Use Shape Notes for Accidentals

Added 23 Sep 2010 (last updated 07 Mar 2014)

For use with Sibelius 6, Sibelius 7.1, Sibelius 7.5, Sibelius 8.x and Sibelius 18.x

Michael Israelian is a piano teacher in a musical college, and he says:

"During seven years of my work I found that many of my students encountered difficulties with sight-reading. About a year ago, after thinking hard over the problem, it dawned on me that it would be much easier to achieve good sight-reading using shaped noteheads instead of accidentals. I experimented with my students using my own system of five shape notes and the results exceeded all my expectations. Now it took considerably less practicing to attain good results than it took when using usual notation. I use five notehead shapes and no accidentals at all. Sharp notes are represented by a triangle, flats by an inverted triangle, double sharps a cross (ornate), double flats a diamond, and naturals a normal notehead.

"Though it takes a day or two for experienced musicians to get relaxed about the accidentals and use this system, the advantages of using shapes are obvious. First of all, the score looks clearer without accidentals. Secondly, each chord or passage obtains its unique appearance now, and you can remember them photographically just like a word or a phrase in a text. You don't have to calculate during sight-reading, i.e. to keep in mind the Key Signature and the previous accidentals in the bar. The chord (or passage) is written just is it must sound.

"Let's take the diatonic triad C-E-G for example. In C major key it will represent the chord C. In D major key it will be C#m-5. In A major it will be C#m and so on. Now imagine that this triad is somewhere at the end of a bar and there are some accidentals in the beginning of the bar and you will get some more combinations. Using the shape note system every different chord will look different.

"This plug-in hides the accidentals to retain the correct playback, and changes the shapes of the notes correspondingly. It can't deal with quarter tones, but I think that's not a problem as long as the piano is considered. As for me, I use this system in playing the guitar and the recorder as well.

"After transposing or adding notes to the score you will have to re-run this plug-in, as the shapes may not correspond to the accidentals."

Plug-in written by Michael Israelian.