(pianoPed) software notation overview

Software notation programs like Finale and Sibelius can provide you with the ability to produce professional looking music scores and examples. That ability comes with a learning curve, however. Keep in mind, notation by hand is hard. There are a lot of rules to learn, and a lot of formatting issues to contend with. Knowing some elements of notation, and having a method of working can help you produce quality notation in a straight forward way.

notation books/guides

While notation software usually removes the need to know most notation rules, software can make mistakes. And you still are responsible for placing some notation elements in their proper places. Having a notation book or quick guide accessible is extremely helpful for those times when questions arise.

Gardner Read’s Music Notation: A Manual of Modern Practice, is a  comprehensive source for notation rules.

Kurt Stone’s Music Notation in the Twentieth Century: A Practical Guidebook, focuses more on problems and solutions for notating modern music.

Alfred Music publishes a pocket guide that is inexpensive and very useful: Essential Dictionary of Music Notation: The Most Practical and Concise Source for Music Notation. (available as a small paperback, or in Kindle format)

elements of notation, in no particular order, and not necessarily exhaustive

  • Notes
  • Beams
  • Stems
  • Articulations
  • Dynamics
  • Tempo Markings (Metronome Markings, Accel, Ritards)
  • Page Dimension (size)
  • Page Orientation (portrait or landscape)
  • Page Margins
  • Staff Spacing
  • System Spacing
  • Page Reduction (Finale)
  • Brackets/Braces
  • Clefs
  • Time Signatures
  • Key Signatures
  • Accidentals
  • Slurs/Phrase Marks
  • Layers (multiple voices on one staff)
  • Text (titles, composer, notes)

basic method of working

I find that it is best to define the large scale elements (page layout, staff layout, spacing, title and composer text), then enter notes, then move out from the notes with articulations, dynamics, expressions, etc.


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