Slightly OT: What would be the best book on notation.

G’day master composers and master notation experts.

I need to brush up on correct notation for music, and in particular for the guitar.

The only book I have is dear old Ted Ross’ book The Art of Music Engraving & Processing.’

Although the book is very educational and useful, I assume that there are newer publications that are perhaps more relevant to today’s 21th century practice.

So, could some kind soul please give me the names of a couple of books that would be worth investing in regarding 21st century traditional notation that Universal Edition and Boosey and Hawkes would accept for their music publications.

Thank you. Best wishes, and of course keep up the great work.


The current standard is Elaine Gould’s Behind Bars. I own a copy and highly recommend it.

It exists as a physical edition as well as a digital edition. I have both :wink:

Unfortunately, Gould completely omits any information or guidance whatsoever on Jazz or related notational styles, which is a pity…
I haven’t yet found a comparatively exhausting and authoritative guide yet, only bits and pieces.

Good luck!


one of the best music notation resource

more specific

UE released their style guide here:

There are downloadable versions floating around too. AFAIK Boosey’s style guide is for in-house distribution only. I did some work for them a while back so I have the 2010 version if you have any specific questions. No idea if it’s been updated since then. Schirmer’s style guide is available for sale as well:

I sorta collect notation books so I probably have 30 or so. As mentioned, Gould is the current state of the art, but very lacking for jazz, Broadway, and film. I still generally check it first now. The Ross you have is great, and the two other definitive works from roughly that same time period are Music Notation: A Manual of Modern Practice by Gardner Read and Music Notation in the Twentieth Century by Kurt Stone. Those were my go-to guides before Gould.

Harder to find, but of books focusing on hand-copying, jazz, and commercial music, I’ve found the Ken Williams and Clinton Roemer books to be the most useful.

Hey Fred,

Thank you so much for your great input.

I have now purchased the hard copy of Elaine Gould’s Behind Bars book.

Best wishes and enjoy all your editions, some quite rare I am sure of that.