You may have heard the phrase “A man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest”. One would think that a music editor is impeccable at catching every detail, eh! Alas, not so! We count on our composers to be really fussy about their scores. There are usually several “back-and-forth” volleys between editor and composer before a score is ready for the printing press. Cypress has the advantage of fixing, tweaking and improving a score at any time between printings. Please use the fine-toothed comb approach – line by line, bar by bar.


  • spelling
  • hyphenation – according to a proper dictionary
  • slurs and ties
  • breathing marks
  • accents – including word stress tenuto markings
  • accidentals and reminder accidentals
  • dynamic markings
  • credits – dedications
  • rehearsal marks (letters)
  • spacing and legibility

What have I missed? – tell me and I’ll add it to this list.

These are some of the Cypress Choral Music “HOUSE STYLE” notation preferences


Some scores are needlessly fastidious. Cypress opts for “less is more” clarity, allowing for choir directors and piano players to make small interpretations. Composer need to trust them. Overly marked scores can come across as patronizing/condescending.

  • Redundancy – is it really necessary to say “espressivo” – or “cantabile”? Don’t all directors strive to have their choirs sing expressively? Do they need reminding? “Cantabile” – in a smooth singing style. Doesn’t natural phrasing and word stress take care of that? Worse yet “Cantando” – which has most directors running for the dictionary.
  • Tempo should not be “ca” or “circa”. Unless the director is a living metronome, the tempo will be approximate in any case – so just state the ideal tempo and it will be approximate anyway.
  • Cypress prefers to notate syncopations so that the actual beats are more readily apparent.
  • Tritone intervals are generally big no-nos in any singing passage; unless applied the way Bach used them (as obvious leading tones)
  • Voice leading is crucial. It should be intuitive. For example, the altos should not need to cross over the current soprano part to get to their next note. (cross-voicing)
  • There’s a reason why parallel fifths were once strictly forbidden. They are hard to tune!
  • read here for more singability tips
  • Cypress puts in breath marks and also specific rests (for breaths), especially if demonstrated as such by the demo recording on our web page. If a breath requires a quarter beat, the notation should indicate precisely that – with a quarter rest. This saves all kinds of time during rehearsals!
  • Rehearsal letters are important for expediting rehearsal time.
  • Cypress slurs melismatic passages of text – according to the syllables. However, there is no need to slur long passages of “Oos” and “Ahs”.
  • The font which is easiest to read – Times Roman.
  • Hyphenation is made according to the dictionary – not according to the way one might prefer to hear it. For example, imagine “another” sung on half notes per syllable”. One might be tempted to write “a – no – ther”, right? But the hyphenation is actually “an-oth-er”.
  • Divisi – e.g. SSAATTBB can look intimidating to directors of average choirs (most choirs) So, composers are asked to use them judiciously.
  • Expression – musical terms are given in the universally accepted musical language; for example “adagio” rather than “slowly and calmly”. (Cypress markets around the world and Japanese, for example, understand the traditional terms.) Use the most common terms: Ritardando (Rit.) instead of Rallentando (Rall.)
  • Expression – avoid using needlessly fastidious terms such as “like a falling feather” – especially in English. Affectations such as “like a bubbling brook” just raise questions marks and slow down the rehearsal. How about “like the wind”? – this could result in a breathy tone quality – like Monroe’s “Happy birthday, Mr. President”.
  • Fortes should never be louder than beautiful unless the composer intends to convey anger. One composer sent us a piece with a quadruple forte ( ffff), which means really, really, REALLY loud. Just “loud” should be adequate. So double fortes are rarely found in a Cypress score.
  • Cypress uses double bar lines and rehearsal marks at significant musical moments, such as verses and choruses, key changes, tempo changes, etc. (this is designed to facilitate choir rehearsals and reveal the form)
  • Piano parts look tidy without too many slurs, phrase marking, hairpin dynamics, etc “pedal freely” and “espressivo” is all a reasonably proficient piano player needs
  • Piano reductions for a cappella scores are “bare bones” without slurs, tempo markings or dynamics.
  • Mixing sharps and flats in the same measure is generally not wise.
  • Dynamic hairpins should always have a beginning and ending dynamic marking. (rather than leave the director pondering questions such as “crescendo to what? – how loud?”)
  • Fermatas are vague. Hold? – for how long? Leave it up to the director.
  • Dotted slurs indicate “carry the phrase without a breath”. Breath mark indicationscan really help expedite a rehearsal.
  • 6/8 or 9/8 time; we used dotted quarter rests because they communicate better than whole rests.
  • Note stems for divisi on one staff can go in opposite directions or in the same direction depending on formatting needs and legibility – and it’s not crucial to be consistent.
  • Pedaling is largely left to the pianists’ discretion -rather than cluttering up the score with pedal on and off markings. -Occasionally very specific directions are relevant at certain points in the score. However, “pedal freely” usually works for a competent piano player and they love the freedom.
  • “Through” instead of “Thru” when spacing allows. “Thru” is in the dictionary too and Cypress doesn’t hesitate to use it in order to avoid word crowding.
  • Tempo markings are indicated in bold font and capitalized only at the start of sections. This includes tempo indications such as “meno mosso” and “rit.” (technique font)
  • Style comments such as “legato” or “marcato” are indication in non-bold italics (expression font).

For more info, please read “Improving your chances with Cypress”