I believe modern staff notation is a powerful tool for analyzing and composing music.  That said, I’m concerned that it is much more complicated than it needs to be.  My concern though is not the diversity of symbols.  My concern is the amount of time it takes to mentally assimilate each note’s line position, accidental, and key signature into its final value.  For the inexperienced, this can be a slow process, considerably slower than just using piano rolls or guitar tabs combined with a recording.

As a result, I feel many musicians forgo staff notation altogether.  Some of my favorite songwriters, rock musicians, and even jazz guitarists never bothered to learn it.  I find this is a shame though since staff notation can describe musical structure in a way that tabs, piano rolls, chord charts, and MIDI graphs cannot.

I’m thus fascinated by the possibility of “alternative” staff notations that may come with a lower barrier to entry.  There have been many such proposals over the years, some better than others, many of which are presented at Few of these proposals though have been tested with large numbers of users or compositions.  Simply put, the infrastructure to do this testing has never existed.  Through my Senior Project, I hope to provide some of that infrastructure.


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