E-Basic Musical Notation
something different mainly for keyboards

E   
-Basic uses a vertical staff because in keyboard music we are concerned with left/right locations more than pitch. It should be remembered that Standard Notation was initially developed for choral singing which is concerned primarily with the high/low facet of music. It reads from top to bottom.

I have retained the names of the white keys and renamed the black keys to 1,2....3,4 ,5. This convenient distinction is easily memorized in about 1 minute.
Only three lines are employed. Two solid, denoting C two lines above the treble staff and two lines below the bass staff while a dotted line denotes middle C. This was done to eliminate the confusion of lines (3 instead of 10). Within this range about 95% of all music occurs. Any note is designated by its letter or number value and by its placement on the staff in the obvious way.

Note here that the placement can be off to some degree without making it difficult to see which octave it lies in. This allows us to enlarge the letters and numbers to greater than 1/12 of the lateral span of an octave for easy viewing.


Here is shown a left and a right hand chord played simultaneously. The left chord (F-F) has an octave bar between the two F's. Such chords are quite common and I found that placing a bar between a two note octave chord made it much easier to pick up visually. As its most general rule, E...Basic employs no tactic which does not yield more ease of use than it detracts. (Obviously, whenever we put more symbols and/or marks on the paper we make it more difficult for the mind to navigate through them quickly.)

A dot or ( o, ~ , / , \ ) is placed between notes played by the left and right hand. I found it very useful to place a row of dots between widely separated hands so as not to lose their connection when reading them. Often the left/right hand aspect is obvious and we can dispense with the hand separaters (.o~/ \ ) for purposes of clarity (less is more).
A strikethrough means "play these notes simultaneously with the thumb (or the obvious finger)". I have found chord fingering to be fairly obvious with this single exception.
A direction break, here symbolized by @, allows us to insert directions to the reader. These can be anything from the common 'repeat from @' or special directions made just for the piece at hand.


An arrow through a group of notes means a run of notes (F then B then 1 then E then F). Used wherever possible, it is much easier to run a scale when the notes are arranged in a line. This is an empirical observation about the way we read music. (I have not determined the why of it.)
Underlined notes mean "play as a chord". You will occasionally require this to avoid problems on the same line such as C then [E with G] then C, etc.
A rule has been made up for this snippet from Rachmaninoff's C# minor Prelude. The arrows show the obvious way to play. After a pattern has been established, for clarity, we dispense with the arrows. Music is rich in repetition and we must take advantage of it wherever possible for greater facility. Making such specific rules is more of an art and is left to the composer or transcriber. If you choose to transcribe a major composers work into this notation be prepared to spend many hours of thoughtful planning. This is too much of an art for computerization.
A slash mark, / or \ , designates a "crossed thumbs" chord and indicates that the inside notes (in this case E\1 ) are rewritten out of order for easier reading. The slash itself indicates which thumb goes over the other (here right thumb over left). This is sometimes a matter of personal preference as when both thumbs are on white keys.
Note here that rules may be nested within other rules. When the rule is to be turned off/on can become ambiguous if insufficient planning is done.
Another advantage of the resulting data compression is that many pieces can be made to fit on two sheets of music meaning that the pages do not have to be turned.


A simple line through the staff separates music of different character. (~) means an arpegio. (tr) means a trill. (tr...) means an extended trill. And ( means to put in a grace note. These are somewhat arbitrary and there are many other notation bits one could invent. I will not do so except on a case by case basis. One should strive, when inventing a new mark, to keep it simple and as obvious as possible so that it will lend itself to standardization.
E...Basic makes no provisions for time or key signature, note durations, volume, etc. Its primary concern is . . .

"What keys do I play?". . . "In what order?". . . "With which hand?"

It is the composers' province to add these. I discourage it because it most often involves artistic expression on the part of the pianist. When a composer gives such directions is has the appearance of Shakespeare giving precise directions on how to recite Hamlet's sililoquy. If the pianist doesn't grasp the music from the notes themselves, he won't grasp it from any number of specific directions. Also, there is more than one good way to play a given piece of music, some of which are wildly at odds with the composers preferences.


I found it expedient to put three pieces of something (white adhesive tape about 1/2" x 2") on my piano to give a visual reference associated with the E...Basic staff. I also put a piece of black velcro (the soft half) on each number four key so that I wouldn't get a headache from looking back and forth from paper to keyboard. Refocusing the eyes produces eyestrain. This is a temporary measure which you might wish to employ. It allows you to find out where you are on the board without looking or "feeling" for the groups of 2 or 3 black keys. (Most people will find furry keys objectionable I think.

These are all the rules I am going to make up for E...Basic. Clearly, if one wanted to, an entire pantheon of rules could be written to indicate timing, duration, key signature, volume, stacato, legato, pedaling, etc. One could for instance have the type appear darker or larger for stronger notes. The font could be changed from a blockish type for stacato to a florid one for legato, etc. But in my experiments I have found that these distinctions are far more trouble than they are worth. Perhaps more details will be added when the process can be computerized (but probably not the data compression parameter).


If you wish, I invite you to try the available examples. Print them out if you are able and see for yourself how little you must learn in order to read this notation and transfer it to the piano.


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