Music has evolved in every culture in its own way. This led to many differences and similarities. While most countries have chosen more or less the same notes, the names, music systems, and the theory behind their music can vary.  

Musical Notes and Notation

A musical note indicates the pitch and duration of a sound in musical notation. The visual record of the sounds in music in written or printed form is called musical notation.1 

Music notes are given many different names across the world. Most European, Latin American, and Middle Eastern countries follow the solfege names for music notes, which is do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-si.

In countries like the United States, Canada, along with countries that speak English and Dutch, musical notes are named with the Latin letters A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Germany follows the same convention with a small change, where the letter H is used instead of the letter B. In India, musical notes in traditional music are called Sa, Ra, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, and Ni. 

The evidence of the earliest music notations was found in clay tablets of ancient Mesopotamia from 1400 B.C. However, western musical notation originated in Ancient Greece and significantly evolved during the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and up to the Baroque period. The sheet music today follows a format that has retained many similarities to that of the Baroque period.3 Today, most countries across the world follow the western notation system.4    

Since then, music notation has evolved into five different types, which are Standard Notation on 5-Line Musical Staves, Lead Sheets, Guitar Tablature, Graphic Notation, and Bar-based MIDI Notation.3 

Music Notation in Different Cultures

Most cultures, as seen in the above examples, have the same universal notes. However, some scales in certain cultures use notes that are found in between these standard notes, which increases the number of notes. For example, Indian music systems use 22 notes,5 and the Arabic scale has 24 notes.6 The Indonesian scale, called Pelog, uses notes that are considered dissonant in other music systems.7 Musical scales with 24 notes are commonly referred to as quarter-tone scales.8

Music Theory in Different Cultures 

Music theory in European, Russian, and Middle Eastern countries differs from that in countries such as India, Korea, Japan, and China. Apart from the notes being named differently, certain elements of music, such as duration, have different terms assigned to them depending on the musical systems and conventions that the regions follow.9

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1. musical notation | Description, Systems, & Note Symbols | Britannica. (n.d.). Retrieved July 17, 2022, from
2. What Are Music Notes Exactly? Definition, Examples & Types. (n.d.). Retrieved July 17, 2022, from
3. What Is Music Notation? Meaning, Symbols & History. (n.d.). Retrieved July 17, 2022, from
4. The world just got a new musical note writing system! – Education Today News. (n.d.). Retrieved July 17, 2022, from
5. Notes, Octaves and Scale. (2017, April 7). Kaminimusic.Com. Retrieved August 1, 2022, from
6. Pentreath, R. (2021, May 11). Why are there only 12 notes in Western music? Classic FM. Retrieved August 1, 2022, from
7. Casey Connor. (2019, October 5). Where does the 12-tone scale come from? [Video]. YouTube.
8. Music Structures. (n.d.). Traditional Arabic Music. Retrieved August 1, 2022, from
9. How music theory works in different countries – Classic FM. (n.d.). Retrieved July 17, 2022, from