I've just recently completed work on my first symphony. I would like to enter a selection from it in a local contest, but I need to be sure that the format is correct first. Can anyone suggest any online resources or materials that may help?

A portion of the piece in question (the portion I wish to enter), can be found here.

  • 2
    Have you read many orchestral scores? Check out the scores for pieces that inspire you and use those for ideas on how you want yours to look. Dec 25, 2016 at 12:43

3 Answers 3


I would suggest the following changes to your score as formatted (using the MuseScore guidelines at https://musescore.org/en/handbook/layout-and-formatting - however, some of these may not be possible within MuseScore - consider a music notation software such as Finale or Sibelius):

  1. Clarify the instruments listed in the score (i.e do you want both A clarinet and Bb clarinet or just one? I think I understand your intent but just select the appropriate options.)

  2. Create boxed "rehearsal letters" or "rehearsal measure numbers" to mark various sections of your piece.

  3. I noticed there is some variety as to which parts get dynamic markings/articulation markings - just make sure that musical elements that are doubled across different instruments are coordinated the same way.

  4. Just a clarification question about the musical content you've composed - I notice a few "runs" of repeated sixteenth notes in various voices - do you intend for all of these to be separate notes or do wish for some to be legato or connected via slurs? Purely from a performance perspective be sure to include your exact intent.

For further reference, including on how to produce accompanying material for your score (title page, instrumention page, etc. refer to the following website - especially pages 3 and 4) http://mola-inc.org/article/Music-Preparation-Guidelines-for-Orchestral-Music.pdf

  • Unfortunately I can not afford, Finale or Sibelius, and my computer is most likely too old to support them. Musescore, is the most complex notation software that my computer can handle. It even struggles with the version of Mixcraft that I have. I will however, have to look into the link you sent me. I will also be taking a Masterclass in composing for films within the next few months. Dec 25, 2016 at 22:43
  • @nicoleharris If you're taking the class at a university or college, check if you qualify for educational pricing. It might be within reach. That's how I got my copy.
    – endorph
    Dec 26, 2016 at 7:37
  • MuseScore is just fine for what you're doing. You are confused over how transposing instruments work. There are some dramatic crescendos and other dynamic changes in playback, but they don't appear to be notated. The ones that ARE notated don't say what dynamic they start and end at. What is the opening dynamic? You need to say. There's more. Can you have a session with a teacher on this piece? You have some good musical ideas.
    – Laurence
    Dec 26, 2016 at 14:04
  • The class I'm taking is online. Its Hanz Zimmer's new masterclass on composing film scores. It sadly does not start until early 2017. I won't know the official start date until I receive an email, that enrollment has started. I've also just realized that the version on Musescore is somewhat out of date. I've updated a few portions since it was posted. I'll be updating it, within the next day or so. Dec 27, 2016 at 9:35

In general, you need to make sure that your score is easy to read, is consistent, and correctly communicates the musical ideas from your brain to the people who will actually play the piece.

With this in mind, I have a few comments.

Something is fishy with your transposing instruments. If I read correctly, you're in concert C Major. So, your trumpet/cornet should be in D major, your french horn should be in G Major, and your clarinet should be in D or Eb (depending on whether it's Bb or A). Unless there's some display issue with the online viewer?

On that note, there seems to be loads of pages with just one or two bars. This would be quite annoying for a conductor. Again, it could be an artifact of the online viewer? If not, you need to format your score so that much more of it fits on a single page.

I'll second the call for rehearsal marks. I prefer bar numbers to letters, but either is better than none. I'd also recommend that you change the name of the instrument at the start of the score so that it's really clear what you want. You should replace "Violins, Violin I" with "Violin I", for example. If you really want clarinets in A and Bb, they should be two separate instruments. My guess is that you'll be happy with just the Bb clarinet. Do you really want a contrabassoon?

Musically, be aware that you've written the flutes quite low. This could be intentional; it's perfectly playable, just a touch unusual. There are also some quite wide leaps in the woodwinds. Probably playable, although you may raise an eyebrow or two. Also, you have staccato crotchets in the cellos, and simultaneous unmarked crotchets in the violas. Is this intentional? You also haven't used all the instruments in a standard orchestra (e.g. trombones). Will this meet the requirements for your competition?

There are probably other things I could raise, but that's a start. I hope it is helpful.


In addition to the answers so far, I have a couple of other things that you might want to modify and/or clarify:

  • In the clarinet, contrabassoon, french horn, and trumpet parts, there are some places where you have two voices written and some points where there is just one voice written. Obviously you will need two players for each of these instruments. When you only have one voice written, do you only want one instrument to be playing, or do you want both instruments to play in unison? This can be indicated by the use of a due, primo, and/or secondo above each staff.

  • The upper contrabassoon part is almost too high to be played by a contrabassoon, and both contrabassoon parts could be played by a conventional bassoon. It would seem more natural to write these parts for regular bassoons; it'll be easier for most orchestras to find two bassoon players than to find two contrabassoon players.

  • A standard set of four timpani can't always reach the B3 that you've written (once) towards the end of the piece; it would probably require an extra small drum to perform the piece as written. If the B3 is not really necessary, you might consider removing it.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.