Question about notation

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by emor, May 29, 2007.

  1. emor


    May 16, 2004
    I recently gave a friend one my transcriptions (hand written)and he noted that it was a bit odd in that I had written it out 3 bars to a line (was easier to fit everything in that way). I noticed in my fakebooks that tunes are indeed notated with 4 bars to a line. Apparently this is the standard way to do it. Is it wrong (or, if not wrong, just kind of goofy) to do it otherwise?
    It is clear enough in the fakebooks, but when I do it, everything looks crammed in.

  2. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Maybe it is my small brain but a chart with 3 bars on a line would have made my nose bleed and I'd have seizures. Most (not all) jazz is in 4 or 8 bar phrases. There are exceptions (Moonlight in Vermont) but most charts will have an even number of bars per line. Even Moonlight in Vermont or Blue In Green have an even number of bars in the entire tune.

    Remember, the goal of writing music down is to clearly communicate your ideas to the rest of the band.
    Papageno likes this.
  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    If you're talking about Jazz - then it is often written 4 bars to a line when it is in 'phrases', that fall naturally within groups of 4s and 8s.

    I do find it annoying, when given a chart for a tune that has 3 bars to a line if the "feel" of the tune is in 4 or 8 bar groups!

    However there is no compulsion about this - it's just about helping the player ....?

    I have been given many charts with odd number of bars on a line and often I will write it out again in what feels right to me!

    So - a 'normal' 32 -bar Jazz standard fits well on one sheet of paper with 4 bars to the line and makes sense in terms of grouping the phrases! :)
    Papageno likes this.
  4. rockwarnick


    Jul 29, 2006
    Rockville, MD
    have you tried a program like finale? you could fix that cramming problem. i downloaded a free version and i love it. unless you would rather hand-write it.
  5. lowerclef


    Nov 10, 2003
    Four bars is certainly ideal. Sometimes it can't happen - for example, if you are writing out a very difficult passage and you can't cram in four bars' worth of notes legibly.

    If you're doing a basic chord chart though, it should always be four bars per line, in the interest of everyone's sanity!
  6. Chrix


    Apr 9, 2004
    This reminds me of the first time I tried to read Solar out of the Real Book. It's written in three bar phrases and for some reason I just couldn't figure the darn thing out. I kept trying to phrase it in three bar phrases. Real Book strikes again!
  7. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    I almost threw that book in the roaring fire in my fireplace this winter. Mighta' been the Shiraz I was enjoying.

    I find the more I play the more I hate that book.
  8. buddyro57

    buddyro57 me and PJ (living with the angels now)

    Apr 14, 2006
    Cedar Falls Iowa
    There is no standard (or "ideal”) number of measures per system in jazz, classical, pop or any other genre that I know of. It all depends on note spacing- obviously if you have 4 measures in 4/4 meter, written in mostly quarter notes, you can fit more measures per system than if you are in 9/8, with mostly 16th notes. Write it so that it is legible.
    Jon Schwabe
  9. emor


    May 16, 2004
    Thanks for the responses.

    I certainly makes sense to use 4 bars to the line. As was stated, most tunes are subdivided into 4-bar phrases.

    I downloaded the free version of finale last night and messed around with it for a couple of hours. I'm thinking that the pay version must be undoubtedly more user-friendly than the free version (duh!). Granted, I've only spent small amount of time with the program, but I found it to be somewhat less intuitive than I'd hoped. By comparison, the Pro version of SketchUp (a drawing progam that I'm more familiar with) is much easier to navigate than the free Google Sketchup. I would imagine that the same is true with finale. Video tutorials would be a great help.

    At this point, I think my time and money would be better spent practicing and taking lessons, and just try to improve my manuscript writing skills as I go. I am reminded of a couple of architect friends discussing using AutoCad versus drawing something by hand. They agreed that sometimes it's just faster and easier to whip it out by hand.
  10. I remember trying Finale, the pay version, 10 years ago or so (a lifetime in the software world I know) and it was as far from "user-friendly" as could be. Most people I know who use it now have never been able to really figure it out. I guess it still needs some usability tests.... I still find that, though it's time-consuming, by-hand transcription is the only way to truly communicate music notation in the way that I like.

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