Make Your Own Music Notation - Lesson

Music Notation

You may be familiar with music notation that looks like this:


This type of music notation has been around since the 11th century, when music theorists and teachers, such as Guido of Arezzo, began to develop the system of stave notation (notation using lines).

The aim was to help musicians learn and remember songs more accurately and also to help to preserve songs for future generations. As this type of music notation developed through the centuries, it allowed for more complicated forms of music to be imagined and performed.

Composers began using musical notation to create music of incredible levels of complexity and sophistication. Using musical notation allowed them to give instructions to musicians of exactly what to play, when to play it and how to play it.

This system of musical notation was used by composers to create incredible music, from the choral music of 14th century France ...

... to the huge orchestras of the classical and romantic eras ...

... to contemporary composers working with traditional notation.....

Graphic Notation

Music notation has changed to suit the music being made throughout the centuries and, in turn, music has been influenced by the type of notation available to the composer.

A number of composers in the 1950s began to experiment with alternative types of musical notation to facilitate their expanding world of new sounds, instruments and performance techniques.

Composers such as John CageCornelius Cardew and Morton Feldman began to experiment with new forms of notation that challenged the tradition methods of composing and performing music.

Watch this short video all about music notation and how we can make our own!


Follow the instructions and play the listening game below. This is the hardest of the listening exercises. The instruments are all mixed up!


Using the voice, or any instruments you have, perform the symbols in sequence or have one person perform and the others conduct by pointing at the screen.

We have looked at some different forms of graphic notation and learned how to use them in sequences to make music. Now it's time to make your own graphic notation.

Using shapes, words, pictures or symbols:

  • Draw a loud sound
  • Draw a quiet sound
  • Draw a long sound
  • Draw a short sound

Now try to make these sounds with your voice. Next, try to make these sounds with simple instruments. You can then use your new musical notation to make a piece of music.

Fill your notation into one of the worksheets attached to create a Graphic Score!

Perform from left to right, or with one person conducting.