Today's Google Doodle Is a Game That Teaches Music Theory

Apparently it’s Beethoven’s 245th birthday, (I know! It totally slipped my mind too!) and the new Google Doodle is a a fun minigame that sneakily teaches you a little basic music theory. The old adage is that music is the space between the notes, and it helps if you keep that in mind. Also, I didn’t realize I could play a sample of the music until the last stage, and I thought it was a little more fun that way.



well, i got the 5th and 9th after some deliberation. Fur Elise gave me some trouble, i had to cheat a bit. Moonlight sonata i got mostly but had two adjacent pages switched at first.

the last page always had the staffs drawn closed, so that ruined the challenge a bit.

i really am a baby when it comes to understanding sheet music ;-;
when it comes to voice, tho, i’m pretty sure i’ve got relative pitch and a decent range, my whistling is even better. not entirely native, though. i’ve fiddled with learning favorites for years and shaping my voice to the right notes. never could reconcile it with the notation, though.


I actually have this crazy theory that maybe the way we write music is suboptimal and actually makes music harder to understand. I’ve resisted learning to read guitar and harp tabs, because I want to be able to play guitar and harmonica fluidly from sheet music. Still, I feel like tabulature, for all it’s flaws, is a lot easier to read. I know because despite avoiding it like the plague, I still can read it by accident at a glance. But then again tabulature is very specific and can leave a lot out. I dunno. Activating the @Japhroaig signal.


Tablature is interesting, and like you say even if you don’t study the forms it remains accessible.

The critique about standard notation not being very efficient? Well, it isn’t. But you can notate for everything from pipe organs, to symphonic scores, to tablas, to theremin. What it lacks in efficiency it makes up for in features.

I was in an argument awhile back where I said, “fuck scales, just play”. It really was a bit tongue in cheek, but I personally never want to see someone not play because notation or theory is too obtuse. Cause it is obtuse.

But here is the secret. After you’ve slogged through scale after scale, chord after chord, arpeggio after arpeggio… You stop reading notes almost entirely. You read structures. It is an insane feeling when you start doing it, but it is fundamentally how people sight read at 160bpm.

Notation gives away to contours, curves, textures, and this is where it becomes sublime. This is where efficiency kicks in, because it is only meant to be read atomically as a first step. The next steps in notation readinh are where it gets almost mind blowing. And then you start automatically transposing shit in hour head real time without practice cause it is all the same!!

Can I still sight read? Eh, a little. Mostly on penny whistle. Do i play lead on guitar? No way. It goes away (at least for me) fast. But I have very fond memories.


A couple of people I went to school with could read and temporarily memorize almost a page ahead. They were scary. And while for a bit I had ‘learned pitch’ (similar to perfect, but, well, learned and far from perfect) one woman in school had startlingly good perfect pitch. She was a vocalist and would always punk people at her recitals by starting on an unaccompanied note without warmup, which was perfectly in tune with the specific piano in the room.

I wonder whatever happened to her and if she is still a fundamentalist…

Edit #2
About the vocalist: all of us, “fuck you!!”. Her, "grins not until I’m married!’


I wonder if @PatRx2 has any thoughts or ruminations? He is certainly a better musician than I.

Better musician? It depends on what you’re doing - music is a big place. I haven’t done any serious playing for decades now, and I doubt I’d play anywhere near as well as I did back in the day. I have become a specialist, I suppose.

I don’t see any reason to disagree with what you say. Standard notation is inefficient, except that it is much less so than any of the alternatives. Tablature has the problem not only of being specific to an instrument, but often of being specific to the instrument’s gestures. Lute and guitar tablatures, for instance, show you where to fret and where to pick. (Not all work like this - older organ tab was stave-based.)

I bring up these characteristics up because these tablatures show you how to play the piece, but they don’t really show you what you’re playing, and that can impede your understanding of the piece, which can lead to less-than-optimal interpretation.

Consider a somewhat polyphonic lute piece (the literature is chock-a-block with 'em). Lute tablature works pretty much the same way as guitar tab - the lines represent the strings, the numbers or letters (depending on whose tradition) show what is fretted, and the stems and flags atop the “stave” above the fret numbers show you the rhythm to be employed. If a motif is deployed, then later transposed, you may have a helluva time seeing it because the fretting might be completely different, and the composite rhythm of the passage (which is what the stems and flags show) might be different as well.

This kind of motivic imitation, however, fairly leaps to the eye in standard notation if the composer has notated the music clearly:

From Froberger’s Ricercar I. I used this at to illustrate a point about unisons in keyboard music, hence the red notes. The points of imitation are in blue and green. (I missed the quaver (eighth note) figure in the tenor across the system break.) Notice how, even if I hadn’t coloured the notes, those motifs would have leapt to the eye anyway.

This is what standard notation does that tablature can’t do anywhere near as well: show the structure of music, the individual lines, each with its own contour and rhythm. A good performer will certainly take these into account.


Speaking of Beethoven, I had forgotten I had this (courtesy of my friend Lore). Do check out the “programme notes”. :smile:


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