Forgive my enactment, but it seems like the easiest way to explain: Let's say, hypothetically, it's a piano piece. I'm on a train, composing on paper, no piano in sight. I have a strong idea for a part in the bass clef. It's fairly simple rhythmically, spanning about 10 measures, but the notes vary in each measure. I then start working on the treble clef. I had a vague idea to start, and it evolves as I write. I want a complicated run in measure 5. Ooops! I don't have enough space to properly coordinate with the bass clef. Time for the eraser. Or, I re-write bar 5 on a different page and worry about it later when finalizing. Or, maybe next time, I space out the bass clef part extra-wide, just in case I decide to cram a bunch of notes above it. Ugh!

I assume this is a problem solved by others long ago (centuries ago), and there's probably a set of best practices somewhere. However, I can't find them. Notation software obviates the issue (obviously), but I'd really like to get more comfortable notating by hand, well.

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    Centuries ago, Beethoven wrote in pen and crossed out several measures or pages and rewrote them when he needed to fix something. So by using an eraser you’ve already achieved the state of the art in hand writing notation. There is a tactic that was used in musical theatre before everyone switched to software which was every line of a staff was always split evenly into four bars and you could fit 16 16th notes in each bar if you wanted to. You could also cut out bars from one page and paste them on another and they would line up. Doesn’t help much for 64th note runs or cadenza style stuff. Jan 26, 2019 at 5:57
  • Funny, I was right thinking about such kind of things as asking and giving inputs how to notate sheet music. Jan 26, 2019 at 8:37
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    Draft is different than final copy. Scratch out or erase what must go and rewrite somewhere else. Once you’re all done, then put it in the computer. Jan 26, 2019 at 11:54

1 Answer 1


It doesn’t matter at all!

It’s the same as you have to edit a literary texture:

As this will not be the final layout of your composition just notate your idea with a short graphic sign, may be red coulored or by a *1), then number the specific bars and continue writing at the end of of your already finished phrases and notate the idea in the new measure, assigne it with 1) and in the final layout you can insert this measure in the part above. Don’t forget to markup the place where it will be inserted.

  • Much appreciated. Thank you! And thanks all for the helpful comments above, as well.
    – CR James
    Jan 31, 2019 at 2:57

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