Alternative note naming system?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by The Mock Turtle Regulator, Apr 12, 2003.

  1. okay, this is a brave move considering what happened last time (some of you may recall about a year ago I questioned the 7 letter note system, and the theory experts rolled their eyes like the counters on a fruit machine:p );

    - suppose the ABCDEFG letter system was replaced with 12 letters instead ABCDEFGHIJKL =a letter for each semitone.

    could this work with western harmony?

    obvious advantages would be easy transposing and easier sight-reading for string players (more on notation in a bit), and if a sequence of notes is written out the intervals are more easily deduced in any key, obvious disadvantages being for keyboard players-

    the keyboard would have to be redesigned, and conventional keyboard technique/theory might go out the window.

    problems with scoring with 12 letters-
    no conventional sharps + flats means no key signatures.

    I'm thinking of 6lines to cover the 12 notes- the stave is now bigger (takes up more space on the page), but large spans could be covered using numbers to denote another register.

    any thoughts? (apart from "you're mad/stupid/should be spending the time learning conventional theory" :p )
  2. PollyBass

    PollyBass ******

    Jun 25, 2001
    Shreveport, LA
  3. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    MTR, why would the keyboard have to be redesigned?

    All it would mean is that you call the notes by different names?

    Anyway, as for the idea - I can't say I've really considered the ramifications in any depth - but I guess it could work, theoretically.

    But, if it ain't broke, don't fix it...
  4. you wouldn't have to redesign it, but to utilise the advantages of a linear system the keyboard would be better arranged symmetrically somehow- the easiest way being white key/black key throughout- hence conventional keyboard theory going out the window-
    the question is whether new rules could be devised successfully to such a setup.

    linear keyboards of sorts have been made - Vernon Reid mentioned one using keys (buttons) arranged like guitar frets - IIRC it was called the "Datapump".

    re. "if it ain't broke", maybe I shouldn't have read Edward De Bono's books:D
  5. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    Just be glad you didn't have to learn it as:


    b is h in German,
    b flat is b.

    All this because a German monk made a "typo" when he copied a text... :D

    But on the other hand this made Bach's famous b-a-c-h melody possible.
  6. the Starrswitch Datapump guitar-styled keyboard-

    I tracked down the company-

    and found some very interesting keyboard controllers-

    "The MT48DD was designed for bassist Billy Sheehan whose original idea is to have bass-pedals that are more suited to a stringed-bass player. For a bassist the power-up default has the pads set up as a 12-fret section of a bass-guitar in fourths tuning."
  7. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    lol - no, you just shouldn't have applied them to redesigning the musical system :D
  8. that's one thing I considered last year- I suggested dot markers;):D

    -and for telling without looking, the texture of the key could be altered- maybe a raised/inset dot on the key surface.

    as for many of Stevie Wonder's songs being in Bmajor- it's that sort of thing which made me look into this- a system whereby transposing to another key doesn't make the music more difficult to play.
  9. Killdar


    Dec 16, 2002
    Portland Maine
    I had this idea once. was fairly similar, but a little different, I would use a letter for each whole step, and something to represent flat, but whatever.

    so anyway, the piano keyboard would remain the same, and standard notation as we know it would be renamed "piano notation" or somesuch. the standard would be this new system, which would be easier to use for most if not everyone playing something other than piano.
  10. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I don't really think the current system does make transposing that much more difficult than the "new system" would.
  11. -all can be designed around- several dots running the length of the key, Lego brick-style, a variation in the texture of the key of some sort- maybe the key surface could be concave.

    as for transposing, the advantage would be that there would be only two variations of any pattern through all 12 keys.
  12. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    So would you have different textures for each key?

    Because you could just use that on, say, the Cs - suppose you wanna play a chord with no C in? :D
  13. okay, how about;

    lego brick for C,
    trough-type concave key for F (ie. their equivalent letters in the 12letter system)

    other textures could be;
    stickle brick
    razor blade:p

    stick of dynamite under a mystery key in Harry Hill "Russian Roulette piano" style:p

    pesky keyboard players....:D
  14. You could have 4 or 5 different texture in the ocatve.... say, one rough, one concave, one convex, one with embossed dots running the length of it....


    EDIT: MTR beat me to it.
  15. Starrlabs "Zbass" MIDI controller-


    I want one!
    they have a polyphonic mode in which several notes can be played simultaneously on each "string".
    the fret spacing remains consistent throughout the neck- it just begs for 2 handed tapping.....

    =keyboard polphony/full MIDI capability with instant tracking + guitar/bass symmetry:)

    not so sure about the "ray gun" body shape-
    if they did a bass version of their "Zlute", it would be perfect-

  16. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    I too think that standard musical notation is pretty stupid with regards to key.

    One advantage it does have, however, is that accidentals stand out quite clearly. That is, if the music stays in one standard key predominantly. But for a piece entirely in harmonic minor, for instance, it seems silly to me to have "accidentals" all over the place for those major 7ths. And then of course there's whole tone, whole-half diminished, etc.

    I always get a kick out of the score for Pictures at an Exhibition that I have. There are so many accidentals in some sections it boggles my mind. It seems like he intentionally used a key signature a half-step off sometimes! Double-sharps and the like all over the place.

    I'm not too well versed on classical composition, so I might be missing the point. But it still looks pretty funny to me.
  17. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    I also think the "tactile dots" thing on an key-invariant keyboard is pretty funny. I mean, look at a guitar! How do you know what fret you're at when you're not looking? Practice. Sure, a keyboard has a lot more keys. . . ;)
  18. I think It would be better if every note had a name, and there were no Sharps and flats.

    just a personal opinion..
  19. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Yup. And you won't necessarily be sitting in the same place every time you sit at a keyboard. If it were literally black-white-black-white all the way, with no other markings, you really wouldn't know which note is which.