The Two Versions of TwinNote

New images have been added to the site in order to more fully illustrate both versions of TwinNote.  They can be found on the home page, Scales page, and Intervals page.
The two versions of TwinNote also have new names.  They are now known as “TwinNote” and “TwinNote, Max 6-6 version”.  While the new illustrations are self-explanatory, the new names probably deserve some commentary…

TwinNote has always come in two flavors:

  • One version that uses hollow and solid notes to help indicate duration, as in traditional music notation.
  • Another version that uses hollow and solid notes to help indicate pitch and reinforce the 6-6 pitch pattern (the two whole tone scales), for better interval clarity.

This is a pragmatic approach, letting musicians decide which version makes more sense for them.  Some may prefer the Max 6-6 version with its stronger 6-6 pattern.  Some may prefer the standard version, especially if they already read traditional notation or want to learn, and want to be able to easily switch back and forth between the two (without having to switch between two different symbol systems for note duration).

While there are benefits to using hollow/solid notes to emphasize the 6-6 pitch pattern, it does introduce significant challenges in terms of compatibility with traditional notation. (See the Max 6-6 version page for more about this, and to see how this version handles duration.)  So it seems best to offer both versions and let people decide which one meets their needs, especially since music notation software makes it almost as easy to make music available in both versions as in just one.  But to the names…

Here is how the names of the versions have changed:

  • Hollow/solid notes for rhythm/duration:
    TwinNote, traditional-duration version —> TwinNote
  • Hollow/solid notes for pitch:
    TwinNote —> TwinNote, Max 6-6 version

Why change which version gets to be the default version known simply as “TwinNote”?   By choice or necessity most serious musicians will need to learn to read traditional music notation.  So it makes sense to make the default, standard version of TwinNote the one that’s more compatible with traditional notation, and more familiar to musicians.

This also lets us emphasize an advantage of the more radical version by giving it its own descriptive version name.  It maximizes the visibility of the 6-6 pitch pattern, hence the name “Max 6-6”.

Posted on by Paul Morris | Permalink.

4 thoughts on “The Two Versions of TwinNote

  1. In the explanation, keep “TwinNote” and “TwinNote Max6-6” in the same order. You list them in this order to start, then the bullets are in the other order. This is jarring.

    As for the notation itself, I like the traditional use of solid/hollow to indicate duration. In the TwinNoteMax6-6 version, how do you do duration? I’m skeptical. And in any case, the double representation of pitch by shape and solid/hollow is redundant and therefore inefficient. It’s also pointless — I can tell a pyramid from a yield sign just fine.

    Is it time to try to make a program to write this stuff, convert existing music? I’m ready.

  2. Hi Barrett, Thanks for the comment! I’ve revised the post and reordered the bullet points as you suggested. It sounds like standard TwinNote is far and away your preferred version!

    In the Max 6-6 version duration symbols are the same as traditional except half notes have a double stem. See the illustration on the Max 6-6 page ( I’m open to other possibilities for this but this seems like the best solution I’ve seen.

    As for software, that’s great to hear you’d be interested in this. See the Music Notation Project’s efforts toward adding support for this to Lilypond (

    Recently Andrew Wagner has set up a git repository for the chromatic staff patches, and would probably love some help with working on them (

  3. Barrett,

    Your reaction to the Max 6-6 version is totally understandable for someone familiar with traditional notation. But see:

    In fact, traditional notation is very wasteful in its use of what is probably the single most easily perceptible feature of the notation, the distinction between black and white noteheads. It makes sense to put this feature to better use — for example, by helping the reader quickly discriminate between pitches. You can keep traditional duration almost intact (just coming up with a new symbol for the half note or quarter note), while making a huge improvement in the legibility of pitches. Sure, one can tell the difference between a triangle and an inverted triangle, but when you’re trying to sight-read a page containing a few hundred notes, and perhaps reading it from a music stand a couple of feet away, adding the much greater difference between black and white is a big benefit. It allows the music to be read more easily, or alternatively to be printed smaller than otherwise — the latter being a big win for orchestra scores and the like.

    Paul says it took him a long time to realize this benefit, which is why he doesn’t expect other people to right away.

  4. Pingback: TwinNote Blog — Fine-Tuning TwinNote, Part One

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