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  • 543
43 votes
10 answers
45k 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 ...
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  • 17.5k
42 votes
3 answers
11k 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 ...
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  • 6,502
39 votes
6 answers
8k 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?
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39 votes
9 answers
23k 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 ...
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  • 852
39 votes
10 answers
51k 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 ...
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  • 815
37 votes
2 answers
124k views

What does a triangle mean in chord notation?

For example, what does the △ mean in C△7?
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  • 601
35 votes
12 answers
38k 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?
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  • 933
33 votes
8 answers
12k 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 ...
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  • 433
33 votes
4 answers
78k 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 ...
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  • 441
32 votes
7 answers
9k 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 ...
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  • 431
32 votes
4 answers
23k 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?
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32 votes
4 answers
31k views

Rest above a note in a piano piece

I am playing a piece and wondering, what the heck is the rest doing 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 ...
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  • 689
32 votes
2 answers
68k 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 ...
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  • 485
32 votes
4 answers
78k 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.
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31 votes
1 answer
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 ...
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  • 413
30 votes
7 answers
65k 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 ...
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30 votes
3 answers
3k 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 ...
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29 votes
5 answers
23k 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 ...
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  • 435
29 votes
4 answers
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 ...
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29 votes
5 answers
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...) ...
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  • 20.2k
28 votes
5 answers
4k views

How do I know when the next note starts in sheet music?

I can't understand the note duration notation very well. In the image below, the highlighted A in the second measure seems to start half a beat between the first and the second beat. But shouldn't we ...
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  • 383
28 votes
6 answers
7k views

Why you need a rest here in this score? [duplicate]

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 ...
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  • 2,626
27 votes
10 answers
13k 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 ...
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  • 613
27 votes
3 answers
21k 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.
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27 votes
1 answer
58k 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 ?
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  • 1,958
27 votes
4 answers
2k 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 ...
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  • 78.8k
26 votes
17 answers
10k 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 ...
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  • 2,477
26 votes
4 answers
5k 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?
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  • 261
26 votes
5 answers
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? ...
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  • 8,022
26 votes
3 answers
2k views

C Trumpet in Beethoven's 5th symphony

For a school assignment, I am playing part of Beethoven's 5th Symphony on keyboards. While analyzing the piece, I'm confused by the trumpet part. In the score I am using, it is written as 'Trombe in C'...
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  • 393
25 votes
10 answers
6k views

Why don’t piano teachers teach the chord method of playing to young children and adults?

I have been playing piano since I was 10 and now I am 43. I have never really been good at sight reading sheet music. I have recently been researching alternative methods of learning songs fast as ...
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  • 351
25 votes
1 answer
4k views

Two voices for a solo singer written in a sheet music

I was reading the score for Mozart’s insertion aria for his own opera Idomeneo “Non Temer Amato Bene”, K. 490. In it, Idomeneo’s son Idamante (scored for soprano; trouser role) expresses his undying ...
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25 votes
3 answers
55k views

With regards to piano sheet music, when are you supposed to press the pedal(s)?

I've been playing piano for about 8 months. I have a digital weighted 88-key piano with only one pedal. My friend, who used to play piano, taught me to hold the pedal down when there is an arc in ...
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  • 917
25 votes
6 answers
8k 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 ...
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25 votes
3 answers
4k 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 ...
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24 votes
1 answer
4k 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 ...
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24 votes
8 answers
67k views

B -> C and E -> F, No Sharp?

The keyboard has these notes: A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G# Why do B and C and E and F not have a sharp note between them? If they did, the keyboard would look like this: A A# B B# C ...
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24 votes
2 answers
12k views

Why does this note have a stem pointing up and another pointing down?

What does the first note below mean? Does it need to be pressed down while playing the second notes? If not, why are there two stems, one pointing up, and one pointing down?
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  • 933
23 votes
7 answers
7k 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 ...
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  • 2,881
23 votes
4 answers
5k 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 ...
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  • 415
23 votes
8 answers
24k 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) ...
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  • 333
23 votes
4 answers
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, ...
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