Foundational Ideas of FiddleQuest

Music notation…a brief history

Music notation is use of symbols to tell musicians what notes to play and how to play them.

There are examples of notation dating back over a thousand years, but the modern form that we are most familiar with — the 5 lined staff — developed just a few hundred years ago.

It was developed and employed by the Catholic Church as a way to standardize and control the music that was being played in the church’s far flung locations.

When the printing press became involved, the power to disperse music at a relatively low cost must have been a very exciting prospect for composers.

They may not have used the expression, but early composers must have been thinking about the ability to ‘scale’ their work.


it is important to remember that music existed long before notation came along. And music is enjoyed by the vast majority of the world without notation.

Notation was a great invention. It is a tool. But notation is not ‘music’.

The calculator is great invention. It is a tool. But the calculator is not ‘math’.