How do music editors indicate changes they've made to a score?

Sometimes an editor will make musically meaningful changes to a score, such as

  • Adding markings the editor believes were omitted by the composer or previous editors;
  • Modifying notes the editor believes were errors or omissions from previous editions;
  • Including markings where there are multiple possibilities based on earlier editions and where a definitive answer is not available;
  • The editor's interpretive opinion.

Such markings can lead to confusion and, thus, to questions here on SE Music Practice and Theory. The purpose of (the answers to) this question is to provide a hub linkage point for questions that stem from editorial score emendations.

Related questions

  • 2
    I think it varies by publisher. Some don’t even give any clues to the changes that have made, which are sometimes significant. Sep 5, 2020 at 3:45
  • 1
    @ToddWilcox Maybe I should rephrase. "How do responsible music editors ..." :-)
    – Aaron
    Sep 5, 2020 at 5:23
  • Is the intention to have one answer per method of indication?
    – texdr.aft
    Nov 4, 2020 at 20:38
  • @texdr.aft Not my intention per se, but that might be a nice way to organize things. Maybe one answer per related set of editorialisms? Some sort of balance between one super long answer and a tsunami of short answers.
    – Aaron
    Nov 5, 2020 at 5:07
  • I always remember a member of a quite well known string quartet saying to me: "Its the editors job to change what the composer wrote." Gave me a new view on different editions of music.
    – JimM
    Feb 18, 2021 at 12:20

1 Answer 1


Many editors do not mark their emendations; often one must compare a given text with an "urtext" or "original edition" (not necessarily the same) or even a facsimile of the composer's notebook.

In "good" editorial work, the editor's changes may be marked (an accidental enclosed in brackets rather than parentheses) or a dotted line or a different font from the main text. Different colors are nice but not always feasible. If the editor thinks the first edition is wrong (not uncommon), some explanation should be given.

Sometimes, the editor will have a preface (or foreword or author's note) explaining the procedures.

To some extent, you tread the minefield alone. If making a performance score for yourself, you can compare several editions as pointed out above. With modern computer software, you can prepare your own edition any way you wish. I would probably annotate my own annotations and try to highlight changes by color (perhaps blue or grey for text so as not to interfere with reading.)

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