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What are the problems with the common practice notation (CPN)?


Some problems with the common practice notation include:

1. Multiple notes occupy the same location on the staff
  • The actual note depends on the key of the music. This is probably the most challenging part of learning the common practice notation.

2. Inconsistency between different octaves

  • The same note may be on a line or in a space.

3. Inconsistency between treble clef and bass clef

  • There is some relationship between the staffs; but they are different.

4. Chords look different for different keys

5. It is difficult to transpose by sight.

  • Of course, it can be done if you are skillful. But can one transpose without training by sight-reading?

The first 3 points are related to inconsistency. Many notations have been invented to address these points including:

  • Chromatic approach - That is all 12 notes in an octave have different symbols/locations.
  • Color coding
  • New staff layouts

The following points are not directly resulted from the notation itself. They are really areas that the notation could have done more to help.

6. It does not help musicians to play different in keys.

  • As it is not transposable, it cannot take advantage of instruments that can transpose. This means we have different fingering for different keys.

7. It does not give musicians any hints on the pitch.

  • There are systems that can do that e.g. the Solfege system.

8. It is limited in helping musicians to discover the music theory

  • CPN is a diatonic system. A note on the staff without accidental symbol (sharp, flat, neutral) is a note on the scale. This makes it easy for a composer to put in the right notes. Interesting! Was CPN invented by and for composers rather than for performers?