Audio: pitched rhythm (0:08)
pitched rhythm plays a rhythm on unpitched percussion instruments followed by the same rhythm on a pitched percussion instrument, the glockenspiel. The pitched rhythm figure shows percussion notation in the top part of the score and staff notation in the bottom two parts.
The similarities and differences between pitched and unpitched rhythm can be explained by comparing percussion notation with staff notation.
Both notation systems bear a marked resemblance to each other, and so they should, they have been designed that way and they have the same purpose, to provide information. Both include a staff with five lines, a time signature, bar lines, and the horizontal placement of a beat or note on the score indicates when it is to be sounded.
The main difference between the two notation systems is that percussion notation displays information about beats whereas staff notation displays information about notes, specifically their pitch and value.
Vertical placement of a note on a staff provides precise information about its pitch. Vertical placement of a beat in percussion notation only provides an approximate idea of pitch because a beat is an unpitched sound. This difference is reflected in the clef. A neutral clef is used in percussion notation, a treble clef and a bass clef in staff notation.
Staff notation includes two staves. The treble clef shows high frequency notes, the bass clef shows low frequency notes. Middle frequency notes can be shown in either staff. The classic example of a middle frequency note is middle C, the final note in the bass part of pitched rhythm. Middle C can be notated in either staff.
One other interesting difference between the two notations is that percussion notation provides information about the instrument to be played, staff notation does not. Sometimes this comes as a surprise because staff notation is often associated with piano music. Yet staff notation is meant to played by any instrument. Music that is intended for a specific instrument is notated by adding text to the score showing the name of that instrument.