My quick music notation system that needs an attractive name

📅 Posted 2014-09-17

For a long time, I’ve used a quick notation for jotting down songs with minimal of effort but also with conveying the general idea and feel of the song.

I have no name for the notation, nor do I claim to have invented it since it was pretty much borne out of the PLAY command in QBasic (more on QBasic in a future article that I have half-written - it’s going to be gold).

Over the years I have a collection of pieces of paper with this notation scribbled down every time I either thing of a nice riff/melody or transcribe something. Or perhaps I just see some music somewhere and want to write it down quickly so I can play it without printing the full score.

The Rules

The general gist of the notation rules are as follows:

Notes: a b c d e f g Modifiers: + for sharp, - for flat, nothing for natural Timing: -> to hold the note for a bit (timing is not the aim of the notation, evidently), the longer the arrow the longer you hold the note Shift: ^ for up an octave, v for down an octave, this is hard to represent on the screen but super easy to write as either a hat or beneath the note Other: throw a bit of “RPT” for bits that repeat


Here are some examples of some awesome boogie songs I have recently transcribed:

Carmen - Throw Down


e- ^d- b- d- b- a- g- a- b- b b b- a e- RPT

Aaron Broomfield - Polyphase

Key: Ab major

Synth Intro

a+ c+ ^a+ g+ f c+ a+ d+ f f ->

a+ a+ d+ c+ a+ g+ -> a+ a+ d+ c+ -> a+ a+ d+ c+ a+ g+ -> vf vd+ vf g+ ->

Synth Riff

f f g+ g+ f f g+ ->

Other Notes

One thing that I have noticed from typing out those strings (it’s actually a handwritten format, not destined for the keyboard) is they are actually not too bad to type, either, if you ignore the octave shifts.

There are a few shortcomings of course, but I suppose it could be improved if I thought about it. Some of the shortcomings include:

  • timing is not precise
  • octave shifting is hard to type, but for a handwitten format, is this really required?
  • initial octave and tempo is not clear, but it’s supposed to be quick and dirty

PS. On a side note, maps are now rendered on some place names on, which is a neat little feature taking advantage of Google’s Maps geo-coding. More work to be done of course!

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