Every culture in the world has developed forms of language
and music. Just as language, music can have oral as well as written traditions.
Although oral traditions in music are alive and well in almost every type
of society, literate societies have also evolved systems of graphic notation
to represent sounds and the way performers should interpret them.
A music notation system can therefor be thought of as the
collection of symbols that people use to represent and interpret sounds.
Think about it as a set of written instructions or blueprint that serves
two main purposes: First, to preserve the music heritage of a people or culture,
and second, to allow people to recreate musical works by following the directions
that someone else has committed to paper. Music notation can, therefore,
be thought of as a form of communication among musicians that usually happens
between composer and performer. In this course, we will be focusing on the
traditional staff notation of Western music.
Music notation also refers to the act of writing musical notes. Depending on the historical period and culture, this has taken many different forms, and served different functions.
In recent centuries, the standard method for music notation
in most Western music traditions has been staff notation. Other forms of
notation have also been used, however. Some contemporary music, for example,
uses imaginative forms of graphic notation. In earlier times, a combination
of letters, numbers, and staves collectively called tablature,
was used for certain string instruments. A numerical notation system that
is sometimes used instead of the traditional character notation also exists
in China and Japan.
a collection of five horizontal lines and the four spaces between them.
The plural of staff is stave.
are the oval-shaped part of
that are placed on the
or in the
to represent different
In the following sections of the course, you will see and hear
the relationship between pitch and note placement on the staff.