Major new music notation reference book announced


Faber Music have just announced the publication date of a major new book about the art of music notation, written by their Chief New Music Editor, Elaine Gould. Behind Bars, which Faber describe as the most thorough and painstakingly-researched book on music notation to be published in more than 20 years, will be published on 20 January 2011.

Although not directly related to Sibelius itself (though Sibelius was used to prepare many of the 1,500 music examples included in the book), it seems to me that this will be of interest to many people who read this blog. I hope to talk to the author about the process of bringing this book to completion nearer to the publication date, but in the meantime I thought it was worth posting that Faber are currently offering a pre-order discount of 45% off the £65 sticker price if you order before the publication date.

I’m very much looking forward to the release of this book, and I’ve already ordered my copy!

More details are at Faber’s web site, including a generous set of sample pages and instructions for ordering from the UK, USA and Australia.


  1. Jamsire


  2. Neil Sands

    Santa can pre-order my copy.

  3. Ian

    Looks very interesting – thanks for the links!

    Does the Sibelius team plan to use the book to get suggestions on how the Sibelius layout engine can be improved?

    1. Daniel Spreadbury

      We’ll certainly use it as a reference book, just as we do several other standard texts on music notation (such as Read, Stone, Ross, Roemer, and the very handy little Alfred Essential Dictionary of Music Notation).

  4. Philip

    Thank you, Daniel! Would love to know if it will be available in e-book format; it would be terrific to have this on an iPad.

  5. Jeff Grossman

    What a shame the book looks like it will perpetuate many of the really old practices which I had hoped we had all abandoned, for example (just looking through the sample pages): beaming 4+4 in 4/4 meter (2+2+2+2 is SO much cleaner and more modern), or stemming middle-line notes (B in treble clef) in either direction depending on other notes in the beat. Sigh.


  6. Laird Williams

    …or not understanding common idioms for guitar transcription, in either standard notation, or tab.

  7. Ian

    Thanks Daniel. I wasn’t aware of some of the authors you listed. Could you give some more details about the different books? Are they all still in print?

    1. Daniel Spreadbury

      Some of these books are rather hard to get hold of nowadays, I’m afraid. Read and Stone are still in print, as is the Alfred Essential Dictionary of Music Notation, but Roemer’s book is long out of print, and Ross’s book is only available on CD-ROM.

      To that list I might also add Weinberg’s book on standardised drum set notation, and perhaps the G. Schirmer Style Manual, which I don’t have any leads on at all.

      Let me know if you find out a source for buying that book, or indeed Roemer’s book.

  8. Adam

    You can get a second hand copy of Roemer’s book via Alibris ( Prices start from 33 GBP. Amazon’s marketplace seems to be a lot more expensive.

  9. Jeff Grossman

    You used to be able to order the G. Schirmer Style Manual from the G. Schirmer rental library: 845.469.4699. When I bought it a couple years ago, it was $35 plus shipping.

  10. Alex Davis

    @Laird Williams

    Feel I have to defend my colleague on the TAB aspect; it would be reckless for anyone to produce a definitive guide to guitar tablature notation when a standard has neither been set or even naturally evolved over the years. No two music publishers work completely the same way with TAB, few piece of notation software follow the same conventions, freely-available internet TABs (ASCII, PowerTAB or whatever, legal or otherwise) vary tremendously in format depending on author, and professional transcribers such as myself frequently have to improvise new methods to notate new techniques, i.e. working with Digitech Whammy (although to use a far earlier example, no-one has even standardised the use of a wah-wah pedal in TAB yet…)

    Rant over. This really is a superb book!

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