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Modulo Music Notation System

Chromatic Scale

Modulo is an alternative music notation system that contains a number of new and improved features. Now it also features alternating note head colors that highlight the intervallic structure even more.


Why should some keys be more difficult to read than others?

Modulo is a notation suitable for all kinds of musical instruments. It was originally based on the chromatic button accordion layout.

White note heads are reserved for the whole-tone scale that comprises Do (C), and black note heads belong to the whole-tone scale that comprises Fa (F). This is really helpful because it makes note heads able to convey intervals in a very consistent way. For example: major thirds and major seconds have note heads of the same color, while minor thirds and minor seconds have opposite colors.

Note heads that reside next to stave lines can be slightly adjusted vertically so that there is a better correlation between a note head's vertical position and the pitch it represents.

Modulo Notation has its own intonation system and key signatures although these are not strictly necessary to be able to read the music. Modulo can thus preserve all information contained in traditional notation. Its intonation system is more or less "key neutral" in that it treats all keys in a similar way. It is strongly recommended to use these alternative key signatures and accidentals in tonal music, since they can effectively have an impact upon the interpretation of a piece.

Alternative System for Rhythm

Modulo Notation features a new rhythm notation system. It is designed to be clear, uncomplicated, and intuitive – yet still very versatile.

Each and every note's relation to the beat structure will always be evident. A beam always represent one beat. Since all beats take up an equal amount of time, it is clear that all stems in a beam should be played within the time frame of one beat. So, the more stems there are, the faster they should be played.

Modulo's alternative rhythm notation package that manages timing and duration. References to this document can be found via the Features link above.


SaLaTa is a tone naming, interval naming, and chord symbol system designed for Modulo Notation. The document also shows how to analyze music using SaLaTa.

Modulo Notation

The PDF primer to Modulo Notation. The Features link above, provides references to this document.

The primer also shows an example of what the new notation looks like in action, compared to traditional notation, with an excerpt from Claude Debussy's "Ce qu'a vu le vent d'Ouest". In that particular excerpt, Modulo Notation preserves and presents all information from traditional notation. The Modulo version, however, uses a different key signature to reduce the number of accidentals, but could also have been written in the original key signature. It is less of a problem to switch key signatures more frequently in Modulo. The traditional version of the excerpt actually has an inconsistency with regards to rhythm that the new notation was able to solve without adding too much complexity. Note how the new notation explicitly shows how each note relates to the beat structure. Note also how Debussy uses the whole tone scale (exposed by the abundance of white note heads).

Claims of intellectual property

Sheet music examples

Clair de Lune is a well-known piece for piano by Claude Debussy. In traditional notation it usually has five flats in the key signature. An abridged arrangement is available here in Modulo notation. It has been created with software that has not yet been fully developed.

A new feature being used here is a vertical arrow that points towards a neighboring stave. It simply means that a part on one stave, being played with one of the hands, fills in note(s) that belong to a part being played by the other hand on the neighboring stave.

To demonstrate how flexible the new notation is, the following piece is shown in two different ways. The first PDF has LH and RH separated. The second one uses only a single stave.


New dynamics symbols in the form of volume knobs. These replace various forte/piano combinations. Improved accent signs can indicate when a single note or chord should be played louder or softer. Crescendo/diminuendo wedges (a.k.a. hairpins) are no longer needed.

Note that these dynamics symbols (as well as the new tempo and customizable diamond symbols featured below) all indicate what the current value is at the point where the symbol is introduced. If the symbol has a curved arrow, it shows how the indicated value then changes from that point. Without the arrow, the value remains unchanged until a new symbol appears.


New tempo symbols in the form of squares. These can be used instead of various traditional terms that indicate tempo. Tempo symbols can indicate BPM figures, and can also be used for accelerando and ritardando.


The diamond is a general purpose, customizable symbol.

Manuscript Paper

Manuscript paper with ten blank staves.

Spring Song

The MNP (Music Notation Project) has a wiki page that shows a specific excerpt of music, written for pipe organ, represented in a number of different musical notations: Spring Song examples The following document shows what this particular excerpt (from MacFarlane's "Spring Song") looks like in Modulo Notation.

A new music notation file format is being developed where the above excerpt has been translated into a text file.

Modulo Notation's File Format

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Alternative notation is like Esperanto, and since Esperanto is not in wide use, any attempt to reform music notation is bound to fail? There are a couple of reasons why this assumption could be questioned:

1) Esperanto takes much more time and effort to learn.

2) Even if you are the only person in the world using a certain alternative notation, what comes out of it in the end is music, and music is the universal language that doesn't have to be translated.

So many chromatic notation systems have been proposed in the past. How would one know which one to pick when there are so many alternatives? Why would Modulo notation be the answer? What makes it unique? Here are some criteria that could be considered important for any chromatic notation:

Modulo notation is most likely the only notation ever conceived that fulfills all of the above criteria. It is likely also the most complete notation system ever proposed. For anyone that agrees with the criteria above, there is only one choice: Modulo notation!

Modulo Notation and SaLaTa were brought to You by Nydana, Sweden.

Dan Lindgren: Contact Information