The Evolution of E-Basic

his page shows my general method of work. It is the same for any subject ... turn over every stone - then ... then ... then ... you get it right :0@ ... or ... when I have it in mind to "finish" something off for good,

"Ahm' on it ... lak'a pit bull ona mailman"

I had at one time about 300 of these pages. When finished ~ 200 got filed ... circularly. Of the 100 remaining, here are a few samples.

I went to Office Depot so many times to make copies of the 'final revision' that the check out girl told a trainee, "Now, this guy comes in every few days with his little folder with the army man on it and gets a few copies. They're 5 cents each and ... " . I hate being recognized.

Note: Click on any small pic to see large jpg. Use back button to return here. No, I don't expect you to bother with all of them ... just what you might find interesting.
I tried as best I could to pare down the file size. However, each of these jpgs is about 50K (if smaller they might become unreadable).
[The light, blurry images in these jpgs are the ink from the other side of the paper which has bled through the paper over the last five years.]
This is the first thing I made. The goal was to allow me to play the notes without spending time "translating" standard notation. Since I was stealing 15 minutes per day at work to practice on a real piano, I could not afford to spend 10 minutes translating a single chord. I just wanted to know which keys to play. I already knew how the thing was supposed to sound from recordings ... and because of the aggravation of having to mentally rotate the music 90 degrees, I knew that it would necessarily be a vertical staff.

Of course, I was dissatisfied with this because it's just toooo busy. Very confusing. The black stripes are the black keys and vice versa. The thin wavy lines connecting the notes were supposed to indicate "crossed thumbs".

This is probably the most compact form that keyboard music can be put into. To the left and right are the notes for left and right hands. There are five dashes (one for each finger). Nearest to the center is the thumb. It is then possible to indicate fingering as well using the dashes to indicate an unused finger.

The center column cantains two letters one for left hand and one for right. They indicate which octave the thumb must be in. I laid out the keyboard as [ Q - Z - Y - X - x - y - z - q ]. The xyz's are the six main octaves centered on middle C. The q's represent the leftover notes. This doesn't cover "squeaky" (the last note on the right side because it is, in my opinion, musically useless (as are 3 or four more upper notes and a couple of lower) ... but we're stuck with them. Fortunately, Chopin did not have them else his reputation would surely have suffered for he most certainly would have tried to make use of them ... somehow.

However, it is too compact. I found I had trouble figuring out where to go with my hand immediately. In the finalized form, spatial clues are given as to the general location on the keyboard so you can start in that direction right away. As you go, you figure out the notes and by the time you get there you can set your hand down correctly (with minimal practice - hopefully less than with any other system devisable).

This was (artistically speaking) my favorite rendition. It looks like tinker toys and had good expression. However, it's still too busy. I found I had visual troubles with all those lines. Making middle C orange helped a little ... but ... not enough. Also, in this incarnation, I tried a 'bottom to top' reading. No good. We're too used to reading top to bottom. Tried top to bottom then bottom to top so as to reduce eye motion going to next line ... again ... no good. Each line represents a black key and spaces are white keys.

This is a lot of math to find why 'well-tempered' is necessary. I tried to find an acceptable scale with varying quanties of notes other than the standard 12 tone scale. As it turns out, no other scales yield quantized incremental increases which fall on whole number ratios as well (except 24, 48 ...tone scales, i.e. multiples of the 12 tone scale). Briefly, since whole number ratios are the perceptually recognized notes, they are considered most pleasing. Next in ability to please the ear are notes with incremental increases over the base note. [An octave is the 7 notes out of the 11 incremental notes which have nearly whole number ratios, i.e. a key]

Now, if we then start an octave from other than the base note (another key), the quantixed incremental increases don't properly fall on the whole number ratios. They are "off" a little. Hence, to compensate, everything is made to be a little off. Every fixed note instrument which can play in any key must be "tempered" or it sounds noticeably off when playing in other keys if tuned to any certain key. The tempered instrument is not tuned to any specific key so is preferable because it is "evenly mistuned".

From these ruminations, I was able to see that an alien race with a much bigger brain might conceivably go to a 24 note scale and that nothing in between would satisfy a sentient being since music inevitably depends on perceived mathematical relationships. Then we rearrange these acceptable structures to carry philosophical meaning ... but first comes the logical underpinnings.

Here we have an attempt to be "dainty". Notice the vertical line at the extreme left with the >'s. These indicate pedaling. I abandoned them when I realized that pedaling is so easy to learn that it is done instinctively almost as an afterthought once you are able to play with moderate facility.

The staff in this case is made from lines which represent the line separating BC and EF, i.e. the places where there is no black key. A black note means a black key and a white ... a white key. If the note is, say white and at the right side of the wider space on the staff it must be "F" ... if black in the same position - "F#". Four white keys in the fat space and three in the narrow - three black keys in the fat and two in the narrow. Get it? It's completely unambiguous ... but ... still too busy and requires a little too much subconscious calculating.

In this test, I tried an arched chord style which could easily denote fingering (lines are balck keys, spaces - white). I eventually abandoned all attempts to show fingering because this aspect of piano playing is mostly self evident (at least in chording). It is surprising how many renditions of something occur to you before you finally realize that you don't need the thing at all.

Less is more in this case. You want the least busy format so that the mind is not overburdened with irrelevant data. Succeeding in this results in speed and ease of use as you will see in the final version.

Here I made attempts to show runs of notes in the easiest way imaginable. It was a fun type design day. Notice that only four octaves are shown requiring some sort of "shift" operation to make the same staff represent higher or lower octaves. Some early abstract indicators of same are in middle of right side staff.

I thought I finished with this revision. The red notes are left hand and right is black. this is bad news on copying machines though because color is much more expensive than straight black & white. Red filled in notes mean a black key as do black filled in notes. All unfilled in notes are white keys. Line business is minimized by making the three lines (F#, G# and A#) into dots.

After much reading in Encyclopedias of Music, I discovered a description of someone else's notation scheme (have forgotten name) which very closely matched this. I abandoned it because his didn't work out either (even after having thousands of pages of sheet music translated - ca. 1950's). More work was needed. Phew!

Here is another version of the super condensed music idea. The boxes on either side indicate octaves with the color indicating where the bulk of your hand goes. No bueno.

These are early examples of what I called "thumb lines". I thought it might help if there was a prominent line indicating where the thumb went ... over the entire course of the piece ... so that the pianist could see generally how his hand should move in space. It turned out to be completely irrelevant. A waste of design time ... but then ... how can one know such things in advance? We try everything because we are ignorant. Then we see ... then we stop doing it.

Here are some serious examples of "lane changes" just before I gave up on the idea. The staff is shifted up or down by two octaves and you are supposed to follow along easily. Doesn't work too well in practice.

This is a practice page quickly made to try out my failed concept of a "thumb line". Notice that I'm beginning to get the idea that only three staff lines are necessary. There are two more but they are very lightly drawn.

Here is the final version. See how clean and tidy everything is. Nothing more where less will serve. I believe this is the right amount of information to convey, given that we now have ubiquitous recordings to tell the non-composer how the music is supposed "to go".

And all that timing, key signature, etc IS unnecessary. It would have been discarded by Chopin, Brahms, Liszt, Bethoven ... everyone ... if ... they had had quality recordings which were available to all. What we do when interpreting music, is to fit the data to a philosophical template which constitutes our view of the meaning of the piece. That is what the composer wishes to give to us ... not just dry notation. He's assuming that you will understand the meaning he intends and fill in the gaps using your own experience ... if he can just get you to know how it goes approximately. In this regard, a recording is much better than any amount of notation. All we then truly need to know is where the damn notes are on the keyboard and which hand plays them (if not self evident).

Here would be the nxt step in E-Basic Notation. I have not tried this out and it would be a little more difficult to learn right out of the gate ... but ... The idea is to rename all of the keys (black and white) to letters which when used in compostition will yield the largest number of pronounceable nonsense words. This would be a tremendous advantage in memorization if workable.

After much study, I settled on the letters UN CAL for the black Keys and SET PIRO for cde fgab. Key of C major is then called Set Piro (nonsense but easily remembered).

The brown stuff on the left is whatever Pedrito puked up on it some years ago.


Ebtx Home Page