Trompette Format

Brainstorming on text formats for notating trompette rhythms which are human- and machine-readable.

Background + Context

The trompette is a string found on the Hurdy Gurdy — most gurdies have one, I’d estimate the mean is 1.75, with the max (AFAIK) of 4 on one of Simon Wascher’s Weichselbaumer Altos (photo). Most often tuned to C, D or G, it has a small pivoting bridge which, properly set-up and regulated, allows the musician to augment his/her playing with buzzing by accelerating the speed of the wheel.

Whilst the buzzing can be used a-rhythmically, more often it is used to accentuate the rhythm of a piece.

Existing Formats

See Trompette Format Research for my documentation of existing notation, both on the web and in real life.

Use Cases

Why do I want to create this format? Having a simple but well-documented format for representing buzzing patterns has the following benefits:

  • Standardises the way I notate rhythm, meaning less effort trying to understand old, vaguely-notated tunes
  • Allows rhythms to be posted, shared and exchanged on the web in a well-known and documented format
  • Allows computerised automation/visualisation/analytics, etc. E.G:
    • Represent the buzzing patterns alongside sheet music
    • Visualise buzzing patterns in alternative, interesting ways
    • Programatically analyse common patterns

Why Not SMN?

  • SMN doesn’t tell you where in the rotation the buzz should take place
    • Which is potentially a good thing in theory but for learning, knowing the intended position is fairly vital
  • SMN is time-consuming to draw
  • SMN is time-consuming to learn
  • SMN is difficult to represent on the web without the use of heavy formats like MusicXML, pitch-based formats like ABC or overly-verbose formats like TinyNotation


After discussing the topic with several of the attendees and tutors at Halsway Gurdy Weekend 2013-02, I’ve settled on the following format as a prototype and am going to start using it to see it meets my needs:
  • Use the numbers 1-4 to represent a buzz on each of the four points of the Coup de Catré.
  • Appending a dash (-, – or —) indicates a long buzz (and successively more dashes for even longer ones)
  • Appending a dot (.) indicates a particularly short buzz
  • Spaces and barlines (|) may be inserted as required to add clarity. They probably shouldn’t be parsed by machines unless some really clear usage patterns emerge
  • Coup de une: 1 | 1 | 1 | 1
  • Coup de Catré: 1234 1234
  • One of Steve Tyler’s patterns: 1-- 3. 4- 23
  • One of Gregory Jolivet’s patterns: 1413 1413 1234 1234 1234 13
Potential problems:
  • The character 1 and the vertical barline are visually ambiguous, especially in contexts where the typeface is not predictable (I.E. the web)

See Also