I'm an amateur musician who sometimes likes to write sheet music for arrangements and for pieces that I figure out by ear. I do this mainly because I can go long periods without playing and when I feel like doing it again, I like to have a custom reference to quickly relearn a song, however I feel like sometimes my sheets are written in a really messy way (not pleasant to the eye or confusing) so I was wondering if anyone knows of a style guide for sheet music writing that has some kind of worldwide reputation. I've found a couple ones online but I would like to know if I should be paying more attention for an specific one.

2 Answers 2


The go-to reference for notation is Elaine Gould's Behind Bars: The Definitive Guide to Music Notation. It's a massive book that, in addition to the standard tonal notation rules, includes examples of advanced post-tonal notation as well.

Other resources are listed in References for typesetting music, but the Gould is certainly the industry standard.

Lastly, Indiana University has a nice online resource here.


Engraving your work on music notation software like Finale, Sibelius, Muse-score, etc, can help make your ideas stand the test of time. Often our shorthand becomes incomprehensible after a lapse of time, so standardize the procedure and be able to share with others confidently as well.

  • yep I'm already using Musescore and guitar pro 6, but even if these programs are really easy to use you can still use some style references for your sheets to be great!
    – MikeKatz45
    Nov 6, 2018 at 15:25
  • Yeah, I debate how many ledger lines I'm allowed to use at once, then I see public domain piano sheet music on IMSLP that uses 5 ledger lines for the C 3 octaves below middle C.
    – Dekkadeci
    Nov 6, 2018 at 15:37

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