WYSIWYP color-coded chords

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Feb 23, 2023, 8:11:22 AMFeb 23
to The Music Notation Project | Forum

My Alternative Notation , WYSIWYP - What You See Is What You Play, was designed to simplify reading music for students of all ages and skill levels.  Keyboard players get the most benefit of this design (especially the option described here), but it is not limited to them. 

The new feature described herein is not strictly a part of the WYSIWYP notation definition itself, but rather was added as a user preference option of the notation’s device display app (SNapp) in 2022.


The problem:  reading intervals on a diatonic staff

The problems of reading intervals on the Traditional Notation (TN) staff are well described in tutorials on the MNMA website: 



A quote from the latter:

“Learning to play by interval when reading notation will make it easier to play the interval patterns you hear or come up with in your head when playing by ear or improvising.  If a notation system makes it easier to read and play by intervals then this will help you learn these skills.”

While chromatic Alternative Notations provide a solution to the problems, this new design is aimed at making reading intervals, and thus chords, easier with diatonic staff notations.


Color-coding chord intervals

To make reading intervals more recognizable with WYSIWYP, there is now a color-coding user-preference option in its device screen display app, SNapp, that explicitly identifies the intervals between noteheads in a chord.  The notehead of the lowest note in the chord, the root, is always black.  The color of each notehead above the root is determined by the interval between it and the one below it.  For example, yellow is defined to be an interval of three semitones and green an interval of four. 

With this scheme, even though the notehead patterns of the chord (staff position, notehead shapes, vertical spacing) vary depending on the root, the color-coding uniquely identifies the chord on any root.  Here are how the Major triads look in WYSIWYP (reminder:  red and blue staff lines are on C and F, naturals are circles, sharp/flat combinations are rectangles):

Color-coded Major triads.jpg

This approach is totally unproven and is only a proposal.  Anyone with some colored text highlighters could implement it, though, on their paper Traditional Notation sheet music in order to try it out and judge for oneself.  This hand-coloring of TN exercise illustrates that color-coding chords (CCC) is not strictly tied to WYSIWYP but could be applied to any diatonic, or even chromatic, staff system.  It would be great to see some informal evaluations, or better, formal evaluations by music educators to determine whether the idea has any merit.

See the attached document for a complete description of the WYSIWYP implementation of CCC as well as examples of common chords.  By the way, it is written as a standalone document for a general audience, not just for MNP readers.  Thus there’s a brief description of the problem included.


I welcome your thoughts and constructive feedback and I humbly request all readers to stay on topic in this forum conversation.

WYSIWYP color coded intervals.docx
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