Notation Checklist: Professional Quality Music Scores
The above picture is tongue in cheek – how NOT to write a legible score!!!
Just when you think your new piece is finished, that’s the time when editing begins! This checklist will help you ensure a professional quality score. The more you incorporate these items into your pieces as you go, the less editing you’ll have to do when the piece is “finished”.
- Courtesy accidentals
- Enharmonic spellings
- Dynamics aligned under notes
- Crescendos and diminuendos preceded and followed by dynamics
- Extend < and/or > to exact notes for beginning and ending
- Subito after dynamic, not before
- Align dynamic and tempo markings horizontally
- Dynamic changes are either < or > or subito – gradual or sudden*
- Allow enough room between staves for all markings
- Fill all measures with rests (be careful of inner voices)
- Notate all phrasing, articulation
- 8ths and 16ths, etc barred correctly to show where the beats are
- Vertical alignment
- Include expression and tempo markings at least at the beginning
- Check breathing for all wind instruments and voices
- Edit for page turns and number of pages
- Check time signatures – try conducting to verify correct time signatures
- Notate date completed and performance time
- Create .pdf file of full score and a separate, formatted pdf for each part
- Create .mp3 for listening (required by some competitions, helpful to performers) – Try to get the best possible sound quality!
* Item no. 8 was required by one of my previous composition teachers, but I find it a bit excessive. Use your own judgment.
This is a checklist I keep beside me for all compositions, and that all my students use before sending pieces to performers or competitions. The checklist is updated from time to time, so visit this site frequently for the latest version.