Notating Vocal Music

In many older scores, it is common to see individual notes given separate stems and flags that would be beamed in instrumental music.  This practice has been abandoned for clarity, and beams are used to make the music easier to read and more uniform.

Guidelines for Music with Lyrics

I. Place ABOVE the staff:

Dynamics;  Tempo markings;  Articulations;  Expression indications.

II. Center BELOW each note:

Short words, up to five letters;  Syllables in a word; 
SLUR the notes when words are sung on two or more notes.

III. Use a HYPHEN between syllables:

If they are widely separated, use more than one hyphen.

IV. Use an EXTENDER LINE after one-syllable words sung on multiple notes:

Start at the end of the last letter and extend to the last note of the group; 
If the last syllable is sung on two or more notes, add an extender line;
Use no extender if the last syllable is sung on one note.  

V. Place PUNCTUATION marks in the text before an extender line.


Vocal Notation Conventions

Choral Notation

An initial barline connects SATB parts, but each part in the music has separate barlines and its own text and dynamics.  The Tenor part is written in the treble clef, usually with an “8” attached to the bottom.  Tempo indications appear once above the staff, but a ritard or other change appears above each part.  Parts are not extracted for choral music, as they are for instrumental music.  The singers have the advantage of seeing all parts in the choral score.

In hymns and chorales where parts are in similar rhythmic motion, a grand staff may be used.  If all parts share the same words, a single line of text in the middle is adequate.

Chorale Score Layout
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