DODEKA, an alternative music notation
DODEKA introduces an alternative music system, which simplifies creative music expression by at least twenty times. The system integrates at its core the chromatic scale, in which all twelve semitones of an octave are considered as full and equal notes.
DODEKA theory in 30 seconds
The DODEKA Staff
One of the main challenges when creating a new music system is to come up with a logical notation that keeps a maximum of clarity. For these reasons, DODEKA suggests placing the chromatic scale on a new four-line structure.
After various research, the most effective and clear system to arrange the twelve semitones of the chromatic scale is on a set of four horizontal lines, in which the notes are placed in four different ways: on the line (C, E, G#); above the line (C#, F, A); between the lines (D, F#, A#); and under the line (D#, G, B).
By allowing placing an entire octave within four lines, the DODEKA staff positions the notes in a logical and clear manner, which greatly facilitates the reading of sheet music. In fact, this structure assigns a fixed position to every note in every octave, making notes directly identifiable. As shown in the illustration, a C note is always placed on the first and/or fourth lines.
With DODEKA, every note keeps its position in every octave. Reading a sheet music has never been so simple!
Comparison between the traditional system and DODEKA
The traditional music system
Coming from an empirical process, the traditional method gives a subjective and artificial value to certain notes by favouring a key and a harmony. At first only the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, C were part of the system. Like the note B, correcting symbols (i.e., accidentals) were subsequently introduced to make newly found notes fit the system.
Unfortunately, such system implies aberrations. An E sharp (mi#) is an F (Fa), an F flat (Fab) is an E (Mi), a B sharp (Si#) is a C (Do), and C flat (Dob) is a B (Si)! Moreover, each “forgotten” note can be referred to in two ways. A D can also indicate a C sharp flat, and so on.
As a result, the twelve semitones of the chromatic scale generate more than 24 different signs! (32 forms, if the "natural" symbol is added). By combining those "signs" the chromatic scale can be written in thousands of different manner and this is also true for any musical composition.
The illustration above is a version, among others, of the base scale used to make music in the traditional system.
The DODEKA music system
Based on the reality of music, the DODEKA method considers every note equally and fully without favouring a melody or a key. For this, it gives a specific name to the forgotten notes. The semitone progression is clear. Accidentals simply disappear and there is only one way to write each note.
The DODEKA scale keeps the names of the existing notes and gives a new name to those who have none. The scale consist now of the following name sequence:
C – K – D – T – E – F – H – G – P – A – V – B – C
When compared to the traditional system, DODEKA method brings a clearer notes’ arrangement. While notes have alternative positions on the scale of the traditional system, with DODEKA, they maintain their positions in every octave, simplifying the reading of sheet music.
Example of comparison: happy birthday
Drag the handle to the left to reveal the way the first verse of this famous song is written in the DODEKA language.
A Large Musical Palette
To cover a substantial tonal range, DODEKA offers the possibility to extend the four-line structure. Additional modules of lines can be added at will, while a great clarity is still maintained. In fact, additional lines do not affect the notes’ positions. A C is always on its line and still quickly identifiable.
The capacity of adding lines modules allows the infinite extension of the sound space. It is then not necessary to have scales with a special layout for lower keys anymore, like for example the F scale. The DODEKA’s musical layout also allows easily covering the whole range of instruments of a symphony orchestra. Such coherence and flexibility greatly simplifies the learning of music.
This graphical notation allows adding fragments of additional lines to temporarily enlarge the musical space.
The DODEKA Scale
To rename the semitones traditionally forgotten, DODEKA suggests using new letters, namely K, T, H, P, and V.
Scales and harmonies
As mentioned earlier, the traditional method favours a scale at the expense of others. With DODEKA, there are no favoured scales and the notes on the keyboard are set out in a row. The musician has to learn how to construct any scale starting from the chromatic scale.
MAJOR SCALE in C
The C Major Scale in DODEKA refers to the following sequence on the DODEKA staff and its associated chromatic basis.
If the musician wishes to play in major, he will have to press the keys corresponding to this harmony. This consists in producing the following intervals.
More about the DODEKA keyboard here.
MINOR SCALE in C
The C Minor Scale in DODEKA refers to the following sequence on the DODEKA staff and its associated chromatic basis.
If the musician wishes to play in minor harmonies, he will have to reproduce the following intervals.
Keys and Transposition
One of the most impressive advantages of DODEKA is its capacity to get free from the key constraint.
In the traditional system, any tonality change is extremely burdensome, since there are twelve ways to play the same musical composition. Each key change involves calculations and the rewriting of the score, as well as the scales. As a result, pianists constantly have to rework numerous variants of playing and this only to master basic scales.
This aberrant situation disappears with DODEKA. When using a chromatic scale, the structure of a scale or a musical composition is always the same for the complete range of keys.
With DODEKA, one only has to learn one single major scale to be able to play it in every key. Sequence is always the same. As shown in the illustration below, a composition written in C major can be played in E by simply moving a line away.
As every space between the notes is the same, the construction of the musical playing does not change.
A Clear Transposition
DODEKA’s ability to simplify transposition not only concerns scales, but also applies to chord notations as shown in the following illustrations.
The three-note chord of the C major type corresponds to the intervals shown below. These intervals used in the chromatic scale always form chords with similar harmonies and this is the case no matter what the starting note was.
By moving the position of the fingers of one slot, we create the K chord (C #) presented in the example mentioned on the page above.
The demonstration could be made for the whole stretch of the scale given the fact that this rule applies to every key, to every form of scale, and to every harmonic construction.
With such simplicity, it is possible to read a sheet music in one tonality and play it in another.
The architecture of music
The DODEKA revolutionary system reveals the architecture of music. It sheds light on the real structure of chords, that is, the intervals proper to each different chord. These can then be applied to every key.
In regular scores, spaces between the notes are constantly modified by the alternative position of the notes. The same chord thus has numerous graphical forms.
This illogicality disappears with the DODEKA notation. The graphics of the notes faithfully transcribe the intervals between notes. This allows grasping the geometrical form of the intervals that separate the notes. Since these spaces reflect the reality of sound, it is possible to visually perceive the type of harmony that the group of notes will produce.
For example, the structure of the famous major chord makes two asymmetrical intervals. And surprisingly the sequence of a minor chord of the same tonality makes two asymmetrical intervals as well.
But the gaps within the sequences are dissimilar, in the sense that the minor chord seems to reflect the opposite intervals.
From this perspective, the DODEKA notation enables to grasp the geometrical structures that give “character” to musical chords.
Several chords have asymmetrical structures (major, minor), others have symmetrical intervals (diminished, augmented, m7), and others are made of a group of notes separated by the same intervals.
This graphic vision of music is very interesting and allows revealing the relationship that exist between a group of notes and their capacity to convey impression to the psyche.
Table of main chords with DODEKA (in C)
DODEKA conveys the structural vision of music that the traditional notation had unfortunately hidden. With practice, it is possible to globally grasp the different chords without having to sight-read each note.
To Go Further
The graphical system that the DODEKA system conveys underlines that music is a game of “mathematical” intervals between two axes. The first, the vertical axis, is the one for the notes and the sound frequencies. The other, horizontal, refers to the axis of time and rhythms. DODEKA posits that both axes are governed by the same set of rules, which communicates psychic impressions.
From this perspective, the intervals of a major chord can also be reproduced in a rhythmical (asymmetrical) sequence. Notes and cadenza would be the spaces governed by the same rules and in which we could produce structural constructions that would be appreciated by our brain.
The Rhythmical Notation
Creating a new notational system provided the opportunity to revise the way music tempo was written.
In the traditional method, the length of notes is indicated by graphical particularities. The temporal values of eighth notes (GB: quavers) are indicated by the addition of horizontal bars. This does not simplify the reading and forces the musician to pay attention simultaneously to the position of the note’s round part and to what is above it.
In complex scores, these two visual zones are difficult to decode, even more so because the musician also has to consider the accidentals, which the pitch.
In addition, the traditional system also created the principle of dotted notation, where a dot following a note lengthens its duration of half its value.
With this principle, the dot can represent the duration of an eighth note, of a quarter note (GB: crotchet), or of a half note (GB: minim). Since its value is relative, we have to work out its length as we read. All these elements are not practical and not appropriate, leaving many occasions for errors.
An Explicit Temporal Vision
The objective of the DODEKA method was to find a new rhythmical writing concept that enables to transcribe the temporal vision of music in a clear and practical way.
Logically, the easiest way to indicate the length of a note is to give it a horizontal size proportional to its duration. This is actually the system used in programs of computer notation. At this point, it seems important to remind the reader that DODEKA has been conceived in 1980, long before the advent of musical computer notation.
Less Poetry, More Clarity
This way of writing tempo is obviously less «poetic» than the traditional version, which fills sheet musics with little symbols and embellishes notes.
However, rather than poetry, this notational system seeks clarity. Notes are set according to a clear temporal scale, which allows perceiving directly the length of any note. It is therefore very easy to understand that one must play two-eighth notes during the length of a quarter note.
Moreover, the variable value of the dot disappears and gives way to a precise indication of each time. In practice, one only has to look at a note to simultaneously know its value and its length. Such notation greatly helps the learning of music theory as it clearly underlines the notes’ values and their musical tempo.
A Variable Temporal Scale
In some cases, this linear notation can lengthen sheet musics of large musical sequences with long tempos, like those for orchestras for examples.
To take this aspect into account, the notational system DODEKA provides two solutions. The first one is to compress the length of long notes in half notes. By doing so, the notes’ lengths are reduced and their tempos are doubled. The second solution consists in indicating a change of tempo on sheet musics. The annotation temporarily redefines the notes’ temporal values. Such annotation allows, for example, changing the length of half notes in that of eighth notes.
Amusingly, the manner in which DODEKA writes music can be found in certain interfaces of musical computer programs. In 1980, when this new structure was created, musical computing was taking its first steps and there was no existing way to display scores.
Later on, technology has allowed to use computers as “sequencers”. In this kind of software the position and the value of each note must enable to indicate the pitch of the note and its temporal length. This condition brought several programmers to present the notation on a grid with a chromatic base.
The correspondences between DODEKA and the interfaces of modern musical programs shows that this new notation mirrors the physical reality of music, allowing to write music with more clarity.
Later on, technology allowed using computers as sequencers for composing music. In this kind of program the position and the value of each note indicate the pitch of the note, as well as its temporal length. This condition brought several programmers to present the notation on a grid based on a chromatic base.
The correspondence between DODEKA notation and the interface of modern musical programs shows that this new writing mirrors the physical reality of music and presents music with more clarity.
'Bourrées', Johann Sebastian Bach
This sheet music is a transcription in the DODEKA language of a short composition entitled “Bourrées” from the composer, Johann Sebastian Bach. The composition contains several “forgotten” notes that go past the usual C major scale.
In the traditional method, accidentals, such as sharps and flats, would have to be used to make sense of those forgotten notes. By contrast, in the DODEKA transcription, the sheet music is devoid of any accidentals and the positions of the notes are clearly indicated.
Such graphics make the sound spaces of the melody easily identifiable. Even novice musicians would be able to easily play this short composition on a DODEKA keyboard.
DODEKA notation for visually impaired individual
DODEKA has developed an alternative notation - the DODEKA touch notation - intended to blind and/or visually impaired individuals. Further information about the DODEKA touch notation is available here.
Note for experts - DODEKA has the ability to define tonality with great accuracy. Learn how here.
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