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Topic: Alternatives to standard notation ?

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  1. #1

    Alternatives to standard notation ?

    After many years of avoiding public performance, due to extreme stage fright, I've realised that the main cause of anxiety was forgetting what the next chord/part was. That may sound simplistic but for many years I thought I didn't like performing in public because I didn't like being the centre of attention.

    Anyway - therapy aside - now that I know what I need to "fix" does anyone have any suggestions for more informal kinds of notation other than regular notation (ie staffs, key signatures, etc.). I have tried to learn it many times but it's just not for me - too rigid and, frankly, doesn't look too great on stage either unless you're playing classical music.

    I'm looking for a kind of aide memoire (why am I speaking french !?) that tells me the chords and inversions (at a minimum). My memory for chord names is not too bad. Note duration and timing is not a problem either: I seem to remember that. Also I don't need to worry about having to change the key, so systems that use I, II, IV, etc., would probably not work for me.

    Of course, I could try and come up with my own shorthand but I thought I'd see what else people are using other than notation.

    Failing that, I guess any kind of memory techniques might be helpful. I'm really bad at remembering what I wrote, because I use my DAW like a notepad: as soon as I write something I like I save it and rarely need to play it again. Consequently, it never gets committed to memory.

    All ideas, very welcome.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Sonare Coeli's Avatar
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    Re: Alternatives to standard notation ?

    I don't know if these ideas will be helpful, but maybe they'll start some brainstorming at least. In high school I played in a jazz combo with some good friends (who were also really awesome musicians). I played bass and I always preferred the comfort of having a chord chart on stage. I even notated some lines that I liked (which you technically aren't supposed to do as a bassist, haha).

    One thing that we used for one performance was a kind of flow chart. It had the order of the song on it (intro, main riff, chorus, etc.) in the exact flow that would happen in the song. It also combined notation and chords.

    You could try something similar. I know you don't prefer notation, so how about something like a flow chart, that has the order, and then has the chord names, with the notes of the chord spelled out underneath. Then for your melody, you could have the first few notes written down with letter names to jog your memory, or even the whole thing, with spaces in between that would remind you of note values. So, maybe something like this for example:

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Into:
    Melody: BABC...E F# G... etc...
    Chords:
    G.....D/F#....Em....Bm....C....G.....D

    D.........A............B........F#......G......D.. ....A
    B.........F#..........G........D........E......B.. ....F#
    G.........D............E........B........C......G. .....D
    ...........F#
    Chorus: (something similar, etc...)
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Would something like this work? You can even right notes to yourself telling you to wait for a cue from another player or to listen for something. You could do something simpler too, and provide piano voicings for the chords. I just put down triads because I don't play piano! Haha. Would this work for you?

  3. #3
    Senior Member Sonare Coeli's Avatar
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    Re: Alternatives to standard notation ?

    Please ignore all of the periods in the diagram, the forum won't let me keep the spacing, so I have to use periods to hold the space.

  4. #4

    Re: Alternatives to standard notation ?

    Don't know if you use Finale, but it has a template and a staff style for creating just words with chords above them. Another option, if there are no words, is just a standard rhythm notation, also available with Finale. It consists of a slash for each beat with the chord over the beat where it changes. It does take a little getting used to if you haven't used it before.

    What works for me, on the other hand, is to have someone standing next to me, shouting in my ear, "G! D7! E minor!"

  5. #5

    Re: Alternatives to standard notation ?

    Thanks a lot Sonare.

    That's certainly kickstarted my brain. I guess I was looking for more of a shorthand system. For example, have you heard of the Nashville Numbers system ?

    That uses roman numerals so is not what I'm looking for - however I like some of the things they do, like for example if there is more than one chord progression in a bar they use parenthesis.

    I think "notating" inversions are the biggest challenge for me, right now. I seem to recall some people use a number after the chord to represent whether a chord is in the root (1st position) or 2nd position, etc. So G1 would be the notes of G, B & D. Whereas G2 would be B, D & G. I'm just going from memory here - does this sound familiar to anyone ?
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  6. #6

    Re: Alternatives to standard notation ?

    Quote Originally Posted by richardjay View Post

    I think "notating" inversions are the biggest challenge for me, right now. I seem to recall some people use a number after the chord to represent whether a chord is in the root (1st position) or 2nd position, etc. So G1 would be the notes of G, B & D. Whereas G2 would be B, D & G. I'm just going from memory here - does this sound familiar to anyone ?
    I'll admit I'm not terribly knowledgable in this area - I'm strictly a 'dot reader,' and when I do do chords, it's Roman numerals in relation to the key.

    But my boss is a jazzer, and I believe he uses a system where he uses one letter for the name of the chord, with a horizontal line under it. Below the horizontal line goes the bass note. This takes care of both inversions, and chords over a non-chordal bass note.
    David

  7. #7

    Re: Alternatives to standard notation ?

    Quote Originally Posted by richardjay View Post
    Thanks a lot Sonare.

    I think "notating" inversions are the biggest challenge for me, right now. I seem to recall some people use a number after the chord to represent whether a chord is in the root (1st position) or 2nd position, etc. So G1 would be the notes of G, B & D. Whereas G2 would be B, D & G. I'm just going from memory here - does this sound familiar to anyone ?
    Is figured bass what you're referring to? First inversion is indicated by a 6 and second inversion is indicated by a 6 over 4. The numbers indicate the interval above the bass note (not the root of the chord but the bass note).

    So a C chord (C-E-G) is of course all thirds. If you arrange it E-G-C you have a 6th between the E and C. If you arrange it G-C-E you have a sixth between the G and E and fourth between the G and C, hence the 6/4.

    Hope that helps. For commercial applications I would prefer seeing C/E or C/G type of notation. I hope that helps.

    Steve Winkler

  8. #8

    Re: Alternatives to standard notation ?

    Figured bass has not really been used for a couple of hundred years, outside of music theory classes. In Finale you can choose whatever chord notation you want, including the Nashville style. If you want to be able to play something in a variety of keys, the Nashville style is good. But it really requires a greater understanding of theory than just the chord letters.

    What swinkler said about the bass notation is correct. I've studied theory and also I'm a bass player, and I've never heard of the G1, G2 scenario.

  9. #9

    Re: Alternatives to standard notation ?

    Figured Bass is something new to me actually, though it sounds like I may have been misremembering the G1, etc, idea. Using a 6 &/or 4 doesn't immediately feel comfortable to me but it's one more idea to put into the melting pot for, what will probably become, my own method of notation.

    Swinkler: when you say you'd prefer to see (for example)
    C/E, would you read that as a Cmaj with an E bass ? Or is it a Cmaj inverted starting at the E ?
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  10. #10

    Re: Alternatives to standard notation ?

    Hi Pingu,

    Yes, the horizontal line between chord & bass note is both logical and simple. But I'm not clear on how I'd know what inversion of the chord to use ? For example, if I wanted to play a Cmaj as E G C and let's say I was playing a Bflat in the bass, I can't see how to write that in the way your boss would write it.

    I think I'll look some more into how jazz players chart their music as there might be some good ideas there.
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