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Short History Of Written Music.


Before there was a written language, stories & accounts were verbally passed down from generation to generation so that events and tales would be remembered.

The procedure of the recollection of music wasn’t much different than the way stories were memorised. Tunes were memorised and then taught to others so they would survive. Regrettably, this technique wasn’t very reliable. Small variations were made to the tunes because a performer thought it sounded better, was easier to play or simply through a lapse in memory.

A structure of writing music was developed in the fourteenth centaury that it’s not that much different from the musical system we use today. Notes called “neumes” were used to indicate the pitch and length of a tone. Over the years this system has been revised to a point where we are able to listen to performances of Brahms, Mozart or Beethoven knowing that they closely resemble what the composers wrote centuries ago since they are performed from a written music score.

The way of writing down musical notation has developed over many years and notation is a requirement for consistency and precision. It undoubtedly begun and developed in parallel with music theory since you cannot record what notes are being employed if you have no names for the them or way of identifying what relationships have too other notes; consequently as the concept of scales and keys began to take shape, so notes started to be named and a time stamp given to them…
e.g. In 4/4 timing i.e. 4 notes to the bar;

(Double Whole Note: 8 beats)

(Whole Note: 4 beats)

Minim.(1/2 a note: 2 beats)

Crotchet (1/4 of a note 1 beat)

(1/8 Note of a 1/2 of a beat)

(1/16 of a note 1/4 of a beat)

(1/32 of a Note 1/8 of a beat)

(1/64 of a Note 1/16 of a beat)

There is another thing to add to a note and that is a dot behind them; you’ll find the dots mostly behind Semibreve, Minims & Crotchets and rarely behind Quavers & Semiquavers. The dots denote that the note is to be held a half note longer e.g. Dotted Semibreve: 4 + 1/2 = 6 beats; Dotted Minim: 2 + 1/2 = 3 beats; Dotted Crotchet; 1 + 1/2 = 1.5 beats etc, etc.
They are also found behind rests of the same note values.
Notes with tails often strung together as with this set of Semiquavers.
Notes with tails of different values are also strung together as with this bar of music.

The Greeks and Romans both had non-graphical form of notations by using letters from their alphabets to symbolise notes and from this beginning came our use of the letters A to G to represent notes which is still common in many countries. When I was leaning music as a child I was taught to remember the Lines as Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit and the Spaces as FACE.

The letter names are sometimes called the “Boethian notation” after Boethius a Roman statesman and writer who was the first to document the use of letters as names for notes. He lived in the 5th century in the service of Emperor Theodoric. He was accused of treason and executed in 524 A.D.

An alternative method of note naming was introduced around 1000 A.D. by the monk Guido d’Arezzo. This has survived up to today as tonic sol fa; e.g. do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do. The most important feature of this development is that it uses six of the notes which we use in the major scale today. However France, Italy and some other countries tend to use the tonic sol fa names (based on C as Doh) as names of notes, rather than alphabetical letters although this change has only happened in the last two hundred years or so.

Early systems of notation which used letters of the alphabet were the origin of some of the symbols used today. In early times, B flat was a different note and a rounded lower-case B was used to represent it. From this comes our use of a gothic b for the flat sign. A squarer, gothic, lower-case B was used for B natural and from this comes our natural sign and our sharp sign comes from this gothic B with a line through it.

Modern notation is much more precise than older notation e.g. tunes in old plainsong notation which uses a four line stave instead of five, no time or key signatures and has some diamond-shaped notes. This notation, compared to modern notation, is quite imprecise in its specification of how the music should be performed.

Graphic forms of notation are first known from the 7th century these were probably just marks indicating approximate pitch to remind readers of a tune they had already learnt. These would have been used by monks in monasteries or minstrels and they evolved into plainsong. This was at first very imprecise, without clefs or staves, however as I said earlier our modern system for notes was developed initially in the fourteenth century.

Over the years, experiments have added new signs, methods as well as new complications. Those that have proved useful for the music of the day have stuck the other have fallen by the wayside. Regrettably, some old music uses obsolete signs and in some cases it is not even clear what they mean.

Modern notation was developed in Europe and as other counties were discovered and settled spread to the rest of the world and because of this it makes music notation the most recognised international languages of all time.

Sources: Essential Music Theory, History of music and what I learnt in music theory.

MusicNoteDancing_Med.gif TrioOfSingingNotes_Med.gif MusicNotePlayingDrums_Med.gif MusicNotePlayingGuitar_Med.gif MusicNotePlayingTrumpet02_Med.gif MusicNotePlayingSynthesizer_Med.gif MusicNotePlayingTrombone_Med.gif MusicNoteDrumming_Med.gif MusicNoteBlinking_Med.gif MusicNoteListeningHeadphones_Med.gif MusicNotePlayingSax_Med.gif MusicNotePlayingTrumpet01_Med.gif CountryMusicNote_Med.gif

Only Size.
LineNotes02.gif LineNotes03.gif MusicNotes07.gif MusicNotes08.gif NotesColourful01.gif LineNotesCrooked02.gif LineNotesCrooked01.gif NotesColourful02.gif NotesColourful03.gif NotesDancing01.gif NotesDancing02.gif QuaverHopping.gif NotesDancing03.gif NotesDancing04.gif NotesFlyout.gif

 Found in MoviesEtc/Actor-ress.


 Found in Music/Beethoven.

BeethovenHoldingTrebilCleff_Med.gif BeethovenRidingNoteRight_Med.gif BeethovenRidingNoteLeft_Med.gif BeethovenWritingMusic_Med.gif

 Found in Sayings.


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