Turns inside slurs - Gould

Hi, only a theoretical question. I’ve looked on the forums and also let ChatGPT take a search, but couldn’t find it. It might however be that I still overlooked.

I wonder if anyone knows if and on what page in Gould discusses whether and in what cases a turn or short thrill should be placed inside or outside a slur.

(I bought the book, but electronically and searching is kind of hard in such a massive work).

In many cases, inside the slur would be best because the turn participates in the legato. Here is an example from the Brahms Piano Quartet no. 1 from the Breitkopf and Haertel Complete Works. The first edition is the same:

Brahms  op 25

I couldn’t find this in Gould either.


Turns and mordents aren’t discussed in Behind Bars but they’re shown (without slurs) in the context of ‘Accidentals affecting ornaments’ on page 84. On pages 121 and 122, the related ‘Placing slurs with other articulation marks’ is addressed.

In Dorico, ‘Ornaments, including trills, are placed above the notes to which they apply’ and ‘are positioned outside of [sic] slurs by default’.

This sometimes doesn’t make sense (particularly under longer slurs) but it’s easy to use the ‘Slur-relative position’ switch (Inside/Outside) in Engrave mode.

The context is much more important than any rule. I’d suggest that putting the turn inside the slur is far preferable in this case:


Thanks so much @John_Ruggero and @tristis. I find that the more I read Gould, the more I see some editions that I love so much differ from Gould’s guidelines (for example Henle). It’s intriguing to observe how these beloved editions deviate in their approach to notation, revealing a distinct contrast between traditional practices and Gould’s modern standards. This is immediately apparent with regard to tempo markings, which in Gould’s recommendations and in Dorico are strictly printed in bold. Henle, on the other hand, often follows earlier editions that sometimes print tempo markings in italics, particularly for relative or gradual tempo indications.

Other deviations from Gould are also occuring regularly. Maybe keyboard (or: piano) music has slightly different conventions. Now I’m constantly battling what’s right according to Gould, and what’s common practice in the music I know so well.

For some reason, I’d like my scores to have as little adjustments in Engraving Mode as possible. I configured Dorico much to my liking. There’s just a couple of areas with room for improvement (slurs, too wide staff spacing that can be avoided by placing dynamics and such a little horizontally, and a threshold for vertical spacing (for example: no more then 90% full).


Gould is an excellent starting point, but just one source among many. The best source is the music literature of the last several centuries, which is available to all at IMSLP.

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Behind Bars is essentially Faber Music’s Style Guide.

One thing I’ve learnt is that there are as many standards as there are publishers, countries, genres, and centuries.

It would be great if we could all agree on doing the same thing, even if that’s a revision on what went before – but hopefully an improvement.

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The trouble is that Dorico can’t meet some of these standards very easily (and without breaking the connection between notation and playback). This applies (inexplicably to me) to the mainstream 19th and 20th century classical repertoire and I sometimes wonder if anyone working on Dorico actually uses it.

Nothing though should ever become a standard just because of some deficiency in software. Not breaking beams according to the lyrics (I know you don’t care about this) is I fear, an example of this.


I don’t think the idea of not breaking beams is due to any deficiency… And AFAIK any music notation software can break beams if needed (although not on an automated way, in Dorico, as you know). The real question there is whether our clients agree with this new kind of beaming or not. It really depends on them. And I have to admit now that there’s no consensus about that. At least not yet.

I really do think that vocal music is being beamed like instrumental music simply because that’s what the software does and most users don’t give it any thought. Splitting the beams can be automated in Finale and Sibelius but it’s still something that a lot of people won’t consider.

What Elaine Gould wrote in Behind Bars is rather misleading in my opinion:

Until well into the twentieth century, a separate tail was used for each syllable in vocal music, and notes within a beat were beamed only to indicate that a syllable took more than one note… Instrumental beaming (i.e. beaming into beats) is now used in vocal music together with syllabic slurs

I wouldn’t beam vocals any other way. As rhythms grow more complex (5/8, 7/8) the beams help make the rhythmic division of the measures clear.


That’s demonstrably untrue. Some publishers were moving in that direction (not without resistance from some customers) well before any software was available.

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I didn’t mean to encourage a reprise of the debate about the styles of beaming. There’s probably nothing to add to previous discussions and this would not seem to be the place for it even if there were.

I didn’t notice anything beamed in this way before the 90s (I remember a Schirmer aria compilation and more intriguingly, the Bärenreiter Berlioz edition).

If not instructed by a publisher, people seem to do as they please and in most cases, that seems to be simply accepting the defaults, often in ignorance of any other traditions or the pros and cons.

Anyway, this is is not the place for this to be discussed again but if you’ve seen any analysis of changing practices, I’d be interested to read it if you can send me a link.

Then perhaps you should not have brought it up if you didn’t want a response.
The “hit and run” style is very unattractive.

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This standard had changed well before the creation of notation software.

Gardner Read, Music Notation, pgs 293-5, (1979)
“But with the increasing rhythmic complexity in the music of the present century – vocal as well as instrumental – the tradition of flagging vocal notes has become outmoded. Practically all progressive vocal publications now print the voice parts with beams instead of individual flags, a much-needed revision in notational practice.”

Kurt Stone, Music Notation in the Twentieth Century, pg 293 (1980)
“The traditional system of beaming and flagging vocal music according to text syllables has been replaced almost universally with instrumental beaming, i.e., beaming according to beat-units or other metric divisions, with slurs indicating whenever more notes that one are to be sung on one syllable.”

I spoiler tagged the pics

EDIT: Found an even earlier citation from Carl Rosenthal, Practical Guide to Music Notation, pg 24 (1963):
“It has, therefore, become increasingly customary to use ligatures instead of flags, wherever possible, in vocal and choral music in the same manner as in instrumental music.”

Rosenthal pic

(the final sentence above states the image above “should not be joined” between the second and third beat)

  1. Marc mentioned the beaming the other day (Dorico uses the wrong Clef for Guitars - #13 by MarcLarcher).
  2. What I wrote was a response to what Ben had said about standards.
  3. Marc replied to what I’d said to Ben.
  4. You weighed in even though you’ve apparently got nothing to say other than that you like to do things a particular way. Fascinating!

You’ve always had some kind of weird animosity towards me. I’m a big boy and can live with that but you should perhaps have the decency not to pollute an otherwise dispassionate discussion.

Thanks very much for this.

Picking some scores off the shelves, I’ve found more with instrumental beaming than I’d have expected. The oldest seem to be Webern (but not Berg or Schönberg) but there is also traditional beaming throughout the 20th century. Most critical editions have the traditional beaming but then there’s the Berlioz. Interestingly, despite what Elaine Gould has written, Faber carried on using traditional beaming.

I need to compare the use in song and opera as well. The Ricordi /University of Chicago Press critical editions of Verdi use traditional beaming.

I need to read your material more carefully and do some proper analysis but the claims that traditional beaming is ‘outmoded’ or has been ‘replaced’ seem to be exaggerations and perhaps more prescriptive than descriptive. I’m not sure that one can say that ‘this standard had changed’.

Anyway, I’ll look into this further when I get a chance.


I have a 1946 book by Harold M. Johnson, published by Carl Fischer, titled How to Write Music Manuscript: An Exercise–Method Handbook where he doesn’t address the issue, but has examples showing it done both ways. It’s sort of a pet theory of mine that a lot of what we now consider to be rules and proper engraving really consolidated in the 1950s as that was the heyday of the studio orchestra. With a studio orchestra, sightreadability suddenly took on an importance that it hadn’t prior, as recording time was expensive, as did consistent and reliable notation, since mistakes now were either permanent or required another take (so time and expense).

As the 1946 text doesn’t address this either way, and the 1963 text states that it is “increasingly customary,” I suspect this is another convention that became codified in the 1950s to assist with sightreading. Of course, I’m sure there are plenty of examples contrary to this, but in general I’d bet that the standardization and expectation of this style of this occurred in the 1950s.


Again, this is very interesting information.

I’ve just had a very quick look through some American songbooks from before 1960 (I also have a 1956 vocal score of My Fair Lady in front of me) and traditional beaming is commonplace but not exclusive. I’ll need to go through the 40s, 50s and 60s methodically sometime to see if there’s an obvious change in standards. My Fair Lady has traditional beaming.

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Seperate beaming really looks terrible for vocals. There’s always that amount of time required to distinguish between an 16th from an 8th note.