Proper Notation

Arrangers and composers: take heed!

Proper notation is important.

The truth is, there are many different ways to notate the same music – that is, they may look different but played through a sequencer, they sound identical.

But there is always a preferred way to write it – not for the sequencer (computers don’t care), but for the musicians reading your music.

Poorly notated music – music that doesn’t heed to established conventions – is more difficult to read.

Consider: Aye Cannes right won write weigh, Orr knot.

This would sound no different than “I can write one right way, or not” when recited by Siri. But I am willing to bet that when you read it, your reading speed plummeted.

That’s because you’re reading not just for content, but for context. The same is true for music.

Proficient readers of music can pick up a great deal of information just from contextual clues in the music; when don’t follow proper notation, you destroy the context as completely as I did above.

Some simple notational choices you can make to improve clarity:

  • Legible rhythmic figures
  • Enharmonic spellings
  • Page turns
  • Rehearsal boxes and measure numbers
  • Clear repeat markings
  • 8th note beaming

It takes more thinking as you write to choose the right version of the notation; in the end, though, you empower the readers of your music to make more of your music. Regardless of the difficulty of the music, composers should strive to empower their musicians with their clarity.

Need further convincing? Answer this question: would you rather perform more music from a composer who empowers you, or a composer who creates needless challenges?