About MIW

This page provides information about
  the notation versions, instructional materials and
sheet music presented on the site.


The MUSIC INNOVATORS WORKSHOP (MIW) is a musical research and development project. It was founded in 1998 by a retired industrial engineering educator with a degree in music to explore the possibilities of making the PIANO (and all keyboard instruments) EASIER TO LEARN AND PLAY. The focus of this research is on developing versions of music notation that are easier to learn and read, and with the help of these easier versions, make the piano (and other keyboard instruments) easier to learn and play.

One of the main objectives underlying this research is to reduce the high levels of stress experienced by many students when learning how to play the keyboard. STRESS REDUCTION has become one of the main focal points for our research. Another key objective recognizes that sheet music is a WORTHY ART FORM in its own right. Great care is taken in the development of our notational versions to bring out their visual beauty in color and form.

The years have passed and thousands of hours of research and development have taken place. Scores of students have used and tested the experimental notations during the development process and have greatly influenced the results. These research and development efforts continue.

Many notational systems have been reviewed and others developed. Over the years we have SELECTED SEVERAL OF THE BEST of these for further development. We have now arranged several hundred pieces of music from the public domain using these selected notations. We also have developed four series of piano lesson materials based on these notations. These materials make learning the keyboard, easier, faster, and  less stressful than having to learn to play from traditional notation from the beginning of instruction.

Our Take on Traditional Notation - Traditional notation was developed by composers so that they could record their compositions for themselves and others. It needed to be compact, workable, and easy to write down. Indeed, it reaches these goals very well. It is one of  marvels of civilization and greatly to be treasured.  It needs to be preserved, but it also needs to be supplemented with more-readable versions, as with the versions we have been developing.

Our versions are presented with the GREATEST OF RESPECT for the marvel of traditional notation. It is an essential tool for musicians playing the classics and for many others as well. We understand that for many musicians, an important goal is to be able to read and play from traditional notation with ease and skill. We also believe that lessons based on our versions of the notation PROVIDE A DIRECT AND EFFECTIVE PATH toward that goal. We hope and expect that many who make use of our versions will ultimately LEARN TO READ AND PLAY FROM TRADITIONAL NOTATION.

The Graphical User Interface - A large part of the success of our keyboard versions can be attributed to the fact that they provide a "graphical user interface" for the keyboard - similar in concept to the WINDOWS software now used in computers and other electronic devices. With this concept, one points to an object on the computer screen (using a "mouse" device) to make the computer carry out a desired action described on the screen. Similarly, one can see a note on one of our key maps that marks the location of a key on the keyboard and simultaneously press (play) the visualized key on the keyboard - a one to one relationship.

Our key maps are diagrams of where you place your fingers on the keyboard. They do exactly the same thing for the musical keyboard as Windows does for the computer. A key diagram provides a "graphical user interface" for the musical keyboard. Our key maps don't mean "instant piano" any more than Windows means "instant computing." One must put some effort into learning how the keyboard works. But learning to play from key maps is VASTLY easier and faster than learning to read the musical code called "traditional notation."

Progressive Nature of the Notation Versions  Our Notation comes in three basic versions; Key DiagramsKey Maps, and RT Grand Staff (Reader's version of the traditional grand staff on a Timeline).  These versions are progressive in nature.  The Key Diagrams are the easiest to learn and are suitable for notating songs and other simple melodies. The Key Maps are also easy to learn and read, but also are suitable for notating a broad variety of  advanced pieces and are more compact on the page. The RT Grand Staff notation introduces the traditional grand staff in a version that that is much easier to learn than the standard version of this notation. After learning to read this notation, a student can progress to reading the traditional grand staff notation with a minimum of additional effort. Thus, students progress through all of these versions as their playing and reading skills develop over time.

 Because key diagrams and maps are the easiest to learn and read, they are the most suitable for beginners, though the key maps are also suitable for notating advanced pieces. The RT Grand Staff  versions are called READER'S VERSIONS because they are versions of the grand staff that we have modified to make more READER FRIENDLY - easier to learn, easier to read.

KEY DIAGRAMS AND MAPS are notated on vertical staves derived from the 5 black keys of each octave group (from C up to B) of the keyboard. This type of notation is sometimes referred to as "piano roll notation" because of its resemblance to the music rolls of the old-fashioned player pianos, with their punched holes for the keys to be played. Beginners learn to match the keys on the keyboard with their notes on the key maps with very little effort.

The pitch of the music in the RT Grand Staff version is indicated on the grand staff, which is the traditional notation using the treble and bass clefs. Our reader's versions show the identities of all sharped and flatted notes with color coding (gray and black). This is a huge help to pianists who have not yet mastered the very complicated traditional notation coding of the sharp and flat keys. In fact, with the reader's version, it is unnecessary to learn to read this complicated code. It is well known that many pianists stop taking lessons long before they have mastered this key signature coding.

About Learning to Play the Keyboard - Learning to play the keyboard is difficult and full of challenges - physical, mental, and emotional. Learning to read and play the keyboard from traditional notation is also difficult and full of challenges.  We have seen over and over again that these COMBINED CHALLENGES are just too much for many students. Hence, the enormous dropout rate for piano students.

Learning to play the keyboard while AT THE SAME TIME learning to read traditional notation is just too much of a challenge for many students! If the goal is to learn to play from traditional notation, it can be postponed until the student has gained a reasonable amount skill at PLAYING the keyboard. This can be done effectively by progressively learning to play through the instructional materials based on the KD, the KM, and the RT notation versions. 

About the Learning Series - Our four learning series are focused on beginning through intermediate levels of study and playing. This encompasses two to four years of study for the average student. Our instructional materials do not cover advanced levels of study, as we expect the advanced levels of study to be accomplished using traditional notation. (On the other hand, we have not hesitated to provide versions of advanced pieces in our collections.)

As with most keyboard instruction, these series should be used with the help of a COMPETENT TEACHER or coach. Our instructional materials provide a lot of detail, lots of exercises, and graded pieces to play - but they simply don't do the job by themselves. We encourage anyone using these materials to find a competent teacher or coach for guidance through the very long process of becoming a well educated pianist. Link: LEARNING Series

Sheet Music Collections and Pieces - A large part of our development effort has gone into notating public domain musical collections and individual pieces, using the versions of notation that we consider most useful. These pieces demonstrate the viability of the notational versions as well as provide playable versions of a great variety of wonderful musical literature. Click on the following link to access this sheet music: Pieces on Key Maps