General Rules

You type in your music sequentially, i.e. the same way as in written language. Chords are words, bar-lines are punctuation marks, accidentals are diacritics and staff lines are the space character. Here is the basis of Cavatina’s syntax:

  1. Hitting space extends the staff for starting a new note/chord.
  2. Notes within a chord are typed in from low to high.
  3. Note modifiers are written directly after the corresponding note.
Character mapping

Notes and all other musical symbols are accessed directly with your computer keyboard. The input depends on what keyboard layout you use. The complete keyboard mapping for each layout can be found on the Keyboard page, but if you are new to Cavatina, it’s recommended to read through the whole documentation first.

Choose your keyboard layout:


The location of each note is motivated by the fact that the lowest row of characters just above the space bar has exactly seven letters: the seven pitches of a diatonic scale.


It is easy to learn where this seven notes are because of their physical location on the keyboard. It’s like playing on the piano, but without the black keys.

Most musicians aren't happy with just seven notes. Following the idea above, we get a new octave for each of the four rows of the keyboard above the space bar, with the top row having three additional notes, like this:

Notice each column contains the same note in different octaves.

If you have used other notation software, you are probably used to look for the C key if you want to write a C, and so on. This is not very efficient, because sadly these letters aren’t ordered in such order in a row. When writing notes with Cavatina, once you get your fingers placed in the right position, you have all notes you need at your fingertips (that’s right) and you don’t have to look back down at the keyboard.

Note length

So far we have 31 notes (covering a bit more than four octaves). Each of these characters has its lowercase and uppercase variant, which correspond to the note in 8th and 4th length accordingly. Switching to the bold weight of Cavatina, you get 16th-notes in the lowercase and 8th-notes in the uppercase characters. Example


Appart from that, Cavatina has a special key that serves as a modifier key: the ` | ~ key. We are going to call ` the inverter and ~ the time character, the latter of which, among other things, extends the duration of notes. Every time you hit the time key after a note, the note’s length doubles. You can do this up to a maximum of twice per note, i.e. for a whole note you would need to type a 4th-note followed by two times ~. Example

For dotted notes you use < after the note.

To draw a tie after a note append an L.

Note orientation

The stem of a note can be inverted. This is done with the inverter `. A note can only be inverted once (which doesn’t stop you from un-inverting).

To invert the stem of a chord you invert the first note of the chord. If the next note in the chord would collide in its default orientation, then it is automatically inverted. Otherwise keep inverting until you obtain the desired result. This is useful for separating voices within one chord. Example


Rests are accessed via the ] | } key. Their duration is changed the same way as for notes. Optionally, you can write the same rest twice and the length will increase accordingly. Example


To beam two 8th or 16th notes, write two dots .. after the second note. Both notes need to have the same orientation before they can be beamed. Currently only pairs of notes can be beamed. Example

Staff and Barlines

When you hit the space bar you draw a new staff “block”. Before any note or chord, you have to draw a new staff block where this note or chord will sit. Example

The barlines are located as follows:

simple barline,
double barline,,
final barline.
repeat signs

Cavatina is not made to do minor adjustments to the layout, but if you consider it necessary, you can gain control over horizontal spacing by using the half space / and the quarter space //.


Cavatina supports three different clefs:

C-clef_+ or +_

The input of the notes is invariant of the signature; it doesn’t depend on the current clef.

Time Signatures

Time signatures have to be written after clefs (and key signatures) or barlines. To start a time signature enter the time key ~. After that you just write the upper and lower numeral successively. Example

To write the common time or cut time symbols, enter c or C after the time key.

A space is automatically attached after a time signature, so that you don’t have to open a new staff block yourself.

Accidentals and Key Signatures
natural-= or =-
double flat--
double sharp==

To write a key signature you simply type in the sharps/flats successively after a clef. Example


All articulations are written after the lowest note of a chord, except the fermata, which is written after the highest note. Example


Dynamics are aligned with respect to the note to which they are applied. Therefore, if you are writing a chord with some dynamics marking, you should write that marking just after the first (lowest) note of the chord. Example

mezzo piano\|
mezzo forte|\
sforzando\\| or ||\
forte-piano\\\| or |||\
\\` or ||`

inv. mordent[`
inv. turn{`

Note that, intuitively enough, ornaments are inverted with the inverter key `.

To extend the trill or the arpeggio repeat that same character. The arpeggio is written at the end of a chord. Example

Repetition Markings

Apart from the repeat barlines ; | :, you can use the following repetition markings:

1st repetitiono
2nd repetitionoo
end markingo`

The end marking is necessary for the MusicXML/MIDI converter to detect the range of the repetition sections.


Writing coda or segno right after D.C. or D.S. will append "al Coda" and "al Fine" accordingly. Example

Other Notation

Octave markings are used in a similar manner as repetition markings and always after the highest note in a chord.

8va (2)OO
end 8vaO`

The triplet is written before the chord sequence. Use tight spacing to fit the notes under the mark: enter three quarter-spaces /// between the notes.


Pedal markings are lower markings and as such they have to be applied to the first note of a chord.

release pedalpp

Staff Systems

To create systems of multiple staves you can extend barlines to join with the upper staff. To draw a grand staff, first enter a newline followed by a single barline , to start a new staff. To draw the brace connecting with the upper staff, type in \\. Then continue with the clef and key signature as you would normally do. To connect the subsequent barlines, write a single \ after them. Example

long barlines,\  .\etc.

Time key

, f F f~ f~~ F~ F~~,, f F f~ f~~ F~ F~~,

Note Length

, a A a A,

Note Orientation

, f f` j j`, afj a`fj a`f`j a`f`j`, , f f` j j`, afj a`fj a`f`j a`f`j`,


, ] } ]] }} ]~ ]~~ }~ }~~, , ] } ]] }} ]~ ]~~ }~ }~~,


, dh sj.. d`h` s`..j d`h s`..j`.., , dh sj.. d`h` s`..j d`h s`..j`..,


, ,, . ; : , ,, . ; :

Time Signatures

,~34 ,~1216 ,_---~34 ,~c , ,~34 ,~1216 ,_---~34 ,~c ,

Accidentals & Key Signatures

_----- D G,_+== ADG _----- D G,_+== ADG


A' A" A'' A"" A> A' A" A'' A"" A>


d\fh h`||er M\\| Dl d\fh h`||er M\\| Dl


D[ D{ D[` D{` D[[ D[[[[ D[ D{ D[` D{` D[[ D[[[[

Repetition Markings

, D F G Do, D F D Go`:oo D S A }.

Staff Systems

,+--- DFJ DGJ J s d>..,
,\\ _--- A D } MJ ,\
,+--- DFJ DGJ J s d>..
,\\_--- A D } MJ ,\