Lyrics and vocal music, part 1

Scoring Notes
Scoring Notes
Lyrics and vocal music, part 1

Working with lyrics and vocal music presents a special set of challenges and opportunities to burnish your music engraving skill set. In this first of a two-part episode, Philip Rothman and David MacDonald discuss many of the conventions and principles that govern lyric text.

Staff position, alignment, and spacing must all be carefully considered when setting vocal text, and we sort through the best approaches for presenting the music clearly in relation to the lyrics. Beaming is an issue that has often confounded notesetters — specifically syllabic beaming, where the beams reflect the text instead of the rhythmic groups — and we talk about the change from traditional to modern notation and how best to handle melismatic passages.

Fonts, always a favorite topic of conversation on Scoring Notes, are again worthy of exploration, and why certain fonts are better than others for lyrics. We offer our suggestions there, and also discuss the topics of hyphenation and word extensions that are necessary components of any instance where vocal text is present.

There’s much more we cover in this episode, and then in the next episode, we’ll talk about where in the music notation software you can find the settings to control these various aspects and some tips to achieve good results.

More on Scoring Notes:


  1. Steve Sanders

    Hi Philip
    Great post, as usual, but particularly interesting to me.
    I tend to specialise in Choral, vocal, and wind music – was a percussionist / drummer, and latterly a singer -singing with the Joyful Company of Singers which Elaine Gould sang with for many years.

    Anyway, don’t usually post, but this was very interesting.

    A few thoughts on a few subjects if you don’t mind?


    I never user cresc or dim as I think they are ambiguous – if there is a Cresc or dim sign above a bar, and, say, 4 bars later a forte sign, does the cresc / dim apply to the bar, or the 4 bars – much more obvious to use hairpins =- there is always someone in a rehearsal who will query the marking.

    Always above the staff – Anything that clears the lyrics is good. Also, people get used to knowing that that is where articulations are – should keep consistency in where singers are to find them.

    Don’t use beaming for syllabic articulation ever – no-one I know prefers beaming of articulation!

    Hadn’t thought of using dictionary for hyphenation indication – great tip (though as you say, still some oddities).

    One more thought, where there are Oohs and Ahs – where they are extended over following notes, do spell the following Oohs and Ahs, or oohs, and ahs?

    P.S. Not your problem, but I am on Windows 11 and Stream Deck will not install – have you any insight as to when Stream Deck drivers will be available for Win 11?

    1. Philip Rothman

      Hi Steve, thanks for these great comments, and it’s terrific to hear of the Elaine Gould connection! I have seen oohs and ahs both capitalized, and not. As long as it’s consistent, I think either is acceptable.

      Elgato says that Stream Deck (software and hardware) is compatible with Windows 11, so if you’re having trouble, I’d suggest that you contact Elgato support.

  2. Jon Arnold

    Thanks for this episode! I’ve used Crimson Pro as an open-source alternative to Minion Pro:
    It’s a bit squished vertically, but it works well and has similar width.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Ah yes, I forgot about Crimson Pro. It’s very nice!

      1. Jon Arnold

        Thanks for your note about Tinos!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *