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Thread: Stupid Question

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    Why cant they just use numbers and letters to denote the different keys on a piano and convert sheet music to this format ? Wouldnt that allow more people to "play" the piano without learning how to read music?

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    Quote Originally Posted by golfer72 View Post
    Why cant they just use numbers and letters to denote the different keys on a piano and convert sheet music to this format ? Wouldnt that allow more people to "play" the piano without learning how to read music?
    Were they to do this (which would be another great step forward in the continued dumbing down of the education systems and music composition in Western countries), I suggest that they should also print the corresponding number and letter on each key on the piano keyboard. Perhaps they should additionally assign each number/letter combination and key a unique color or logo (or avatar?). Sort of like painting by numbers.

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    Senior Member Rogerx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by golfer72 View Post
    Why cant they just use numbers and letters to denote the different keys on a piano and convert sheet music to this format ? Wouldn't that allow more people to "play" the piano without learning how to read music?
    Perhaps: yes, then again makes one lazy .
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” ― Mark Twain

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    Senior Member Enthalpy's Avatar
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    One can't add simplicity to existing conventions. People must still know the older conventions, so adding a simpler one makes the whole more complicated. Standard problem with software, where editors add many "simpler" overlays.

    Reading scores is a tiny part of playing music. Learning to read scores is a waste of time, but at least it screens away the most stupid people from misusing instruments.

    Note heights are a tiny part of music scores. Note durations are an other. Any simpler but still compact suggestion to write the durations? Have a look at Lilypond's "Notation reference". It's just scary. When you believe to know how to read for your instrument, you discover there is 10* more your ignore, and then come the other instruments, and music from other epochs, other continents...

    Musical notation is extraordinarily compact. Did you consider what area a piano score would take with all the chords, if replacing each notehead by two letters? And how fast could that be read? Maybe the Chinese ideograms are a starting point for an alternative music notation, but the Latin alphabet isn't.

    With its incredible diversity of signs, closer to ideograms than to phonetic alphabets, the usual European music notation has proven its ability to evolve to describe new heights, polyrhythms, new instruments, foreign music styles and so on. 20+ letters won't suffice as is.

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    Quote Originally Posted by golfer72 View Post
    Why cant they just use numbers and letters to denote the different keys on a piano and convert sheet music to this format ? Wouldnt that allow more people to "play" the piano without learning how to read music?
    It's not a stupid question at all. However, there is a lot more to sheet music than the location and order of the notes. You would still need to know duration, volume changes, tempo, and more. There is also a lot of value in being able to see the relative placement of each note visually to get a sense of where the music is going.

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    Quote Originally Posted by golfer72 View Post
    Why cant they just use numbers and letters to denote the different keys on a piano and convert sheet music to this format ? Wouldnt that allow more people to "play" the piano without learning how to read music?
    They could. But it would make both notating and reading music much more difficult for everyone. Notation relies on spacial cues like the distance and number of lines and spaces between notes. All of that essential data would be lost if one used stacks of numbers. Trust me, the system you suggest would be ridiculously impractical and infinitely harder to gain fluency with than what is used now.

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    Senior Member fluteman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by golfer72 View Post
    Why cant they just use numbers and letters to denote the different keys on a piano and convert sheet music to this format ? Wouldnt that allow more people to "play" the piano without learning how to read music?
    As others have said, this is not a stupid question. In fact, systems of musical notation other than the traditional western one that has developed over several centuries, and that are improvements over it in various respects, certainly are possible. But I suspect, rather than any sudden dramatic change, traditional notation will continue to evolve gradually to accommodate new trends in music, the major one in the current era being (imo) the ever-increasing role of digital technology.

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    Senior Member Tikoo Tuba's Avatar
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    One may of course play the piano , blindly , expertly . Guidance from a teacher would advance the blind student in exploring all that the fingers can do . This works musically .

    Or would you learn from an A.I. teacher who has you imitate a player piano that has a blinky light for every key and an electric butt-shock stool for every mistake ?

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    The current notation gives you a much better visual sense of what the music is doing and sounds like. If you are fluent, you can get a sense of a particular passage at a glance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by neofite View Post
    Were they to do this (which would be another great step forward in the continued dumbing down of the education systems and music composition in Western countries), I suggest that they should also print the corresponding number and letter on each key on the piano keyboard. Perhaps they should additionally assign each number/letter combination and key a unique color or logo (or avatar?). Sort of like painting by numbers.
    When I was 10 or so (around 1967) my parents bought a small electronic organ for me. It really had numbers assigned to the keys (C=1, Cis=1+, D=2 etc). The exercise books that were included had the usual music notation with the numbers displayed as well above each note. Later, when they saw I enjoyed playing this small one, they upgraded to a real electronic organ and let me take lessons with a local church organist.

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    The current notation system is the best and simplest method of describing Western music in the most accurate manner. It can handle very complicated rhythmic phrasing as well as a variety of pitch series including microtonality. What the OP describes is much cruder and would actually be more cumbersome and less flexible, and unable to handle anything but the simplest music - than the notation currently being used, which has been in use for hundreds of years.

    Small children have managed to learn to read music for generations. There is no problem.

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    Senior Member NoCoPilot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkW View Post
    The current notation gives you a much better visual sense of what the music is doing and sounds like. If you are fluent, you can get a sense of a particular passage at a glance.
    Isn't the key a piece is in also essential to knowing how to transpose it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rogerx View Post
    Perhaps: yes, then again makes one lazy .
    does it? Or does it make available our resources to concentrate more totally on the music itself?

    We always tend to think the way we did things was optimal, generally we are mistaken. That is my experience, anyway.
    Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
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    There are no stupid questions. Just stupid people asking them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SanAntone View Post

    Small children have managed to learn to read music for generations. There is no problem.
    My little brother had a problem . There is a problem . He's an old man now and when I mentioned this discussion to him he thoughtfully remembered the trouble . It was a sensual thing . And that eventually he had realized a musical remedy . Dance .

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