Facts You Need To Know About Musical Notation

The method of printing music on paper is an ideal way for musicians (composers in particular) to pass information about their music to anyone who cares to perform it. Absolutely, when the musical piece contains all the necessary information, the performer will surely find it easier to perform. He will also have the necessary information to perform the music in relation to what the composer has in mind. However, there is no other way to put any music on paper than the method of musical notation.

This method employs symbols to denote a sound like we use text to denote a word. Indeed, the method is very useful for musicians (composers) and also performers (singers and instrumentalists). It gives composers in particular the privilege to preserve and communicates their music beyond their space. Also, it allows performers to delve into the composer’s mind and share from his musical experience.

What Is Musical Notation?
Musical notation marks and symbols

Musical notation is an established system of symbols and marks used in music to depict the pitch and duration of a sound and instruct musicians the way a musical composition should be performed. The musical notation uses all its symbols and marks to inform musicians on notes to play and the speed to play them.

In order to achieve this and represent the different duration of tones, they system of notation uses different symbols for different notes. And this paves a way for musicians to write melody and rhythms on paper or any visual objects for communication and documentation.

Specifically, there are standard symbols and signs for music written that are well accepted worldwide. These are known as musical symbols and we use them in musical notation. Moreover, any symbols or sign that is used in written music into the paper to indicate its pitch and length is called musical notes

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When musical notation is rightly utilized, the actual pitch of a sound and its time can be reproduced in written form. We also used musical notes to represent a period of silence in music. This is because silence is a part of music activities both in the singing and playing of any musical instrument. The availability of signs and symbols for both silent and sound makes an absolute way to symbolic represent any music on paper and visual objects.

Notation in music can also be a symbol of performance instruction. This can be information about the dynamics, tempo, or the singing/playing style. A trained musician will be able to read music notation fluently like a book. What those notes represent will be more appreciated in performance when play by instrument or sing as a song.

Certainly, we hear music and see musical notation. Thus, musical notation is a visual aspect of music. This field of music requires special training on how to write and read. A trained musician will be able to write and read music notation fluently like a book.

Important Of Musical Notation
Music book with musical notation

The system of musical notation is one of the significant aspects of music performance and interpretation. They are at the same level as the written system in speech, where words are written down as a text in sentences and phrases to convey a meaningful message to the readers. In fact, musical notation is the same as the text of a speech both in written and interpretation.

Remember that words can be said without writing them down. Likewise, music can be played without musical notation. However, there will be a limitation to the numbers of people engaging with it in terms of performance and interpretation. And with musical notation, it is possible for music to be played the same way it was composed without a direct contribution of the composer. Indeed, musical notation serves as a communication medium for musicians to relate with one another musically.

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In addition, musical notation portrays music in a way good enough for subsequent performance, review, and analysis. The notation in music also provides a channel to conserve music art and promote performance by other musicians. In an actual sense, it serves as a means of musical communication that enables musical information to be shared. In other sense, the notation is an act that gives musicians the privilege to reproduce their music on visual objects like papers for distribution. Again, it makes music arts to reach out to people in the far distance.

Equally important, musical notation with a good knowledge of theory helps composers to advance in more developed music composition to a level beyond an oral heritage.

How To Use Musical Notation
Music on paper for musicians

Certainly, musical notation in its essence gives a composer a privilege to transfer a musical message to any musician who will someday perform his composition. However, the composer needs to follow the rules and guidelines of the musical notation to completely achieve this end. The more his or her notation complies with the common rules and guidelines of the musical notation, the more successfully the music will be interpreted and performed.

And when a musical notation is well defined, the performer of the piece will be more literal in its interpretation. This makes it adventitious for trained musicians to play and perform music they have not heard before.

System of Musical Notation
Staff music and tonic sol-fa combination

Over the time, people around the world have put in different effort to make reading and writing of music viable. They have tried different system to arrive at a particular one. Eventually, the system employs in various musical notation is well defined graphic and symbol representation of sound in pitch and time. The systems made it possible for musical note to be writing down in a way that made music reading effortless.

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Besides, the system of musical notation has developed from old era to modern era and we have an array of systems for music notation. Most of these systems have been in existence since when music has been recorded. However, they have survived different era of music. In short, many traditions and cultures have acquired the system of notation from one another. And this system has been passed down from one generation to the other for continuity.

Currently, there are two well-known systems of musical notation. These are tonic sol-fa notation and staff notation. Although we still have others like Tablature, Letter notation, Graphic notation, and more, these two are in use on a wide scale. Also, they are very popular among classical and art musicians.

(I) Tonic sol-fa Notation
The music in tonic sol-fa notation

Tonic sol-fa is a musical notation system that employed “do” solfege. The “Do” Solfège is a musical system designed to assign syllables to the names of the musical scale. Specifically, we have them in order today as Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do’ (Solfège’s octave). Tonic sol-fa notation is actually good for auditory and visual learning. In actual fact, tonic sol-fa notation is an instructional method of notation designed to easy sight-singing. It based on relationships each note has with one another and their key note which is known as the tonic.

Tonic sol-fa used ‘Do’ as the tonic note in major scales and ‘La’ as the tonic in the minor scale. However, any key change will make either “Do” or “La” switch their pitch to a new one. Every musical tonic in sol-fa has its name in accordance with the way it is connected with other musical tones in the key. Above all, the symbols and signs used in tonic sol-fa solfege syllables are still: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and ti. The “do” from the solfege syllables is the tonic of any key as said.

(II) Staff Notation

Staff notation is widely used notation and majorly in music printing and distribution. It employs five lines to represent pitch of the sound and shape of a symbol to indicate its time. Symbols employ in staff system include staves, clefs, musical notes, bars, tempo markings, chromatic signs (sharp or flat) etc.

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In addition to all the symbols used in tonic sol-fa and staff notation, words or phrases that guide performance and give directions to the musicians are also employ. The word can be direct word of a language or special musical phrase. All of this make it feasible for musicians to write and read music.

In conclusion, musical notation is a heritage of all musicians. It creates a world for them to put their musical mind into visual object in symbolic way. Though technology in sound recording has made it possible to record the music but notation is an anatomy of any music. It puts everything about the music in picture and made sharing of the music a comfort.


At Phamox Music, we go all out for exactness and honesty. For this purpose, if by any means you found any possible glitch, be it factual, editorial or something that we need to update, kindly contact us.


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