Augmenting Music Sheets with Harmonic Fingerprints

Common Music Notation (CMN) is the well-established foundation for the written communication of musical information, such as rhythm or harmony. CMN suffers from the complexity of its visual encoding and the need for extensive training to acquire proficiency and legibility. While alternative notations using additional visual variables (e.g., color to improve pitch identification) have been proposed, the community does not readily accept notation systems that vary widely from the CMN.

Therefore, to support student musicians in understanding harmonic relationships, instead of replacing the CMN, we present a visualization technique that augments digital sheet music with a harmonic fingerprint glyph. Our design exploits the circle of fifths, a fundamental concept in music theory, as visual metaphor. By attaching such glyphs to each bar of a composition we provide additional information about the salient harmonic features available in a musical piece.

We conducted a user study to analyze the performance of experts and non-experts in an identification and comparison task of recurring patterns. The evaluation shows that the harmonic fingerprint supports these tasks without the need for close-reading, as when compared to a not-annotated music sheet.

  author    = {Matthias Miller and
               Alexandra Bonnici and
               Mennatallah El{-}Assady},
  title     = {Augmenting Music Sheets with Harmonic Fingerprints},
  booktitle = {Proceedings of the {ACM} Symposium on Document Engineering},
  pages     = {1--10},
  publisher = {{ACM}},
  year      = {2019},
  doi       = {10.1145/3342558.3345395}