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Typography, Terminology, Conventions

Last updated: 2024-07-06

Table of Contents

General Typography


As I have used American English throughout my previous (professional) life, my blog is (meant to be) in American English rather than British English, with some exceptions, see below. Note that English is not my mother tongue (that would be Swiss German!).

One example: there is an ongoing controversy whether flautist or flutist is correct for a musician playing the flute. Flutist is used predominantly in the U.S., flautist in most other English-speaking countries. For my blog, I decided to use flutist.

Personal Peculiarities

My interpunctuation often deviates from “proper English standards”. For example with quoted expressions, I put the comma or full stop after the closing double quote. Many English speaking folks use “media” as singular (the media is). To me, “media” is the plural of “medium“. I have had too many Latin lessons in the distant past!

I tend to use the Oxford comma (A, B, C, and D), and I try avoiding the split infinitive (“better to write…” rather than “to better write…”).


My font selection started off as that which goes with the WordPress theme (Roboto). Following my personal taste, I later changed that to Ubuntu. This lasted a few years, but then I wanted / needed to address the problem that with the Ubuntu there was way too much space around ♭ and ♯, which made key signatures such as E♭ major or F♯ minor look very odd. So, in November 2019, I changed the font to Segoe UI, together with general adjustments in font size and weight. Font size and weight are a compromise between readability and compactness, i.e., the need to keep my (usually long) postings at a reasonable size on display. I’m continuing to make minor adjustments.

Non-English Words / Expressions

These are typically written in Italics, e.g.: Allegro, Andante, pizzicato, vibrato. Capitalization in tempo annotations typically follows that in the score: Allegro ma non troppo

Durations (Time)

Where I mention durations, these are usually given in MM’SS” notation (possibly HHhMM’SS”) rather than HH:MM:SS, i.e., 3’15” and 1h15’30” in lieu of 3:15 and 1:15:30.


Wherever possible, I’m following the ISO 8601 standard (Briney, 2018), i.e., yyyy-mm-dd, i.e., 2019-11-13. This should avoid month/date confusion between US and Europe. Within this standard, date ranges may be expressed in the form 1999-06-15:18 (June 15th – 18th, 1999).


Currently, my site is not optimized for printing (or creating PDFs). In general, printing results will depend on the Web browser, and on the scaling of a page. If the result is not satisfactory, try a different Web browser, different scaling, or create a PDF first, and print from a PDF viewer, such as Adobe Reader.

Hint: WordPress pages now features “lazy loading” of images, in order to optimize performance (page loading time). This means that images below the current display window will not be loaded, unless you scroll down, to cause the browser to load the image. Therefore, if you want to print a long WordPress document with images, you should first scroll down to the bottom, in order to load all images into the browser buffer.

Hint 2: When printing for my own needs, I found that it is best to avoid excessive scaling in the output. I found that scaling the output to 80% typically produces acceptable results.

Hint 3: In print output, browsers such as Chrome may do funny things with floating menus, unless the page is scrolled to the top prior to printing.

Conclusion: for printing, first scroll down to the bottom (to make sure all images are loaded), then scroll to the very top (to avoid messing up the output due to floating menus). Only then, start the printing, with the appropriate scaling (e.g., 80%).

Mobile Platforms

The WordPress theme layout, the font selection, etc. adapt to mobile platforms (limited screen widths),, the Site also uses AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). Note that on mobile devices, there are some limitations other than just the screen size: not all features are currently functional, see Impressum, Legal, Timeline.

Musical Terminology & Typography

Musical Instruments

I’m using popular (“non-scientific”) naming for instruments. Examples:

  • string instruments: violin, viola, cello (rather than violoncello), double bass (occasionally violone, where appropriate), viola da gamba (not viol), viola d’amore
  • woodwinds: recorder, flute (rather than “transverse flute”) and traverso (for a baroque transverse flute), piccolo, oboe (also oboe d’amore, oboe da caccia), clarinet, basset horn, bassoon
  • brass instruments: trumpet, trombone, tuba (also euphonium), horn (for French horn), natural horn (without valves)
  • percussion instruments: timpani, drum(s), gran cassa, and many others


Compared to German language, describing / naming tonalities in English is somewhat clumsy (sorry!). In German, I would use A-dur (A major), a-moll (A minor), As-dur (A♭ major), es-moll (E minor), Fis-dur (F♯ major), fis-moll (F minor). In German, lower key note names indicate minor tonalities, upper key is used for major tonality—that’s visually “assisting” the minor/major differentiation. The proper language standard actually calls for “Dur” and “Moll“, rather than “dur” and “moll“, as used in this blog.

For several years, I used my personal convention for tone pitch names in English, in that I used lower case (a, b, c, d, e, f, g) for minor tonalities, in analogy to German. That causes a minor problem with a minor (pun intended). Therefore, I have now jumped my shadow by switching to what Wikipedia is using, i.e., all basic pitch names are upper case (A major, A minor, B major, B minor, C major, etc.). Note that I write “major” and “minor” in key signatures in lower case (some dictionaries want “Major” and “Minor”). I apply the same to German, where I use “A-dur”, not “A-Dur”, and “A-moll”, not “A-Moll”.

Notation, Accidentals

Initially, I went with “sharp” and “flat” in tonality / pitch naming. This is easy on the input on a standard keyboard, but has the (minor) problem that line breaks may occur within the pitch name (A / flat minor, C sharp / major), making the text harder to read. In German, the problem does not exist, as there is no blank space (as-moll, Cis-dur). So, I have decided to jump another shadow of mine, by using musical symbols for the accidentals. In lieu of sharp I’m now using ♯ (note: that’s not “#”!), and in lieu of flat I’m using ♭. Examples:

  • A major, A minor (A-dur, a-moll)
  • B♭ major, B♭ minor (B flat major, B flat minor / B-dur, b-moll)
  • B major, B minor (H-dur, h-moll)
  • A♭ major, E♭ minor (A flat major, E flat minor / As-dur, es-moll)
  • F♯ major, F♯ minor (F sharp major, F sharp minor / Fis-dur, fis-moll)

Note Values

Somewhat inconsequently (as I’m in general using American English rather than British English, see above), I’m using a mix of British and American terminology:

  • whole note (U.S.; British: semibreve; French: ronde)
  • half note (U.S.; British: minim; French: blanche)
  • crotchet (British; U.S.: quarter note; French: noire)
  • quaver (British; U.S.: eighth note; French: croche)
  • semiquaver (British; U.S.: sixteenth note; French: double croche)
  • demisemiquaver (British; U.S.: thirty-second note; French: triple croche)
  • hemidemisemiquaver (British; U.S.: sixty-fourth note; French: quadruple croche).

One reason for using the British standard is because—for example—”thirty-second note” only refers to the nominal value. Often, such notes appear in triplets, quintuplets, etc., which in reality makes them a different fraction of a whole note. For example, a semiquaver triplet describes three twenty-fourths, etc.

Meter / Time Signatures

Out of convenience, I’m using all-numeric, “horizontal” time signature naming, i.e., 4/4, 6/8, 3/4, etc.; I’m using 4/4 in lieu of C, and usually also 2/2 in lieu of (a.k.a. “split time”). For clarification, in the latter case, I sometimes add “alla breve“, i.e., “2/2, alla breve” or “2/2 = alla breve“, or “2/2 (alla breve)”.

Note that the terms “bar” and “measure” are usually taken as synonyms. I decided to use “bar” consequently, throughout my texts.

Octave / Tone Naming

In the past (up till 2021-04), I have often been ambiguous about octave naming, e.g.: I named the violin string tuning G – D – A – E, (C – G – D – A for a cello) without specifying the octave. In proper “scientific” terminology, this would read G3 – D4 – A4 – E5 for the violin, C2 – G2 – D3 – A3 for the cello. While this may be “scientifically clean”, I doubt that most readers would understand the meaning (note that the number part ought to be a subscript).

Where necessary (i.e., in order to avoid ambiguities), I will therefore now use the more traditional Helmholtz naming. Examples: g – d’ – a’ – e” for the standard violin tuning, c – g – d’ – a’ for the viola, and C – G – d – a for the standard cello tuning.

For clarification: octaves range from C up to B:

  • C0 – B0 = C,, – B,, (sub contra C – sub contra B)
  • C1 – B1 = C, – B, (contra C – contra B)
  • C2 – B2 = C – B (great C – great B)
  • C3 – B3 = c – b (small C – small B)
  • C4 – B4 = c’ – b’ (c’ = middle C on the modern piano keyboard)
  • C5 – B5 = c” – b”
  • C6 – B6 = c”’ – b”’
  • etc.

Combining Accidentals and Octave Designators

Early in my blogging, I did not always use octave designators—I now try using them consistently. With this, I also need to cover cases of notes with accidentals. I stick to the Helmholtz naming scheme. Hence, Helmholtz note names with accidentals written as per Wikipedia, e.g.:

  • f♯
  • c♯
  • B♭,
  • A♭,,

In other words: accidentals take precedence over octave designator signatures.

References to Composer’s Work Catalogs

Opus Numbers

First and foremost, when referring to the composer’s own work numbers, I’m using “op.###”, e.g., op.127, op.59/3, whereby I’m using a slash “/” to address items in opus numbers with multiple works, rather than, e.g., “op.59, No.3” or the like. In German, dictionaries want “Op.”—I’m sticking with lower case, as to me, this is a Latin expression. Note that I avoid a blank space between “op.” and the number.

Other Work Catalogs

As for “third party work catalogs”:

  • Initially, in the case of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, I used the German convention for the Koechel catalog, a.k.a. Koechel-Verzeichnis, KV, e.g.: KV ### (Ludwig von Köchel, 1951). I have now switched to the Anglo-Saxon version, K.### (no blank space)—e.g., K.595
  • For Johann Sebastian Bach, the German catalog acronym “BWV”, from Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis prevails (Wolfgang Schmieder, 1990). So, for example, I’m using BWV 1006 (note the blank space)
  • As in the cases above, I’m using a blank space after catalog names appearing as acronyms, such as “BWV“, but no blank space for abbreviations. Examples:

Citations, External References

For the vast majority of the postings in this blog, I don’t consider my texts scientific in the strict sense of the word. I do try to indicate my sources, but these will typically be in the form of links to Wikipedia entries. Many Wikipedia articles do refer to original sources, though.

For the few “proper” literature citations (such as on this page), I follow the standard of the Journal of New Music Research.

Star Ratings

With music, especially concerts, that I review, I apply a rating scheme with values (theoretically) between 1 and 5 stars. The basic concept is taken from my digital music platform, Apple’s iTunes (now Apple Music), where 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 stars can be assigned. I’m actually using half-star steps, for more differentiation. The general idea is as follows:

  • ★★★★★ — Stellar, “once-in-a-century” performance or listening experience (or at least close to that)
  • ★★★★½
  • ★★★★ — Excellent performance
  • ★★★½
  • ★★★ — Good, standard/average, or moderate performance
  • ★★½
  • ★★ — Clearly substandard performance (I have major objections, etc.)
  • ★½
  • ★ — A listening experience that I definitely don’t want to repeat or an appalling performance / really odd interpretation.

I’m only breaking down the “star rating” to pieces and movements where I see differentiation, i.e., I try to avoid “sprinkling star ratings everywhere” (as I may have done in the past). There may be a single rating per composition, occasionally even a single one for an entire recital, concert, or recording.

If my concert ratings appear to center around a 4-star rating, that is not because I’m too generous with my ratings (I hope). Rather, I try to avoid concerts where I see the danger of a substandard rating. Bad reviews can annoy the artists and do nothing for the reader (other than maybe warning him of potential disappointments in future concerts or music purchases).

Literature References

  • Bernd Baselt, & George Frideric Handel. (1986). Händel-Handbuch. Bärenreiter Kassel.
  • Briney, K. A. (2018). The Problem with Dates: Applying ISO 8601 to Research Data Management. Journal of EScience Librarianship7(2), e1147.
  • Otto Erich Deutsch, Dürr, W., Feil, A., & Landon, C. (1978). Franz Schubert Thematisches Verzeichnis seiner Werke. Bärenreiter Verlag.
  • Kirkpatrick, R. (1972). Domenico Scarlatti / 2, Anhang, Dokumente und Werkverzeichnis. H. Ellermann.
  • Ludwig von Köchel. (1951). Der Kleine Koechel : chronologisches und systematisches Verzeichnis sämtlicher musikalischen Werke von Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart … zusammengestellt auf Grund der dritten, von Alfred Einstein bearb. Aufl. des “Chronologisch-thematischen Verzeichnisses sämtl. Tonwerke Wolfgang Amade Mozarts.” Breitkopf und Härtel.
  • Branger, J.-C., & Lesure, F. (2005). Claude Debussy. Revue de Musicologie, 91(2), 482.
  • Alessandro Longo. (1996). Scarlatti : indice tematico delle sonate per clavicembalo = table thématique des sonates pour clavecin = thematisches Verzeichnis des Sonaten für Klavizimbel = thematic index of the harpsichord sonatas = indice temático de las sonatas para clave. Ricordi.
  • Musielak, H., Chomiński, J. M., & Turło, T. D. (1994). Katalog Dzieł Fryderyka Chopina — A Catalogue of the Works of Frederick Chopin. Revue de Musicologie, 80(1), 143.
  • Porter, A., & Brown, M. E. (1960). Chopin Catalogued. The Musical Times, 101(1414), 761.
  • Wolfgang Schmieder. (1990). Thematisch-systematisches Verzeichnis der musikalischen Werke von Johann Sebastian Bach : Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (BWV). Breitkopf & Härtel.

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