Notes Style Sheet


Topics in This Section

Citing Notes
  • When citating Notes, use issue no. and the month (spelled in full): Notes 57, no. 2 (December 2000): 347–423.

  • For the first series of Notes, use the form: Notes [ser. 1] 8 (August 1940): 64–65.


  • Use Notes as journal title in the body of articles and in footnotes. The subtitle Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association is unnecessary.


Title as Singular
  • "A title, which is considered to be a singular noun, always takes a singular verb" (CMS16 8.164). Examples:

Yet Ruffo's Sacrae cantiones vulgo motetto is important for what it reveals.

The Easy Duets on Folk Themes for two violins (1945) is a delightful example of the teaching pieces so desperately needed after the war.

Digital Technology
  • Files names

    • Use JPEG (for Joint Photographic Experts Group), not jpeg


    • Use MPEG (for Moving Picture Experts Group), not mpeg


    • Use MP3 not mp3


  • Kilobits (kbps) and Kilobytes

    Stephen Davison provides the following explanation from the Webopedia:

    • Use kbps (kilobits per second) as a measure of data transfer speed. Modems, for example are measured in kbps. Data transfer rates are measured using the decimal meaning of K (thus one kbps is 1,000 bits per second). Technically, kbps should be spelled with a lowercase k to indicate that it is decimal, although almost everyone spells it with a capital K. The correct abbreviation for bit is "b."

    • Data storage, however, is measured using the powers-of-2 meaning of K (thus one KB is 1,024 bytes). "B" is the abbreviation of "byte." Thus:

    kbps = 1000 bits per second
    KBps = 8192 bits per second
    kBps = 8000 bits per second
    Kbps = 1024 bits per second

    although only the first (kbps) is actually used.

    System requirements

    • Treat the system requirements as if it were the collation statement:

      • "Minimum system requirements: Macintosh System 7.1 or higher, Windows 95/98/NT4 or higher, 8–16 MB RAM minimum (32 MB recommended), 20MB hard disk space (plus 20MB disk space for documentation)."

"Editions" vs. "Prints"
  • Substitute "edition" (or "issue") where an author uses "print" for early printed music, following Stanley Boorman's glossary in Music Printing and Publishing, edited by D. W. Krummel and Stanley Sadie (New York: W. W. Norton, 1990):
"Print. In current usage, the term refers to a copy of a work of art taken from a plate (or other surface) by printing. The former use of the word, to refer to a printed book or journal, is now obsolete; the habit among musicologists of referring to printed music as 'musical prints' should be discouraged." (italics added)
Foreign Words and Terms as English Words (Italic vs. Roman)
  • As a general principle, if a foreign word or phrase is in MW11 or Webster's 3d, regard it as Anglicized and use roman (CMS16, 7.52); also, German nouns, if in MW11, are not capitalized:

"In the allegro section, the accelerando reinforces the violin's crescendo into the forte passage."

gesellschaft, not Gesellschaft; lied, lieder, not Lied, Lieder

  • Otherwise, treat the word or phrase as foreign and use italic:


"In addition to the più lento tempo, the violins also play sul ponticello over pizzicato notes in the cellos."

  • When using foreign words and phrases within the context of a sentence, use italics:


The passage should be played allegro ma non troppo.

  • When quoting foreign words and phrases, however, do not italicize, but put the word or phrase in quotes:


These parts are marked "Stimmen"; the prelude is marked "allegro ma non troppo."

"However," (at beginning of a sentence)
Using "However," at the beginning of a sentence, when a contrast is intended, "isn't a grammatical error; it's merely a stylistic lapse, the word But or Yet ordinarily being preferable. The reason is that Howeverthree syllables followed by a comma—is a ponderous way of introducing a contrast, and it leads to unemphatic sentences" (Garner3, s.v. "however").


  • Music Theater vs. Musical Theater (thanks to Eunice Schroeder)
    • The Library of Congress uses both music theater and musical theater as subject entries.

    • The scope note for music theater is based on the NHD definition:

  • "Here are entered musical works, often small in scale and primarily of the 20th century, that combine elements of music, drama, and sometimes dance in unconventional ways that result in works distinct from traditional forms."

    • The scope note for musical theater reads:

    "Works on the broad area of music in the theater including opera, musical comedy, pantomime, revues, etc., and works about more than one such type." Thus,  musical theater includes more than just musicals (i.e., musical comedy) by this definition.

    • The HDM4 does not have an entry for musical theater but uses the term in its definition of musical (comedy): "A popular form of 20th-century musical theater." This implies the same use of musical theater as practiced by the Library of Congress.


    • The New Grove Dictionary of American Music also lacks an entry for music theater, but defines musical theater as: "A type of stage entertainment that combines drama and music, but does not necessarily have a unifying plot." A broad definition that is pretty close to LC's.

    • The New Grove Dictionary of Opera has an entry for music theatre: "A term often used to characterize a kind of opera and opera production in which spectacle and dramatic impact are emphasized over purely musical factors, but first used specifically in the 1960s to describe the small-scale musico-dramatic works by composers of the postwar generations. . . . " This is basically the same as LC and the HDM4.

    • The NGD2 does not have an entry for musical theater but, like the HDM4 uses the term in its definition of musical: "The major form of popular musical theatre of the 20th century."

    • A pattern seems to be emerging here. Musical theater, according to these sources, is a broad term meaning any type of music in the theater, as in LC's scope note. A musical, then, is a genre of popular musical theater (others are operetta, burlesque, vaudeville). Music theater seems to have a more narrow definition, designating a rather specific genre, as in LC, the HDM4 and the New Grove Dictionary of Opera.
    Publishing Houses and Presses 

    • Regard publishing houses as singular rather than plural.

      "Breitkopf & Härtel issued its own edition in 1943"—not "Breitkopf & Härtel issued their own edition in 1943."


      "Boosey & Hawkes has offices in London and New York"—not "Boosey & Hawkes have offices in London and New York."

    • When a publishing house uses different names in different countries, include both locations and names only when the publication is so marked.
      • Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press

      • Omit the name of the U.S. state where a publisher is located when the state name is part of the publisher's name. 

        • Berkeley: University of California Press; Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.

        • but: Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.


      Repertoire vs. Repertory
      • MW10 implies that repertory is a preferred use for repertoire except for specific uses. In music, however, there is often a subtle difference between repertoire and repertory. Context often determines the choice between which form to use.

      • Repertoire

        • "A list or supply of dramas, operas, pieces, or parts that a company or person is prepared to perform" (MW11).

        • The complete list or supply of dramas, operas, or musical works available for performance. (MW10). Generally more restrictive than repertory (see below).

      • Repertory

        • A large body of works in a certain genre or style performed at a cathedral, a court, or in a geographical area, such as the the Venetian repertory of concertato Masses and Vespers at St. Marks, the repertory of Italian opera at the Mannheim court, or the repertory of English consort music. In general, repertory implies works performed over a less distinct and usually longer period of time than a repertoire. Thus the context of "repertory" is broader, less specific than "repertoire." (Darwin Scott)

        • A company that presents several different plays, operas, or pieces usually alternately in the course of a season at ONE theater (MW11).

      Review Bylines
      • Never use author's title or "the"  before the name of a university:
      Correct:DUNCAN DONUTT
      Ohio State University
      The Ohio State University

      Review Headings (Title-Page Transcription vs. House Style)

      • Names and publishing information follow the form on the title page of the edition being reviewed, not Notes house style when there is a conflict. Thus: 

        • Georg Friedrich Händel (from a volume of the Hallische Händel-Ausgabe), not George Frideric Handel (from LC Authorities)

        • Herausgegeben vonnot Hrsg. von


          (if spelled in full on title page)

      Specialized Musical Words Not Found in Webster's 3d but Acceptable to Use in Notes

      contrafacted(Grove Music Online)
      soloistic(Grove Music Online)
      timbral(Grove Music Online)