Berklee Contemporary Music Notation

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Berklee Textbook featured New Arrivals
  • Suggested Retail Price: $16.99
  • Format: Book
  • Pages: 200
  • Dimensions: 9x12
  • ISBN: 9780876391785
  • SKU: 00202547
  • Publication Date: September 15, 2017

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Learn the nuances of music notation, and create professional looking scores. Berklee College of Music brings together teachers and students from all over the world, and we use notation in a great variety of ways. This book presents our perspectives on notation: what we have found to be the most commonly used practices in today’s music industry, and what seems to be serving our community best.

Whether you are writing for a Nashville recording studio, Hollywood sound stage, concert hall, worship choir loft, theater pit, jazz club, or school auditorium, private teaching studio, or music publication, this book will help you to create readable, professional, publication-quality notation. Beyond understanding the standard rules and definitions, you will learn to make appropriate choices for your own work, and generally how to achieve clarity and consistency in your notation so that it best serves your music.

You will learn:

  • The meaning, usage conventions, and placement practices of basic notation symbols, such as notes, rests, clefs, time signatures, key signatures, and measure numbers
  • Where to set articulations and expressive/tempo markings
  • How to use repeat symbols and roadmaps, including multiple endings
  • Lead sheet notation, such as how to render chord symbols, conventions for indicating soloing and comping, kicks over time, and more
  • Specific notation practices for individual instruments, such as strings, brass, woodwinds, keyboard, harp, and rhythm-section instruments (including drum set notation, string “chop” notation, and more)
  • Guitar notation, including traditional PIMA notation, tablature, and chord frames
  • Score and part preparation standards, for orchestra, jazz band, and other large ensembles, as well as vocal ensembles, rhythm section, chamber music, and smaller groups, such as piano/vocal scores and solo instrument parts
  • Publishing “house style” guidelines and tips for music writers, such as for musical analysis, articles, articles, and pedagogical materials about music

Foreword by Matthew Nicholl, Berklee’s associate vice president for global initiatives and former long-time chair of the Contemporary Writing and Production Department.

Royalties for this book are contributed to Berklee’s Matthew Marvuglio Endowed Scholarship.

“Berklee Press has released a new book to help musicians learn the nuances of writing notation and creating polished scores. Berklee Contemporary Music Notation, by Jonathan Feist, offers practical modern perspectives on the subject. From traditional staffs to guitar tablature, the book discusses hundreds of notation symbols and general guidelines for writing music.”

DownBeat Magazine, August 2018

“Here’s a book that tells you how to write it down, no matter whom you’re writing it down for. It’s an indispensible companion for composers and arrangers and anyone else interested in musical notation. It won’t write your music for you, but it does the next best thing: show you how to write it so other people will play it the way you want it.”

Peter Schickele, Multi-GRAMMY Winning Composer, Biographer of PDQ Bach

“I found this book to be very enlightening and useful. Jonathan’s insight and knowledge of music notation are impeccable.”  

Lalo Schifrin, Multi-GRAMMY Winning/Oscar-Nominated Composer, Arranger, Conductor, and Pianist

“I’m often asked to recommend books that can help musicians improve the clarity and quality of their notation. I’m excited to be able to add Jonathan Feist’s Berklee Contemporary Music Notation to my short list. Jonathan addresses the crucial elements that are vital to the copyist’s craft. He provides numerous practical examples and excellent advice regarding everything from chord symbols to paper choice. The information is provided in a clear, well-organized manner. Best of all, it’s an enjoyable read.”

Mark F. Adler, Notation Product Manager/Sr. Editor at MakeMusic, Inc.

“A clear, concise, and comprehensive guide for notesetters, composers, arrangers, or anyone with an interest in music notation.”

Kimberly Brand, Engraving Manager, Hal Leonard Publishing

“Music notation is one of the most fundamental skills every musician must master. It is the means of communication between composers and musicians, enabling ideas to be shared around the globe and throughout centuries.  Jonathan Feist has written a complete and concise guide of notation practices, both traditional and contemporary, that will empower musicians with this important skill. I recommend it to all musicians and composers.”

Ben Newhouse, Composer, author, and Berklee Online instructor of film scoring and orchestration

“With wry wit and a curator’s precision, Jonathan Feist’s succinct, informative (and dare I say rollicking!) Berklee Contemporary Music Notation deftly shepherds the music-notationally curious to a seat at the staff-shredding, appoggiatura-wielding expert’s table.”

Shane Adams, Nashville-based GRAMMY-nominated music educator, producer, songwriter, and author



Jonathan Feist

Jonathan Feist is editor in chief of Berklee Press, where he has helped to produce hundreds of music education products…