Standards for Placement of Textual Articulation Designations

I’m still new to orchestration, so I’m asking for leniency due to the basic nature of some of my questions in advance.

I’ve noticed every time I add a playing technique in my notated music (SHIFT-P), Dorico adds it as text, ABOVE the stave. 99% of the time I end up hiding the text especially for strings, because obviously the markings (such as dot for staccato) would normally be what players look at. And in that specific instance I would have to add the text ‘sempre stacc.’ BELOW the stave I just have a few questions.

  1. Is there a way to hide the playing technique by default?
  2. Are the playing techniques text added simply because they’re required for playback? Would it be wrong in most cases to actually intend the text for the players?
  3. My understanding is that unless staccato is repeated for more than one measure you might do something like sempre stacc. on the second measure (below) the stave, indicating staccato from that point until it’s canceled (e.g.: nat., norm., ord) and of course dots on the notes for the first measure; but what is the standard for other articulations? I’ve read, for instance, for marcato which is going to repeat for several measures you would actually add marcato marks (upside down V) on the notes for the first measure and then indicate ‘sim.’ on the second measure of continuing marcato and then later, say 5 measures later, add ‘nat’ or ‘ord.’ to cancel. Would it be wrong to just use the text of ‘marcato’ placed above the stave which is added by the SHIFT-P and then, as before, indicate ‘sim’ on the second measure etc.?

I found a forum where the user said, "My new Schirmer Manual of Style makes this easy rule: "text indications above the staff should not be italicized (except alterations of tempo). Those below the staff should be in italics. Is this true? If so, where is this documented? Notation books?

There’s no way to hide a playing technique by default, but you could assign a shortcut to the Hide/Show Item command (found in the Edit category on the Key Commands page of Preferences), which you could invoke immediately after creating the playing technique.

You can flip a playing technique below the staff if you like, and override its text so that it says “sempre stacc.”, or whatever, via the Properties panel.

It’s up to you regarding at what point you want to stop indicating an articulation like staccato or marcato.

Thank you, Daniel, for your quick response as always! That was very helpful.

Yes, there are books about conventions, standards and ‘best practice’ for notation. Most commercial publishers, like Schirmer, also have their own Style Guide (and of course different publishers prefer different standards…).

Schirmer does make their guide available for purchase; other publishers keep them ‘private’, and copies are usually just passed around between those in the know. :shushing_face:

The best known and most comprehensive book is “Behind Bars”, by Elaine Gould, the chief editor of Faber Music. If there is a standard, that’s it, though you’ll find people who disagree about particular points.

There’s also books like the Alfred Essential Dictionary of Music Notation, which is a cheap and cheerful little guide (though interestingly I can’t find anything in it about expression text…)

The Schirmer Manual of Style and Usage is an excellent and concise manual. At 90-something pages it’s a little easier to simply read it through than Gould is at almost 700. I had a copy in the 1990s that the woman I worked for had marked up with a bunch of SCORE-related settings. At some point I lost it and bought the 2009 “Third Edition.” There’s a newer 2019 “Fourth Edition” now, which I’m sure is also excellent. The manual doesn’t attempt to account for every possible issue and circumstance, and is obviously reflecting Schirmer’s house style, but I’ve found it to be very useful. It’s currently $39 and available here.

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Oh wow! Really? I thought you could only add a suffix … Please tell me how I can completely override the text in the lower zone, I’m not sure what the method is, but sometimes I don’t notice very obvious things, so I hope it’s true!

No, of course you’re correct, Claude, you can indeed only add a suffix to a playing technique.

Darn! I really got my hopes up there!
At any rate. Happy New Year from Alberta!