Adapted t-stick notation (prompt score)

Aspects of traditional music notation (see an example for the t-stick, below), may be adapted for the purpose of creating what I call a ‘prompt score’. This type of notation for the t-stick directs the performer toward a sequence of gestures via a set of symbols that vary quite dramatically in their levels of abstraction.  The instructions in the score range from literal prompts (e.g., shake) to pictorial depiction and standard music notation symbols (see the one-page example illustrated here).

While performing, the prompt score appears as a downward scrolling on-screen graphic that is positioned next to the standard t-stick interface window. The animation of this graphic is controlled by Max/MSP.  A vertical scrolling display – music notation is normally read from left to right, but not in this case – was chosen for two reasons.  First, because the size and lay-out of the t-stick interface window commands two thirds of the laptop screen, only a thin vertical space on the screen is available for the prompt score.  Second, and more importantly, I believe that the full-body movement required to play the t-stick can be better depicted by a score lay-out that, in itself, may more accurately enclose the geometry of the performer’s body. In other words, it is easier to show an image of a standing human form in a vertical window space than in a horizontal – perhaps physically reclining – window.  In addition, I was influenced by the study of Laban dance notation, which also uses a vertically distributed notation system.

To facilitate t-stick notation in this fashion I have included a downloadable package ( or see Software Downloads, on the right) containing templates for OmniGraffle, Word, Pages, Finale and basic JPG files that can be used with any graphics editing software.  I have also included an additional Finale document containing many of the standard music notation symbols used in previous prompt scores. Typically, I create and then export these symbols from Finale, using them in OmniGraffle to assemble the final score.

If you like this way of notating, but you want to use another application, please use a page size of:

405 X 800 (pixels)
=  14.29 X 28.22 (cm)
=  5.626 X 11.11 (inch)

In addition, remember to lay out your symbols and graphics from top to bottom and that each page must be placed ‘below’ the previous page (read from top to bottom). The final version of your score must be an image file that is readable by Max/MSP and also a simple text document containing the time cues for each page.  The time cues should represent the ‘running’ time of the piece (i.e., cumulative time).  Do not concern yourself too much with the formatting of this text document.  However, the following format would be useful:

1, 1 scrollwork_page;
123, 2 scrollwork_page;
137, 3 scrollwork_page;

The first number of each line represents the cumulative time (e.g., 123 = 1 minute, 23 seconds).  The number before “scrollwork_page” is your page number.


About dndrew

Orchestral, chamber and interactive music composer Digital musical instrumentalist Real-time software systems designer Computer music educator
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