History of the Musical Staff, the Do-Re-Mi notes, and the Clefs

About 1000AD, Guido of Arezzo printed a four line staff on which to indicate the pitch of six notes within the octave, using the hymn to John the Baptist as a basis for their names: Ut, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La.

"Ut" was changed in the 1600s in Italy to the open syllable "Do", at the suggestion of the musicologue Giovanni Battista Doni, and Si – from the initials for "Sancte Iohannes" or St John – was added shortly after to complete the diatonic scale. In the west today it is referred to as the "Solfège" system. A similar system developed in India, also in other cultures in the east.

In Norwich England, Si was changed to Ti by Sarah Glover in an instructional book published in 1835, so that every syllable might begin with a different letter.
Finally, in the Sound of Music in 1959 Julie Andrews sang that famous "Do-Re-Mi" song, written for the musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Seven clefs (keys)

The Treble, Violin or G clef for high notes, the Bass or F clef for low notes, and Five C clefs in the middle. Note, the word "clef" comes from the Latin word "clavus" meaning a "key".


Image from ultimatemusictheory.com

The following extract is from makingmusicmag.com

To indicate the pitch and order of notes on a staff, the clef was invented. Three clefs exist for the tones G, F, and C. Hence their names – G-clef, F-clef, and C-clef – and shapes, which are an elaborate version of each letter. Where each clef is written also indicates its tone. The G-clef, or treble clef, curls around the G line in a treble staff, whereas the two dots of the F-clef, or the bass clef, are bisected by the F line. The C-clef (today) is used in two positions and therefore has two names. When it’s an alto clef, the note C is on the staff’s third line; when it’s a tenor clef, the C is on the fourth line.
In music that predates the eighteenth century, many more clefs can be found. Or rather, the three basic clefs were repositioned to indicate a different staff and order of notes.
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Note too that before the printing press in 1453, the treble and bass clefs took on various shapes, afterwards they became standardized with the shapes we know today.

History of "beats to the bar"

About 1320, the Maxima, the Longa, the Brevis, the Semibrevis and the Minima note shapes were invented, attributed to Johannes de Muris, a canon of the Paris Cathedral. They were all black, but with the proliferation of white paper and black printing, they became white. Note too, musical notes like the breve, the semibreve, and minim, were played much more quickly back then than they are today.

LatinNotes and RestAussie (British) EnglishUS EnglishGerman/AustriaFrenchItalianSpanish
MaximaNo Longer in Use
LongaNo Longer in Use
BrevisBreveDouble Whole NoteDoppelganzenoteCarréeBreveBreve
Semibrevis SemibreveWhole NoteGanzenote
Dutch: Helenoot
RondeSemibreveRedonda
Minima
(circa 1450)
MinimHalf NoteHalbenoteBlanche White noteMinimaBlanca
Semiminima
(circa 1450)
Crotchet
originally known as a (Black) Minim, in 1600s became a Greater Half-Minim or (New) Crotchet
Quarter NoteViertelnote
Dutch: Kwartnoot
Noire Black noteSemiminimaNegra
Fusa
Spanish 1/32nd
Quaver
initially known as a Half-Minim or Crotchet, from c.1560 became a Quaver
Eighth NoteAchtelnoteCroche
meaning a hook placed on a Black Note
Croma
initially red notes
Corchea
Semifusa
Spanish 1/64th
SemiQuaverSixteenth NoteSechzehntelnoteDouble CrocheSemicromaSemicorchea

Time Signatures, Bar Lines and Rhythm

In the 1600s, Time Signatures as we know them today, and Bar Lines arrive

Frequently encountered types of metre

  1. Quadruple Metre (or 4
    4
    time) means 4 beats in the bar, and the quarter note gets one beat
    Typical metre of most 20th & 21st Century popular music including Jazz, Rap, and Rock'n'Roll which accentuates the backbeat

    Click here for the Wikipedia article on Beat (music) that includes simple definitions on

  2. Triple metre as in waltz music (3
    4
    time) also 9
    8
    time means 3 beats in the bar

    Prior to 1600 it was called "Perfect Time" and used a complete circle as its mensuration (time signature) sign
     

  3. Duple metre (2
    2
    2
    4
    6
    8
    time) means 2 beats in the bar

    Typical metre of much popular music prior to the 20th Century e.g. Gilbert and Sullivan
    Prior to 1600 it was called Imperfect Time which used a semi-circle as its mensuration sign
    Today represents 4
    4
    time with that "C" now short for "Common Time"

    An associated time signature with a vertical line through it represents 2
    2
    time, also known as "Cut Time"

    Prior to 1600 it was called "alla breve" or "tempus imperfectum diminutum" – to be played twice as fast as normal Imperfect Time
     

  4. Simple metre is where each beat can be broken naturally into two equal parts, not three (e.g. 2
    2
    2
    4
    3
    4
    4
    4
    and even 5
    4
    time)
  5. Compound metre is where the beat divides naturally into three equal parts (e.g. 6
    8
    9
    8
    12
    8
    time)

Click here for more details on history prior to 1600

The following remarks are extracted from quora.com
What-is-the-difference-between-4-4-time-and-2-2-time-and-how-does-this-affect-the-music?

Rob Weir, Classical music radio host 1989-1991
4
4
tends to have a secondary accent on the 3rd beat, along with the primary accent on the 1st beat. 2
2
would only have the primary accent.
 
Simon Parker, Engineer, Dad, Musician, Beginner Composer
Upvoted by Ethan Hein, music technology and music education professor

 
Expanding slightly on Rob's spot on answer:
 
It's all in the emphasis on the beats.
 
As a rule of thumb:
Quadruple time: e.g. 4
4
12
8
is Strong - Weak - Medium - Weak
 
Duple time: e.g. 2
4
2
2
6
8
is Strong - Weak
 
Triple time: e.g. 3
4
9
8
is Strong - Weak - Weak
 
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