(musicComp1) composition/notation checklist

As you prepare your next set of melodies for performance on 1/31 and 2/1, here is a list of basic notation, instrumentation, and composition issues that you should make sure you address.

Always include a tempo marking, in the form of durational value = number of beats per minute. It can be useful to also include some descriptive term (preferably in English) to give an additional sense of musical style to the performer. Terms like calm, agitated, excited, ponderous, heavy, etc., can be very useful.

Include a clef and key signature (if used) on every staff. The meter is written at the beginning only, unless it changes in the course of the melody.

Stems go down for single note heads on the middle line and above, and up for note heads below middle line – no exceptions. If notes are within a beamed group that include down and up stems, take the average position of the notes and use for all.

Include dynamics, articulations, and any expressive markings.

Indicate the instrument for which the melody is written. Instrument names should include the key of the instrument if transposing (Horn in F, Bb Clarinet, Eb Alto Saxophone, etc.).

Make sure you write for the range of the instrument. Instrument ranges are readily available on the web with simple searching. Keep in mind that if you write for extreme ranges for winds (high/low) you may not get predictable results. If you write pitches that are outside of the instrument’s range, you will definitely get unpredictable results.

Ledger lines should be spaced evenly and consistently. Use the same line spacing as found in your staff. Performers read ledger lines using a combination of counting lines and recognizing vertical spatial distance.

For wind instruments, it is almost always preferred to write ledger lines than to use 8va and and 8va bassa. Fingerings are not the same for notes in every octave, and the overuse of octave symbols creates a cognitive dissonance for performers.


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