Composers' Forum

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Hello everyone-

Yesterday I was asked to start a discussion about the notation checklist I posted within another thread.  So here it is:

Notation Checklist

Back in 2000, I had three lessons with a well-known composer who lives and teaches nearby.   We didn't discuss any music in those lessons, but our discussions changed my life!

My teacher described a piece he had just judged for an international competition.  "It was the best piece of music I've seen in years, but we had to disqualify it because of the composer's lack of understanding the rules of notation."  He then said we were going to have a series of lessons on notation.  I was aghast - I couldn't imagine anything duller or less inspiring.  But I stayed the course, listened and took notes.  A few weeks later and almost a thousand dollars poorer, I realized how little I had been taught, even with my degrees in theory and composition.

My teacher related several horror stories of composers going broke because they had to pay overtime for orchestras or chamber groups, to "explain their scores".   He said that a composer usually gets one and only one rehearsal with professional groups and if there are any questions about the score itself, there is no time left to play the music.  The music needs to be of the highest quality - but the best musicians won't even look at it if the notation is poor.  I decided back then to commit myself and my students to learning all we can about notation and to care enough about our music and our performers to make our scores perfect in all ways!

I began creating the Notation Checklist from those fateful lessons almost thirteen years ago, and have added to it since from my own experiences working with performers and teaching composition.   Please feel free to make suggestions for additions to the list. 

--- Julie

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I'm not sure I get you, Tim. The 'accustomed performer by convention', what we should use for them: dotted note or notes with ties? 

Apologies Ronald,

 

i didn't say that very well.  I think after further reading, we are saying the same thing, you just said it better. Here's some examples that hopefully will help clarify my thoughts for you.

All three are the same. 

1) This would to me be very difficult to read easily.  The dot carries across the beat.

2) This would be a much better way to notate this rhythm and would follow the "convention" we are all accustomed to.

3) Here the pulse uses a 332 subdivision, so using the dot is ok as it doesn't carry over the beat.

 

Julie's point earlier was that at times, even #1 is acceptable if the musical phrase dictates.

 

Hopefully, that makes my thought process clearer.  To bring this full circle, as part of a notation checklist, the most important thing is that whichever is chosen be a clear reflection of the composers intent and considered in the editing process.

 

Tim

 

 

Saul, this post is out of place in this thread. I suggest you post these opinions in a new thread in a under a more appropriate forum category.

Saul Dzorelashvili said:

The OP wrote:

"It was the best piece of music I've seen in years, but we had to disqualify it because of the composer's lack of understanding the rules of notation."

Should we also disqualify an ugly piece of music because it had superb and excellent notation?

I mean not only the most beautiful works should should be shown the door, ugly music also should be treated the same way. Well, isn't it so today that the vast majority of the modern avant grand music is ugly, yet it is treated as great music just because it has all the technical elements and notations intact?

I sit here and wonder, when will the hypocrisy end?



Julie Harris said:

 I personally don't like ledger lines.  You call them "help" lines? 

That's the Dutch term. "hulplijntjes"

 Finale does a good job with rests until you use complex rhythms..  And heaven help you if you try to put a whole rest in a 7/8 measure or try to fill a 17/8 measure with one whole rest.  Finale thinks a whole rest gets four beats, period. 

That's one of the reasons I love lilypond. I had a piece with complicated time signatures the other day, and it is so easy to notate a half note rest and have it be interpreted as 7/16ths: "r2*7/16".

I'm not going to touch enharmonic spellings right now ... In tonal music, they are straightforward but beyond functional harmony, or the standard scales, it's just too large a topic.

Unless the composer really means something by it, my guideline is to let a passage use only sharps or only flats for as long as it makes sense. Just for ease of reading. Let's see. How do you post pictures on this forum....

You're welcome :-)

Victor.

Chuckle ... What a fun example, Victor!!!   I can't wait to share that with my students ... the ones who can read it will roll on the floor laughing.  I can't wait to see the light bulb come on in my 9 year old's eyes when he sees what this music quotation really is. 

Is it ok for an American to start using the term "help lines" - the little kids especially would just love that.  It makes so much more sense than "ledger" lines - I always feel like an accountant when I use that word.

Thanks so much for your great post!  

I'm going to try and add all the wonderful suggestions from this terrific group as soon as I get a few hours free time.   Love you all!   That includes you, Saul, who remind us that there is always one side to any argument.

Unless the composer really means something by it, my guideline is to let a passage use only sharps or only flats for as long as it makes sense. Just for ease of reading. Let's see. How do you post pictures on this forum....

You're welcome :-)

Victor.



Julie Harris said:

Chuckle ... What a fun example, Victor!!! 

You're welcome. I couldn't find the other one I've seen, where a whole song is notated with only notes that look like C..... done by switching between half a dozen different clefs, in addition to use of accidentals.

Victor.

the term we use in greek for the "ledger lines" translates to "helping lines". 

Hello Victor,

This is actually quite funny. I used the term "help lines" simply because I am originally Dutch, and "helplijntjes" is what I leaned as a little boy from my my parents and my piano teacher. Victor, you must be of Dutch origin as well.  
 
Victor Eijkhout said:



Julie Harris said:

 I personally don't like ledger lines.  You call them "help" lines? 

That's the Dutch term. "hulplijntjes"

 Finale does a good job with rests until you use complex rhythms..  And heaven help you if you try to put a whole rest in a 7/8 measure or try to fill a 17/8 measure with one whole rest.  Finale thinks a whole rest gets four beats, period. 

That's one of the reasons I love lilypond. I had a piece with complicated time signatures the other day, and it is so easy to notate a half note rest and have it be interpreted as 7/16ths: "r2*7/16".

I'm not going to touch enharmonic spellings right now ... In tonal music, they are straightforward but beyond functional harmony, or the standard scales, it's just too large a topic.

Unless the composer really means something by it, my guideline is to let a passage use only sharps or only flats for as long as it makes sense. Just for ease of reading. Let's see. How do you post pictures on this forum....

You're welcome :-)

Victor.

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