Just in time to add to your summer reading list: Faber Music has published the first section of Elaine Gould’s industry-standard music notation reference book Behind Bars as a separate paperback edition. Behind Bars: General Conventions is now available on its own, in a slimmer format — and price — than its complete counterpart.
At just £25, Behind Bars: General Conventions includes every bit of the first 240 pages of the original edition — Behind Bars: A Definitive Guide to Music Notation — the “general conventions” that devoted fans of the book know well: ground rules; chords, dotted notes and ties; accidentals and key signatures; grace notes, arpeggiated chords, trills, glissandos and vibrato; and meter, tuplets and repeat signs.
Perfect for slipping into a bookbag, bringing to trivia night with your friends, or just carrying around on the metro to show off your music engraving street creds, the paperback edition weighs exactly one pound. As beloved as the 700-page, 3+ lb. original hardcover edition is, it’s been known to send even the most fit music engravers to the chiropractor, so General Conventions is the perfect complement to any reference collection.
Since its publication in 2011, Behind Bars has truly been indispensable in the music preparation field, which desperately needed an authoritative, well-organized, comprehensive reference that was updated for the era of computer-engraved notation. Behind Bars acknowledges the ubiquity of the computer while not being beholden to its technological limitations, and motivates any serious music engraver to find the best solution to any music setting scenario, always reminding us that the ease of reading the music should always supersede what may be the quickest option in a music engraving program.
Thanks in large part to Elaine Gould’s book, the software programs have improved in the past dozen years, so that getting the results she advocates for are more easily achieved automatically than when the book was first published. (Sure, we will plug our own Scoring Express templates here, too, which are greatly inspired by the many excellent recommendations in Behind Bars.)
Although there’s nothing new in General Conventions, it’s attractive as a stand-alone item, if for nothing else than to ease the price point at which budding music preparers can begin learning about the elements of music notation that transcend specific instruments and score layouts. On that latter item, it seems that the third section of the full edition — “Layout and Presentation” — could well be ripe for its own spinoff, too.
For now, though, Behind Bars: General Conventions is a good pickup, and a fitting coda to Elaine Gould’s distinguished tenure as Faber Music’s longtime senior music editor. It’s available at Faber’s shop for £25; Faber has told us that an e-book is scheduled to publish in July, and that it will be widely available in print in the US in the autumn via Alfred Music, Amazon, and other music retailers.