Narrow chord font

It’s was just a demonstration of the font to exibit different chord nomenclatures.

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Some interesting information here!

I find Academico just a little too fat for chord symbols. I have made do with it up until now but upon deciding to stretch my lyrics to 90% with great results, I was hoping to do something similar for Chord Symbols. Alas, I can’t find a way (if it is even possible).

You could also ways use Nepomuk! It’s noticeably narrower than Academico, and was designed with lyrics in mind.

This. Ken Williams is da man.

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I agree. Are you using Academico for your default text font? I posted a font comparison of a bunch of fonts I was testing out a couple of years ago in this thread if you’re looking to switch up. Some of those also have semicondensed variants that might work for you as well.

For chord symbols, some other things to consider are if font defaults to lining figures (instead of old style) as obviously that’s required, whether they are full sized numbers or slightly shortened (and whether you care), and how Dorico treats the kerning on #11 as that really looks terrible with some fonts.

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Todd, which book is that from?


Music Preparation: A Guide to Music Copying

Great book! It was mostly sold at Associated Music in NYC, at least that’s where I this copy back in the 90s. There are ring-bound and perfect-bound versions floating around, but they don’t come up very often. You can set up an eBay or AbeBooks alert for them to know when they become available.

As a drummer/arranger I decided to use the Brandt-Roemer system, because to me it is the most cosistent. I use GothiChords from Notationcentral. I find it difficult to judge about it because I write it but I never read it myself. Sofar my band members say it is ok.

I made some adaptations to give the symbols more air because I think they are better readable with little light and old eyes. Downside is that they nead more space, but in most cases I don’t write very dense chord progressions.

I wonder what you think about how this symbols look.
01 - Chord Symbols - Full score.pdf (95.4 KB)

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I personally would think this would be highly likely to be misinterpreted. Is the accidental modifying the root or the suffix?

My problem with Roemer, aside from the fact that it was developed for use with music that only uses all caps as I mentioned above, is that the shape of the characters doesn’t help with recognition, so they eye actually has to read it. If I use small caps MA and MI for major and minor, just using the outline of the shape, what chord symbol is this?

For contrast, what chord symbol is this?

MA and MI literally need to be read, especially since they are roughly the same length and start with the same character. Using m for minor and maj for major, the eye recognizes the difference and doesn’t even have to actually read it, speeding up interpretation.


Like @FredGUnn , I would be concerned that MA and MI could easily be confused for one another in dimmer light. Even setting aside the lower- vs. upper-case argument, MAJ and MIN would more likely be clearly distinct. I also find the (MA7) indications unclear visually. (MAJ7) or (Maj7) would look better IMO.

I do like the crisp, clean look of your stacked parenthesized upper extensions, though, @Maarten_Kruijswijk .

Even more distinct would be m and maj as they are different lengths. Not all fonts use a descender on a capital (or small caps) J either, potentially eliminating that benefit to the eye as well.

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Thanks @FredGUnn, @judddanby for the feedback that is helpfull. I agree the that m, maj would be better.

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Hi all. I spent some considerable time recently messing with chord fonts. I typically don’t care for the triangle, but have reverted to using it again simply because horizontal space is often at a premium. I also tell my students never to use “m” or “M” because of the possibility of confusion. I don’t like the jazz font for notation, like others above, but have found some handwritten fonts to be quite easy to read. I’d be curious to know what others think of the font choices in the attached part.
01 - Concert - Spaceshots - revised.pdf (92.7 KB)

Maybe I’m just biased as I was originally trained as a hand copyist, and have read a lot of music copied by some great hands, but I guess I don’t understand the point of some of the handwritten fonts. Iris is a pretty cool and unique font, but it looks like someone finished the notes, then handed it off to a completely different copyist for the chord symbols, which have accidentals that look nothing like the notes. Having the flats angle completely different ways between notes and chord symbols looks distracting to me. Why are the bar numbers and endings in a italic “engraved” font? Obviously there’s a limit to how much barlines and slurs can be modified to look by hand, but there probably are some slashes out there in some font that look handwritten. What about the perfect circle for the half-diminished and the engraved “To Coda” and Coda indication?

If the point of the handwritten font is to give the illusion that it was copied by hand instead of a computer, I guess I’d start by changing some of those elements, but even then it’s not gonna fool anyone that it’s really by hand. By contrast, here’s a gallery of conductor’s parts to films that Victor Young scored. Obviously there were quite a few different copyists involved between the different films, but no one would mistake any of these for a computer.

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I see your points. Some of those things bother me, too. I wish I could get the accidentals to be uniform, for example, but there’s no Iris chord font and I don’t have the skills to figure out how to make the font myself. I do find the Iris font easy to read in general, and for me that has been more important than the uniformity. Plus, I can’t find any non-handwritten font that works for chord symbols, so I haven’t figured out a better way to get a standard notation fund to match a standard chord font in any capacity. what do you do to make everything look uniform? What chord symbol font are you using?

Thanks for the feedback.

I just use my standard text font and don’t use a different font for chords. I’ve used a bunch of different styles in the past but currently use the same serif font for all musical items, and the same sans for all page attached items (title, composer, folio, copyright, etc.) I do tend to change up every 5-10 years or so out of boredom with current settings.

So, having a different font for text items and chords is not a bad thing necessarily?

Thank you for posting that Victor Young archive–what a treasure trove!

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No of course not, and it’s easy to find examples of this by all sorts of publishers. It just depends on what your typographical principles are for music and what look you are going for. My own typographic principles, which I certainly wouldn’t expect everyone to agree with, are probably the following:

  1. Minimize distractions. Text fonts for music should essentially be invisible. If the performer is actively noticing the font, then that’s too distracting.
  2. Have a good reason for introducing another typeface family. Why is your current default typeface family not suitable for the task at hand? If combining typefaces from different families, all the same graphic design principles that any good graphic designer will follow also apply to music. Make any typographic contrast strong, like between a serif and a sans, not like between Caslon and Garamond.
  3. That said, choose typefaces that work well together. If combining a serif and a sans, choose typefaces that have elements that share a similar structure. There are some type families that even include both a serif and sans, like Noto Serif and Sans, that are obviously designed to work together. Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style goes into this a bit and is a fantastic book for anyone who wants to further geek out on type stuff.
  4. While a typeface choice should be “invisible,” I prefer to choose something that is a bit more obscure, so my own house style is subtly different than others’.
  5. I suppose using a more “colorful” font for a title is ok, but other than that, I can’t really imagine a situation that would call for more than two text type families on a single page of music. Anything more than that is certainly getting into the distracting/incongruous zone.
  6. Your choice of a main typeface should be flexible enough to accommodate different styles, but should certainly be appropriate for the style of music you mostly work with. Some that do mostly historical work may choose to use a typeface that isn’t anachronistic to the music, although that’s not personally a concern of mine.
  7. If choosing a “handwritten” font for jazz or popular music, give serious consideration as to why you are choosing it and if it is successful at meeting those goals. Never sacrifice legibility for “feel.”
  8. I need a type family with all 4 of the main variants: regular (roman), italic, bold, and bold italic. Some families don’t include bold italic, but I typically use that for D.S. indications. Others may not need that one. An expanded family with semi-condensed variant, or even a font with an variable width axis, may be useful for those that set large amounts of text or lyrics.
  9. A large-ish x-height is required for legibility at smaller print sizes. Consider the performance situation when assessing legibility too. My standard is to assume it will be sightread by a sub on a gig in terrible light after 3 glasses of wine. Obviously that requires a different legibility standard than piano music that will be practiced until memorized.
  10. For chord symbols a font has to default to lining figures instead of old-style. Perhaps if/when Dorico incorporates some more OpenType features this will be an option to select, but as of now the font just has to use lining figures.
  11. Many fonts have numbers that are slightly smaller than the caps. Not a dealbreaker for me at all, and I used Kepler for many years, but the appearance is definitely something to be considered when a number appears next to a root in a chord symbol like C7.
  12. Dorico’s kerning of a #11 chord looks awful with many fonts. Finding a font where this doesn’t doesn’t look as bad is important to me personally, as a #11 isn’t globally editable, but may not be to some. Creating overrides for all roots and all variants that use a #11 is obviously possible but a PITA. Academico’s poor #11 kerning shown below:

Wow, @FredGUnn , your rich response is super helpful — thanks!

I do take exception to one point, though:

I believe that would be 4 glasses of wine and/or 2 shots of whisk(e)y.

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