While the Wikipedia article indicates many types of extended vocal techniques, their notations are not available.

Despite hearing such effects in modern pieces, I've never had the chance of knowing how they are notated. I only know that ghost notes represent speech rather than singing, and the ghost notes and the mezza voce notation indicate a whisper-like sound.

Let's say, how should we notate that a part should be sung by inhaling, whispering, growling or screaming?

Are there any signs for this? Should the techniques be just written in words as an indication? Is there a guide or notation manual that tells how to notate such techniques?

  • Check out some scores. Off the top of my head, Berio's Sequenza for Voice could be instructive. Here's a link to a YouTube recording of it which shows the score: m.youtube.com/watch?v=DGovCafPQAE Jun 2, 2016 at 21:13
  • Check out Kurt Stone's 20th Century Notation - it has a wonderfully comprehensive section on notating various vocal effects. Jun 2, 2016 at 23:30

1 Answer 1


In general, extended vocal techniques like these are indicated via a change of notehead along with a textual description of the desired effect (i.e. "whispered", "screamed", etc). The specifics of this may vary in practice, depending on the particular needs of the piece: if there are only a few isolated effects needed, for example, they could all be marked with an "x" notehead and given a short text note inline at each occurrence; but in a composition with multiple effects used frequently and in close proximity, each effect could be given a distinct notehead with a legend given at the start of the piece or in a preface, describing the desired techniques corresponding with each type of notehead. Above all, the primary concern is clarity and understandability by the performer, so the composer/engraver can have a lot of latitude in how to achieve that.

There is also specialized notation that can be used for inhalation/exhalation that doesn't really apply to other vocal techniques. This is described in the excellent notation reference Behind Bars, by Elaine Gould:

An arrow placed above a note may indicate audible inhalation and exhalation while singing; a backward arrow indicates inhaling, and a forward arrow indicates exhaling:


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