Has anybody ever heard of a modern composition notation convention where sloping beams indicate acc. and rall.? A composer colleague of mine who always uses flat horizontal beams claims this (without any special notes in the prefaces to the music). Is there any documentary evidence for such a thing? Do post WWII musicians really read this extra semantic layer into beaming as a matter of course and standard practice? I confess to being very surprised to hear this. I am not referring to modern feathered beams, which are used for acc. and rall.

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    If you've never seen an example, and we've never seen an example, and your friend can't provide an example, I think it's not a thing.
    – ibonyun
    Nov 1, 2019 at 17:09
  • Feathered beaming is definitely a thing, sorry. See the relevant answer below (with pictures) Nov 2, 2019 at 2:56
  • andro Sometimes the beams are 100% horizontal but sloped beams happens all the time. The beams still mean the same thing. Are you talking about some kind of special type of sloped beams which is different from normal usage? Then please provide an image so we can see what you are talking about. Nov 3, 2019 at 0:04
  • @jjmusicnotes Feathered beaming is probably the first thought most of us had. But he specifically says he's not talking about that.
    – ibonyun
    Nov 11, 2019 at 3:25

2 Answers 2


Tilting beams to indicate changing tempo is not standard practice.

It might be warranted for a composition with a plethora of gradual tempo changes, but it discards the many well thought out rules for beaming (dozens of pages in Gardner Read's "Music Notation"), and thus harms readability. For a piece with that many tempo changes, better to renotate it as individual note durations in a constant tempo.

  • I disagree, while beaming to change tempo specifically is indeed not standard practice. Using feathered beaming to indicate either accel or rit is definitely a thing. You should consult Kurt Stone's book on notation. Nov 2, 2019 at 2:58
  • I'm familiar with feathered beaming: I commented as such in LPS's answer. Feathered beaming and using beam tilt to indicate tempo changes (or, indeed, anything at all) have nothing in common. Nov 2, 2019 at 20:41

I suppose this is what you mean:

Increasing and decreasing speed

That is standard. I have played music with that notation and I have also composed music myself with that notation.

If you mean something else you better include an image of what you mean.

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    The notation shown here is feathered beaming, which the question excludes. Nov 1, 2019 at 16:05
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    Well, then please indicate in your post with an image what your are talking about. Nov 1, 2019 at 16:42
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    I meant @andro please include an image in your post showing what you are talking about. Sloped beams is a normal thing in sheet music. Sometimes the beams are 100% horizontal but a lot of times they are sloped to a small or large degree; the slopes don't change anything only the lay-out. So I am wondering whether you are talking about some special kind of slope whatever that would be. So that is why I ask for an image in order to find out what you mean. Nov 2, 2019 at 21:11

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