Some Principles Of Correct Notation

1. The note (from nota--Latin--a mark or sign) consists of either

one, two, or three parts, () these being referred to

respectively as head, stem, and hook. The hook is often called tail or

cross-stroke. The stem appears on the right side of the head when turned

up, but on the left side when turned down. The hook is

always on the right side.
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[Footnote 1: It should be noted at the outset that this statement

regarding the down-turned stem on the left side of the note-head, and

also a number of similar principles here cited, refer more specifically

to music as it appears on the printed page. In the case of hand-copied

music the down-turned stem appears on the right side of the note, thus

[note symbol]. This is done because of greater facility in writing, and

for the same reason other slight modifications of the notation here

recommended may sometimes be encountered. In dealing with children it is

best usually to follow as closely as possible the principles according

to which printed music is notated, in order to avoid those

non-satisfying and often embarrassing explanations of differences which

will otherwise be unavoidable.]

[Footnote 2: An exception to this rule occurs in the case of notes of

unequal value stroked together, when the hook appears on the left side,

thus [Illustration].]

In writing music with pen the head and hook are best made with

a heavy pressure on the pen point, but in writing at the board

they are most easily made by using a piece of chalk about an

inch long, turned on its side.

2. When only one part (or voice) is written on the staff, the following

rules for turning stems apply: (1) If the note-head is below the

third line, the stem must turn up. (2) If the note-head is above the

third line the stem must turn down. (3) If the note-head is on the

third line the stem is turned either up or down with due regard to the

symmetrical appearance of the measure in which the note occurs. The

following examples will illustrate these points.

3. When two parts are written on the same staff, the stems of the upper

part all turn up, and those of the lower part turn down, in order that

the parts may be clearly distinguished. (Fig. 2.) But in music for piano

and other instruments on which complete chords can be sounded by one

performer and also in simple, four-part vocal music in which all voices

have approximately the same rhythm, several notes often have one stem in

common as in Fig. 3.

4. Notes of small denomination (eighths and smaller) are often written

in groups of two or more, all stems in the group being then connected by

one cross-stroke. In such a case all the stems must of course be

turned the same way, the direction being determined by the position of

the majority of note-heads in the group. Notes thus stroked may be of

the same or of different denomination. See Fig. 4.

In vocal music notes are never thus stroked when a syllable is given to

each note. (See p. 19, Sec. 55, C.)

5. Rests, like notes, are best made with a heavy pen stroke or by

using a piece of chalk on its side. (See note under Sec. 1.) The

double-whole rest, whole rest, and half rest occupy the third space

unless for the sake of clearness in writing two parts on the same staff

they are written higher or lower. The rests of smaller denomination may

be placed at any point on the staff, the hooks being always placed on

the spaces. The hook of the eighth rest is usually placed on the

third space. Rests are sometimes dotted, but are never tied.

6. The G clef should be begun at the second line rather than below the

staff. Experiments have shown clearly that beginners learn to make it

most easily in this way, and the process may be further simplified by

dividing it into two parts, thus, . The descending stroke

crosses the ascending curve at or near the fourth line. The circular

part of the curve occupies approximately the first and second spaces.

7. The F clef is made either thus, ,

or thus,

, the dots being placed one on either side of the

fourth line of the staff, which is the particular point that the clef

marks. The C clef has also two forms, and


8. The sharp is made with two light vertical strokes, and two heavy

slanting ones, the slant of the latter being upward from left to right,

. The sharp should never be made thus, #.

The double sharp is made either thus or *

, the first form being at present the more common.

9. The flat is best made by a down stroke retraced part way up, the

curve being made without lifting pen from paper. The double flat

consists of two flats. The natural or cancel is

made in two strokes, down-right and right-down, thus .

[Footnote 3: It is to be hoped that the figure for the double-flat

suggested by Mattheson (who also suggested the St. Andrew's cross

for the double-sharp) may some time be readopted. This figure

was the Greek letter B, made thus, [Greek: b], and its use would make

our notation one degree more uniform than it is at present.]

10. The tie usually connects the heads of notes, thus .

11. The dot after a note always appears on a space, whether the

note-head is on a line or space. (See Fig. 5.) In the case of a dot

after a note on a line, the dot usually appears on the space above

that line if the next note is higher in position and on the space below

it if the following note is lower.

Note.--Correct notation must be made a habit rather than a

theory, and in order to form the habit of writing correctly,

drill is necessary. This may perhaps be best secured by

asking students to write (at the board or on ruled paper) from

verbal dictation, thus: Teacher says,

Key of B[flat], three-quarter measure: First measure, DO a

quarter note, RE a quarter, and MI a quarter. Second measure,

SOL a quarter, LA a quarter, and SOL a quarter. Third measure,

LA, TI, DO, RE, MI, eighths, stroked in pairs. Fourth measure,

high DO a dotted half. Pupils respond by writing the exercise

dictated, after which mistakes in the turning of stems, etc.,

are corrected. The pitch names may be dictated instead of

the syllables if desired, and still further practice may be

provided by asking that the exercise be transposed to other