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This is a most welcome volume for musicians across the board, from school and university students to their teachers, and all who work in the music business. The development of music notation software such as Sibelius and Finale has made it increasingly easy for people to produce professional-looking scores at home with the minimum of fuss. However, in music notation, to a much greater degree than other disciplines, a clear layout that enables musicians to read the notes, dynamics, words, performance directions (etc etc ad infinitum, it seems on occasion) is paramount.

We’ve all experienced scores that have irritating clashes, lyrics that are difficult to follow, rhythms that are somehow difficult to fathom, or lines that are just plain impossible to read. This volume offers help to the music engraver, and lots of it. Described as ‘the definitive guide to music notation’, and ten years in the preparation, it offers clear, concise guidance on (almost) every aspect of music notation. The book is divided into three parts: ‘General Conventions’ covers topics such as chords, dotted notes, ties, accidentals, key signatures, dynamics, articulation, metre, tuplets, repeats signs and others; ‘Idiomatic Notation’ looks in turn at the peculiarities of particular instruments and instrument families (so that harp part need not be such a terrifying prospect); while ‘Layout and Presentation’ covers much material that doesn’t fit easily in the other two sections: how to set out your score, preparing parts, electroacoustic and aleatoric music, and various other little, but useful bits and pieces – what is a sensible stave size, issues of vertical alignment – all those fiddly things that make a score readable.

This is a book that for many of us has been a long time coming, and will save many hours fiddling around trying to find the best-looking format for our score. I hope that it will be the start of a growing volume (or volumes) of books, in which future reprints (of which there will undoubtedly be many) will fill in any gaps there are at present. As a single volume, written by one person, it is a remarkable achievement and should be on the bookshelf of any musician.

JONATHAN WIKELEY Read the full review on Agora Classica

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