Toneme System


This is a complete system for:
  • singing and conceptualising music
  • writing music on paper

Over the next few months I will provide a written form. You can find a basic layout on my old site which I am gradually pulling across. For now, I will focus on the first aspect.

12 Base tonemes

The current western musical system is based on a seven note diatonic scale.
The piano can coherently represent any musical expression.
The modern piano comprises 12 distinct notes.
Therefore, at the root of Toneme System, these 12 notes are each represented by a unique colour, consonant phoneme and symbol (symbols coming).





Formal definition

Each Toneme is a Shepard Tone representing one of the 12 pitch-classes found on a modern piano (12-TET tuning <-- CLICK THAT LINK it is a good one!)
PianoKeys.png

Piano Note
Toneme (IPA)
ASCII(*)
Sound
Color (RGB)
C
d


246, 0, 21
C# / Db
b


180, 0, 28
D
r (berro)

rr in 'berro'
237, 129, 0
D# / Eb
ŋ
N
ng in 'hang'
239, 222, 0
E
m


147, 186, 0
F
v


80, 215, 50
F# / Ab
ʃ
s
sh in 'ship'
0, 148, 67
G
z


0, 171, 189
G# / Ab
h


0, 100, 196
A
l


125, 81, 193
A# / Bb
k


189, 81, 172
B
t


245, 93, 134

(* ASCII phonetic representations taken from X-SAMPA, only written where different from IPA)

NOTE: phonemes are chosen so as to be as far distinct from one another as possible.
  • If I have a 'b' I will not also use 'p', because phonetically these are very close: p is 'plosive' whereas 'b' is 'non-plosive'. Put your hand to your mouth and say 'p p p, b b b' and notice everything is identical only the 'p' is pushing out air and 'b' is not. also I have 'k' not 'g'. I do use both 't' and 'd' though!!! This will have to be re-evaluated.

  • If I have 'v' I will not have 'f', seeing as they are the same sound, only 'v' is voiced and 'f' is not. Put your hand to your voice box and make a long 'fffvvfffvv' -- you will see the only difference is whether the voice box is active.

NOTE: Notice that C D E F G A B I have kept as close as possible to the consonants of 'Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti'. I have simply moved f -> v and s -> z. ie I have moved unvoiced to voiced. Otherwise it is the same sound.



12 vowel tonemes to represent scale degree

TonemeVowelsForScalePos.png

... gives the position with respect to the tonal centre.


#
Degree
SolFa
IPA
ASCII
as in...
0
tonic
Do
a
A
bar
1


ai
Ai
bye
2
super tonic
Re
ɛ
E
bear
3


ɛi
Ei
bay
4
mediant
Mi
i
i
bee
5
sub dominant
Fa
ɔ
O
bore
6


ɔi
Oi
boy
7
dominant
So
u
u
boo
8


ui
ui
booy
9
submediant
La
œ
3
burn
10


œi
3i
beui
11
leading note
Ti
I
I
beer

NOTE: I am choosing to use diphthongs rather than find 12 distinct Vowel sounds -- this is because many languages such as Spanish do not differentiate between more than 5 vowel sounds -- to stretch to 12 would be an unnecessary burden

NOTE: Notice the first five notes of the scale go A E i O u. This will make it easier to remember. a e i o u are the five vowel sounds in Spanish, and the five vowel letters in English. Many other languages also adopt this ordering.


Putting it together... 144 possible toneme-pairs


( TECH NOTE: if you are music theory savvy, you may question what happens if I play a melody in C#, and then modulate many times until I reach Db. of course this would sound the same on a piano keyboard, but on a violin it wouldn't. refer to this page for the details. ANSWER: for a start, it will be obvious from context -- the musician will be aware he has traversed through the wheel, so the context will imply that the second time he has reached Db. Notice that my system doesn't seek to specify the exact pitch of each note played. any system that does will run into trouble. The same toneme will represent C# and Db as well as B##, Ebbb etc, if the musician is playing a non-fixed pitch instrument, they will be responsible for finding the exact pitch. )

the great Solfege debate

if you have watched ' the sound of music ' you will remember the 'Do Re Mi' song.

this song is genius. harmonically it is a self describing song. the only other I'm aware of is Leonard Cohen's hallelujah. Evelyn Fletcher-Copp would have approved. back on topic, Maria is using relative Solfege; 'Do' represents the first note of the scale; it is relative to the tonal centre. but some countries use fixed Solfege; ie 'Do' always represents the note 'C'.

the debate over which should prevail has run for centuries. Toneme system incorporates both fixed and relative simultaneously. moreover, Toneme System encompasses the full 12 tone chromatic scale.

(OBJECTION: but... that makes 144 combinations, that sounds a bit heavy? answer: you have to be kidding me. if you want heavy, look at the conventional system from musical representation.)

Technical / music theory note
Notice that while a violin can successfully play conventionally notated music, ie it can hit each note spot-on, it can find that subtle pitch discrepancy between F# and Gb, the keyboard instrument cannot -- a piano can only approximate. (that black note between F and G is somewhere in between F# and Gb. but don't think the black notes are a compromise and the white notes are not. EVERYTHING is a compromise. that's what 12-TET is!) yet a musician with a reasonable degree of skill could listen to the piano rendition and reconstruct faithfully the original score.

ie the full musical meaning / information can be inferred from the piano notes

Toneme system works the same way. It just represents the piano notes, and it is up to the musician to infer the full musical meaning.

This is a good thing in many ways. For a start it makes the system infinitely simpler. It works with 12+12 root symbols, instead of infinitely many. it achieves simultaneously an absolute and relative representation.

The existing system fails to give a good working representation. It is practically impossible to achieve fluency with the existing system. I speculate that anyone who attains musical fluency does this in spite of the system, rather than through it. Or completely without it, as per this girl.

Look at the origins of the existing musical system. it has emerged from the diatonic scale. Notation emerged from the plainsong of the Gregorian monks. The introduction of 12-TET offers a completely new framework, but nobody seems to have built a musical theory around this tuning.

that's what I'm doing. this is what the theory is in physics. You have a set of phenomena, and you look for some mathematical pattern that is suitable for describing these phenomena. the theory is never the reality. no physicist becomes enlightened through his theories, but that is not the aim. that is not the purpose of the theory. through the theory he is able to build aeroplanes, generate electricity, cure dandruff.

similarly a good musical theoretical basis should assist the musician, give him all the tools he needs ( or her, is there a single language that does not fail on this point? is there a single living language that refers to a person directly to their being, beyond gender? this would be an important word to add to the English language. ) for creating music.


Written Notation

existing musical notation uses 2 staves -- treble clef and bass clef
it is extremely useless for expressing modern music. Try to play Chopin, and you will find yourself counting ledger lines like there is no tomorrow. try playing Rachmaninov, and you will find yourself in forests of sharps and flats and natural signs.
My written notation will mirror the piano keyboard. horizontal black lines will represent the black keys, and the gaps between them the white notes.
I will put out some artwork for this fairly soon, but it is very obvious stuff.

in the meanwhile, this will give some idea:
MIDI MAP