Monday, July 23, 2018

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Silence, Ties, and Subdivisions

Silences, aka rests, are a vital part of music ( Therefore, today, I would like to show you how to notate rests with shorthand notation.

Remember this table:

Some symbols already have rests, but what if you need longer silences?
The solution is very easy, simply use round brackets around a symbol or any sequence of symbols:

I(II) I(II) I:: X> HI I(H)

That's all fair and square, but what is this H doing here?
It has the value of four pulses, twice as much as I.
W symbolizes a whole note comprising eight pulses.

A word of caution: The shorthand notation is case sensitive. Uppercase symbols have a completely different meaning. Compare the uppercase I with the lowercase i in the table above.
The two other lowercase symbols in the table are w and v. Do not confuse w with W.
Also note that the fifth symbol is a dash - not an underscore _
You will realize that it easy to distinguish the symbols when you see them in context.

Here is another example of producing rests, this time with a sequence of 7 pulse patterns :
II- II> I(I-) I(I-) I:- 

Now, you might wonder, what about tying notes together?
For this I use the wiggly symbol ~, also known as tilde.
This is very useful if you want to have really long note values:
W~W~W I (H~I)

To summarize: Use round brackets around symbols for silence. Use the tilde like this I~H for tying notes together.  H and W are our new symbols for notes with 4, or 8 pulses in length.

Finally, what about those subdivisions? Here is the trick: Use square brackets [ ] around any sequence of symbols. This will divide their values in half.
I[::] I[::] H [>I>I>>] I(I)
If you want to read this :: as four eighth notes, then this [::] makes four sixteenth notes.

That was easy, what about triplets? Simply add a 3 after the opening bracket, like so [3III]
This says that the value for each symbol inside the bracket is divided by 3.
For example, Maurice Ravel's 'Bolero' opening would go:
But, here is the catch: The shorthand notation has symbols for 3 pulses, so one could also write:
-i -i -- -i -i ii

If you need quintuplets, septuplets, etcetera, one should use square brackets [5.....], [7.......], and so on.

That's it! Once you're using this notation you will see how lightning fast you can write rhythms. Now, before we start composing, here is an exercise: Search up some Latin-American Salsa rhythms and write them down in shorthand. Sometimes they are called bell-patterns or timelines. We'll have a look at them next time. The shorthand notation is great for building a database of rhythmic patterns, and of course it's great for blogging as well...

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Shorthand Notation for Musical Rhythm (SNMR)

Inspired by the powerful simplicity of Peter Giger's rhythmoglyphs, I recently developed a new shorthand notation for musical rhythms. I am using a complete set of compact symbols for all binary and ternary metric groups. For example, the symbol I is one beat worth two pulses. The symbol for one pulse is . two pulses are : and one pulse silence and the beat on the next pulse is v.

For a series of beats in 4/4 one writes I I I I
It is quick and easy to write simple rhythmic phrases such as
I : I I  I : : I  I I : I  I I . I .

Even more complex patterns look really easy in shorthand. For example, this is the famous 12/8 bell pattern of the Ewe people in West Africa:
I I . I I I .
which is played as an ostinato like this I I . I I I .  I I . I I I .  I I . I I I .  I I . I I I .  etcetera

The shorthand notation has also symbols for ternary groups.
- is one beat worth three pulses, or in binary form 100.
X is used for 110, + for 011;
> denotes 101, and < stands for 010.
Finally, w is for 001 and i encodes 111. (Case sensitive!)

With a mix of ternary and binary groups, the Ewe rhythm above can also be written as:
I I X I >
I > I I >
Or, by using four ternary groups (4 x 3)
> + < >
one arrives at a different metric feel, as compared to 3 x 4
I I . I I I .

This is why I developed the shorthand notation. It is quick and easy to use but one can express different metric groupings without being tied down to the traditional concept of bars and meters.

Here is an overview of the symbols together with a transcription into common notation:

In the next post I will demonstrate how to use silences (rests), ties and simple subdivisions.

'Computational models of Rhythm and Meter' just came out @ Springer Nature More info at