What is notation?

Write down your music so you can remember it

Notation is just writing music down so players can easily read the pitch and duration of the notes they are supposed to play.

It comes in many different forms. Rhythm notation is used for drums and other percussion instruments.

In Western notation notes are drawn on a stave, which is a set of lines. The notes can sit on the line or in the gap between them. Western orchestras will all play to this form of notation.

If you play guitar or bass guitar, you may have come across guitar tablature (tabs). Rather than notes on a stave, it uses numbers on a line representing the strings to indicate which fret your fingers need to be on to play the note or chord.

Notation is used to write down music. It's essential if you want to remember it or have other musicians play it.

You might recognise the piece that Bach was playing on his guitar. Watch James May introduce a more traditional performance of Bach's most famous piece.

This performance of Tocatta & Fugue in D minor is from the Ten Pieces II film.

Bach and the band in a computer game