Musical notation

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Musical notation or score is the science (or art) of describing music in symbolic form.

The most common form of Musical notation is the modern European system. There are a number of other systems in use, including non-western schemes such as XXX, along with other alternatives such as Ailler-Brennink. Notation systems have been developed for use with particular instruments; examples include guitar tablature and Klavar notation for keyboard music.

Modern day musical notation is based around a staff of five lines. Musical notes are represented by drawing note-heads on the lines and spaces of the staff to represent pitches. The shape of the note-head, or the characteristics of the stem attached, are varied to specify different note durations. Notes are written in a left-to-right sequence.

Elements of the Staff

A staff is generally presented with a clef, which indicates the particular range of pitches encompassed by the staff. A "treble clef" placed at the beginning of a line of music indicates that the lowest line of the staff represents the E above middle-C, while the highest line represents the F one octave higher. Other common clefs include the Bass clef (second G below middle-C to A below middle-C), Alto clef (F below middle-C to G above middle-C) and tenor clef (...). These last two clefs are examples of "C clefs", in which the line pointed to by the clef should be interpreted as a C.

Another common element of a staff is the time signature, which indicates the rhythmic characteristics of the piece. Time signatures generally consist of two numbers. The upper number indicates the number of beats per measure (or "bar"), while the lower indicates what sort of note constitutes a "beat". A time signature of 4/4 (also known as "Common Time" and sometimes indicated with a large "C" symbol) implies that there will be four beats per measure, with each beat constituting a quarter note. A signature of 2/2 (or "Cut Time", a "C" with a vertical slash) allows 2 beats per measure, with each half-note lasting a beat.

Finally, the key signature on a staff indicates the key of the piece by specifying certain notes to be held flat or sharp throughout the piece, unless otherwise indicated.

Notes representing a pitch outside of the scope of the five line staff can be represented using ledger lines, which provide a single note with additional lines and spaces.

Multiple staves can be grouped together to form a staff system.

Er, lots more to say here. To do.

Development of Modern Musical notation

Might be good to describe the early greek and roman systems of notation

The ancestors of modern symbolic musical notation originated in the Catholic church, as monks developed methods to put Plainchant (sacred songs) to paper. These early systems utilized a "staff" consisting of four parallel, horizontal lines, with sequential square marks representing musical notes. The vertical position of each mark on the staff indicated which pitch it represented (pitches were derived from a mode, or key.) Plainchant notation included only the most rudimentary notion of timing; certain notes were drawn differently to indicate that they would be held longer.

The modern 5-line staff was first adopted in France, and became standard by the 16th century. Prior to that time, staffs containing differing numbers of lines were used to transcribe music for various instruments.


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