The process of designing music scores, books or artwork starts every time with the same questions: What is it communicating? and Who is it for?

What is it communicating?

The simple answer - it's content. It is the music in the score that is important, not what it looks like. Keeping the frills to a minimum, and secondary information (credits, titles etc.) simple and perhaps smaller, ensures that the music itself is dominant in the final score.

The overall visual effect needs to be soft on the eye - clear, uncomplicated fonts and as much space as is needed, so the reader does not have to peer or strain and can simply read.

Who is it for?

A music score is only useful if it is clear and comfortable to read. For a skilled player, it should be possible to sight-read, or to absorb visually so that s/he can see the shape and continuity of the music after just a few practices, and later visualize that shape from memory. For a conductor, it must be possible to see key points at a glance. For a chorister, a clear layout that enables the singer to follow both music and lyrics is essential. For a student, the technical details of the music and its playing must be very clear. Page turns must take into account the physicality of using the score in performance, that is, when is the player's hand free to turn the page?


Score Copying / Typesetting

The majority of typesetting projects are single musical works scored as needed for performance. while many are copied from hand-written manuscripts, I have also worked from other formats - scores previously typeset in Sibelius or Finale and on occasion, from MIDI or audio files. Instrumentation ranges from single instrument, often piano, through choral scores of different voice mixes, instrumental ensembles to full orchestra. Where appropriate, I create the part scores required, as well as the full score, Parts are always managed using the Dynamic Part technology in Sibelius, rather than separate files. The final scores are published in PDF format.

Choir/Singer Learning Tracks

Learning Tracks are audio tracks of music works, with an individual part accentuated clearly above the rest. They are used by choirs/singers to help the singers learn by ear. These are very useful where the singers do not read music well enough to learn a part from a score. They are also helpful with music which includes difficult tuning or rhythm.

A piece of music will produce a set of Learning Tracks, one for each part or voice in the arrangement. Given a music score, I will create the required tracks from it, delivering the tracks either physically on a master CD, or by email, as required.

Artwork Design

Logos, publication cover images, promotional artwork and flyers -  they all have a message to express and an audience to attract.


I work entirely in Sibelius for music score editing. For larger documents, I use Adobe InDesign desktop publishing and incorporate the music scores exported in graphical format from Sibelius.

Learning Tracks are exported from Sibelius in MIDI format, then imported into Harmony Assistant, where I use the Virtual Singer product to "sing" the score. The individual "sung" tracks are then exported from Harmony Assistant in WAV or MP3 format.

Artwork Design is largely done using Adobe Photoshop Essentials, incorporating supplied images, or stock images as needed.

The Process

  1. Send me the source material and relevant details for the work required. Tell me of any known issues, deadlines etc. and the reason why you want it. Who is it for? Music may be in hard-copy, or a clearly scanned PDF, submitted by email. Where a source score is already created in either Sibelius or Finale, both the Sibelius/Finale file and a PDF version of it should be submitted. Images should be in high resolution JPEG format.
  2. On receipt of the source material, I evaluate the task in detail and issue a quote for the work required. Work will start when the quote is accepted.
  3. For score copying and artwork, when it's ready, I issue a draft copy in PDF format for detailed proofing. I will also include a list of any queries I may have, or adjustments I may have made while working through the score. Any corrections arising from the proof-reading are then applied and the final version is issued.
  4. The invoice for the work is issued with the final version. The invoice will exactly match the quote. Payment is due on receipt of the invoice.

For larger projects, I may issue interim drafts, perhaps of sections of the work as needed. If any significant issues arise during the work, I will always refer back to the client for a decision.

Any major changes to the original task will result in an updated quote, or quote for additional work which must be agreed by the client before it is incorporated into the work.

Major Projects

Choirland (Contemporary Music Centre, Ireland) (2012)

This is a collection of 15 original, contemporary choral works by Irish Composers. The aim of the anthology was to encourage more choirs to explore contemporary works, so the pieces provided a range of styles and levels of difficulty. As there was enough challenge in the music itself, the design is very low key, using lots of space and simple, soft fonts.

Reference: The Contemporary Music Centre, Ireland:


Die Nacht der Wunder (A. Fleischmann Snr.) (2009)

This is a Nativity play for choir and orchestra, which was composed in 1906 by Aloys Fleischmann, at that time still living in his native Germany.  The project was to typeset the work and publish a full set of scores in both the original German and in English translation. Because of the delicate state of the original manuscript, I worked from digital photographs of the score.

The project presented a huge challenge, as all text in the MS is written in old German script. Also, there was no musical editor to proof-read my work, an essential component of any typesetting project. The project produced a set of scores (conductor & parts) of the full work in each of German and English, a vocal score (with piano reduction) in each of German and English. I created it all from a single Sibelius file, to ensure that any corrections or adjustments reflected automatically in all versions. Large portion of the piano reduction were missing, which I recreated from the orchestral score.

Reference: Ruth Fleischmann