Chromatic look on a diatonic staff

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stuar...@gmail.com

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Feb 20, 2023, 4:15:23 AMFeb 20
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In 2022, I incorporated a new feature into my Alternative Notation design “WYSIWYP – What You See Is What You Play” and its associated Simplified Notation app (SNapp).   The original design has separate notehead shapes for sharps and flats.  This new feature uses a single combination notehead for both (e.g., C# and Db) and is implemented as an additional user preference option in SNapp. 

This new approach to sharps and flats is not strictly a chromatic design but it gives the “look” of one in that each of the twelve chromatic notehead center points has its own unique vertical position on the octave.  The design remains essentially diatonic however as the naturals are presented as full size overlapping noteheads (just like Traditional Notation).  The sharps and flats are “squeezed” in between them in an analogous way to the keyboard where the black keys overlap their adjacent white keys and are roughly half the width. 

In the figure below, the diatonic naturals are represented by the hollow circles, while the other five chromatic degrees are represented by black rectangles.  This results in a clear mapping of circles to white keys on the keyboard, while black rectangles map to black keys. (Unchanged in the design are staff lines on C and F, and the grey stripe notetails that represent the note duration in terms of beats which are indicated by the “tick” marks.)

Chromatic scale with sharp combo noteheads with labels.jpg

I am attaching a document that has the full description of this new approach and how it further develops WYSIWYP as a keyboard tablature in addition to being a full function notation.

 

Comparison to a chromatic design with similar noteheads

Avid students of the MNMA website may notice the resemblance of this new WYSIWYP feature to the following chromatic design where the rectangular noteheads are half the height of the circular noteheads:

Chromatic Nydana by Dan Lindgren 2011.jpg

With this chromatic design, the twelve degrees’ noteheads are differentiated by their color (black filled or unfilled) and by shape (circle or rectangle), but there is no consistent pattern of shape and color that distinguishes the diatonic degrees from the other five chromatics.  The same is true of many other Alternative Notation designs that employ different shape and color notehead patterns.

Unlike other Alternative Notations, the new WYSIWYP design feature is consistent in both color and shape within a diatonic context. The diatonic naturals are circles without color fill while the other five chromatic flat/sharp combinations are black filled rectangles.  This simple and consistent one-to-one mapping results in less mental processing of notehead appearance and thus a more direct route from sheet music to fingers on the black and white keys of the keyboard.  In other words, it’s a keyboard tablature.

While Nydana and WYSIWYP have notehead shapes in common, the underlying frameworks are different.  Chromatic designs give equal emphasis to each of the twelve degrees.  WYSIWYP emphasizes the seven diatonic degrees such that the five sharp/flat degrees are seen as adjustments to the naturals and not as equal members of a chromatic group.  This emphasis is reflected firstly by a staff octave where each diatonic degree has a full vertical position (overlapping 50% with adjacent degrees), while the remaining five chromatic degrees have only a half-position (occupying the adjacent natural degrees’ overlap space).  And secondly, emphasis is reflected by its use of a common notehead (in terms of shape and color) for the naturals while using a different common notehead for the remaining five sharp/flat combinations.  Thus, just as the keyboard appearance is dominated by the larger and more numerous white keys, so too is the WYSIWYP staff by the diatonic naturals.

 

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

WYSIWYP chromatic look on a diatonic staff.docx

John F

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Feb 20, 2023, 2:36:40 PMFeb 20
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Hi Stuart, very nice! The little black rectangles- - combination noteheads - give a more intuitive indication of their pitch than the triangles, and are visibly a better balance to the open circles. I'm about to try learning Moonlight Sonata (slow movement) in SNapp, as the key signature and accidentals wear me down in TN. I'll let you know how I get on.

John F

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Feb 23, 2023, 2:12:29 PMFeb 23
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Hi Stuart,

I said I'd report back after trying Moonlight Sonata 1st movement in SNapp, and I have to say it's sooo much easier than the traditional notation!I play a few relatively simple pieces in TN in C major, G major, A minor, and E minor. A couple of sharps or flats in the key signature isn't too bad, but Moonlight is C# minor, with four sharps, and then a bunch of accidentals, and I've often tried it but given up after a while, exhausted with the mental work and frustrated with TN. In your WYSIWYP notation it took a few minutes to acclimatize myself to the staff, and then I really enjoyed working through it (still making mistakes, but that's to be expected). I not only got to the end, I went back and practised some of the trickier passages, and felt it was falling into place. I'm sure I'll have added it to my repertoire before too long.

This is a great discovery, because there are a lot of pieces like that, that I could play but for the key signature making it excruciating, and I don't want to just transpose everything into simpler keys - in fact, sometimes keys that are simpler to read are harder to play on the piano. I think the graphic representation of time is a big help too.

Thanks. Keep up the good work,
John F

John Keller

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Feb 24, 2023, 12:23:41 AMFeb 24
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Where do i find the Moonlight in WYSIWYP? or the app SNapp?

JK

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stuar...@gmail.com

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Feb 24, 2023, 4:37:34 AMFeb 24
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The app is here:  https://snapp.wysiwyp.org/
From there, there is a link to the WYSIWYP website.

I'll let John F. steer you to the piece he was using.  I believe he got it from MuseScore (where you can download the MusicXML file).

A bit of a warning about the app.  It is a prototype and does not have all TN functionality yet.  But the main item I want to alert you to is that the staves are set according to the highest and lowest notes in the entire score.  So, unfortunately there can be a lot of wasted space on the virtual sheet music if there are only a few outliers.  High on the priority list is to have the staves' highs and lows be set according to the current Grandstaff row.

For beginners' tunes this is not so much of an issue but with more advanced scores with a wide range, it happens.

Let me know if you have questions.

Stuart

John Freestone

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Feb 24, 2023, 5:30:21 AMFeb 24
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Hi John K,

I use this one from MuseScore. https://musescore.com/user/32261110/scores/5585485
I'm guessing you'll have a MuseScore account, in which case just click the download button and choose the XML option (or MusicXML), and save it wherever you like, Downloads folder by default, and then either open it from there in SNapp (which handles the compressed .mxl files as well as plain text ones), or move it to another convenient folder where you keep your music XML files.

Alternatively, you will probably find other sources of Moonlight Sonata in MusicXML by doing a general search.

Stuart is right - unfortunately the pitch range of this does stretch the staves quite a lot, but play about with the size values in the SNapp settings and/or the browser's zoom settings, and F11 (on Windows) helps by making it full screen.

Regards
John F

John Keller

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Feb 24, 2023, 5:54:05 AMFeb 24
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Hi Stuart,

Thanks, I remember now i have seen this before, but I was interested in the new version you mentioned with black rectangles for black keys. 
I couldnt see an option for this.

Am i missing something?

Jk



John Freestone

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Feb 24, 2023, 7:49:08 AMFeb 24
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Hi J K,
I think what's happened is the SNapp version hasn't updated in the browser. You could try clearing your cache from settings, or it might need some more techy solution. It would be in the Settings on the right under head type if it's updated. I had the same problem and Stuart talked me through it, but it was quite a while ago and I don't have written instructions, so if that doesn't work, you may have to wait for him to reply. It was some juju in the browser with developer tools or something, clearing data in there. I'm sure he'll make it automatically update in time.
Cheers
John Freestone

stuar...@gmail.com

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Feb 24, 2023, 12:06:53 PMFeb 24
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While it may not work in all situations (operating system and browser combinations), the general advice on forcing a webpage to be reloaded from the server is to press and hold the shift key while clicking on the reload button in the browser.  Please advise if this does not work for you.

John Keller

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Feb 24, 2023, 3:03:14 PMFeb 24
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Stuart,

Thanks, that was easy! I like the simplicity of the black key rectangles. Interval relationships look truer. What do you call them when written this way? IJ and KLH?? : )

JK


stuar...@gmail.com

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Feb 24, 2023, 4:34:08 PMFeb 24
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If you want truth in interval relationships, take a look at my other forum post on color-coded chords.

After spending quite a bit of time thinking about what to call the individual "black key" notes, I finally decided to not give them their own names.  So I refer to a given note as a " sharp/flat combination" (represented by a "combo" notehead).  For example, I would have a "C#/Db combo."   I admit it's a bit clumsy especially when trying to label notes in a figure or refer to one in text.  But, in my design, it's the naturals that take center stage and they have their distinct names.  Those other five chromatics are playing adjustments up or down from the diatonics and so they are only referenced in relation (# or b) to their adjacent naturals.  Sp basically, not really different from the TN convention with the term "combo" added in.

Oh, that we could just start all over and name all twelve in a logical sequence !   Would have been nice if this had been done a couple of centuries ago.

Stuart


John Keller

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Feb 24, 2023, 5:02:09 PMFeb 24
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Yes i saw the triads in green and yellow, but it occurred to me you should code the intervals from the root. if you have various chord arrangements instead of just a stacked triad, wouldnt you want the 1st degree of the chord to be seen as such, not as a 4th above the 5th or a 6th above the third etc.?

I would prefer distances to be identified by distance alone, and seconds to be adjusted so as to not overlap. (as in TN)

Its great how simply the SNapp works!

Regarding the black key names, it seems ironic to me that the black keys are what allow the white keys to be identified, yet we call the black keys in reference to the white keys.

JK


stuar...@gmail.com

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Feb 25, 2023, 6:44:50 AMFeb 25
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Thanks for your comments, John.  I actually have on the SNapp priority list a plan to implement what you suggested as another user pref.  I call the current approach sequential interval coloring and the future option to be called the cumulative approach.  The latter looks to be a little more challenging to implement so don’t look for it anytime soon! 

When you say “I would prefer distances to be identified by distances alone” do you mean instead of color-coding?  The purpose of color-coding was mainly intended for diatonic staves where you can’t actually recognize distances directly without some mental computations.   CCC is certainly not necessary for chromatic designs.

Yes, I agree that seconds are a not easy to read in my design.  The work-around is to use unfilled noteheads to help, but it’s still less than perfect.  Skewing one of the notes to the side like TN causes some additional headaches in my design because of the absolute timeline.  On the one hand, I want notes in a chord to all line up at the same time, on the other hand they’re hard to read when they overlap.  Perhaps I could have special combined noteheads for seconds (one for major and one for minor) that replace both notes in the chord and displayed on the root position.  Then the notehead still fits in the same horizontal time space.  And maybe the appearance could then be that of the TN seconds.  Ideas are welcome on this.  Anyway, it’s “on the list.”  (And alas, the list is quite long and just keeps getting longer.)

I appreciate the irony you pointed out.  You are so right.  At least the black key notes have equal standing in Express Stave.

If you have more comments or questions, keep 'em coming. 

Stuart

John Freestone

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Feb 25, 2023, 7:29:47 AMFeb 25
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Regarding those seconds, it depends partly on whether they're minor or major seconds (1 or 2 semitones apart). Two naturals a tone apart are open circles 50% overlapping, and two "extras" are distinct noteheads as well. The duration stripes overlap by 50% as well, which isn't ideal, but it's ok, you can differentiate them. A minor second is more of a problem, particularly if those belong to the same vertical position on the staff, but I imagine the black note's head will be seen mostly inside the open circle. This is also true if they're on adjacent positions (like a C with a Db), but if on the same position (C with a C#) their duration lines will be overlapped entirely, it seems to me. The chance of that happening along with the need for one duration to be different from the other is pretty slim, but could arise. I agree that keeping heads aligned on the time dimension is a higher priority, but there could be instances where some other solution might work. One idea might be to forego the normal size of the duration stripe for combos and make that the same height as the black rectangle (half the usual notehead size) - if they're shown with an alpha blend (semi-transparent), you'll see their combination as a denser grey and where one stops if they're different lengths.

John Keller

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Feb 25, 2023, 8:03:07 PMFeb 25
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I think the seconds are fine as they are, on looking closer. I see that the grey duration shading is in a different position for C# and Db even though the black rectangle (the extra “I”) remains in the same position. This is a good idea.

Minor 2nds played together are rarely written chromatically (eg C and C#) (Bartok wrote a few). Mostly they are written diatonically (C and Db).
In which case the 2 notes can be seen and the shadings only half overlap. 

The only time I could see a problem with vertically aligned harmonic notes is if you had C#, D and Eb together (Ravel wrote like this.). The two black rectangles would completely hide the natural note-head .

JK

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