Overview of Features

Why use TwinNote? Find out in this discussion of TwinNote’s main characteristics and the rationale behind them — the what and the why of its design. Here is an illustration of a chromatic scale for reference:

Chromatic scale in TwinNote music notation


Two Types of Notehead for Clearer Notes and Intervals

TwinNote uses two kinds of notehead, hollow triangles pointing downward and solid triangles pointing upward, to represent the two whole tone scales. This alternating binary "6-6" pitch pattern makes it easy to distinguish between different notes and more importantly, to clearly see the intervals between them. (A good analogy is the usefulness of the distinction between odd and even numbers for counting and mathematics.)

Compact Staff for Efficient Use of Vertical Space

The use of two types of notehead makes it possible to give all twelve basic notes per octave their own position on the staff (rather than just seven), while also taking up less vertical space than the traditional staff. This is an elegant solution to one of the main disadvantages of most chromatic staves — their use of more vertical space. In TwinNote the vertical span of lines and spaces that the reader has to take in is not more, but less than with traditional notation.[1]

Staff Lines a Major Third Apart for Clearer Intervals

The staff lines in TwinNote are spaced a major third apart, which is similar to traditional notation where lines are either a major or minor third apart. This is an optimal distance for making intervals clear — not too close or too far apart.[2] Also, a major third is a multiple of a whole step (whole step = 2 semitones, major third = 4 semitones), so the staff aligns with the two whole tone scales, and reinforces the 6-6 pattern found in the noteheads.

Better Key Signatures, Accidental Signs, and Clefs

TwinNote has its own approach to key signatures, (optional) accidental signs, and clefs. These provide the same information found in traditional notation, but in a clearer and more direct way. For instance, TwinNote’s key signatures and accidental signs distinguish between notes like G# and Ab (notes that are enharmonically equivalent in 12-tone equal temperament). Clef symbols in TwinNote only indicate the octave register of the staff. (They do not change which notes are represented by the lines and spaces of the staff, as in traditional notation.)

Uses Most of the Familiar Symbols from Traditional Notation to Make it Easy to Learn and Use Both Systems

TwinNote uses most of the same symbols used in traditional notation, maintaining a useful degree of continuity with it. The goal is to make it easier for musicians to learn and read both systems interchangeably. Traditional symbols for rests, time signatures, articulation marks, dynamics, ties, slurs, ornaments, and note names are all used in TwinNote and retain their standard meaning. Duration symbols such as flags, stems, and dotted notes, also have the same meaning as in traditional notation. The exception is that TwinNote uses solid and hollow noteheads to help represent pitch more clearly, and so half notes are distinguished from quarter notes by having a double stem.


This concludes this brief overview of key aspects of TwinNote and the thinking behind them. See how some of these features work in these illustrations of Scales and Intervals in TwinNote.

Next: Scales

  1. In tonal music that stays mostly within the notes of the current key, only seven of the twelve notes represented on a chromatic staff would be frequently used, leaving five staff positions used only for occasional accidentals. For a typical chromatic staff, this inefficient use of more vertical space is the main trade-off for the many advantages it offers. However, it makes more demands on the reader who has to take in more vertical staff positions, as the music spans across more lines and spaces than in traditional notation (besides requiring more paper and page-turns). TwinNote overcomes this with its vertically compact staff, and two types of noteheads that are easily distinguishable. Return
  2. If lines are closer together, say a whole step apart, then larger intervals become harder to recognize since there are too many lines to visually perceive between the notes. If lines are further apart you face the opposite problem because there are not enough lines between notes to visually measure the distances between them. Having lines a major third apart provides an optimal distance between these two extremes, in addition to being similar to the distance between lines in traditional notation. Return