Elaine Gould’s Behind Bars hardly needs introduction: first published in 2011, it has sold over 15,000 copies worldwide and gone on to become the go-to, definitive guide for music notation. In the words of Sir Simon Rattle, “Elaine Gould… has written the equivalent of the Grove Dictionary for Notation”.

Since 2011, Behind Bars has celebrated several milestones: a German language co-edition with Edition Peters, Hals über Kopf, was published in 2014, and in 2016 an eBook edition was released after popular demand. Now in 2023 we are pleased to announce the release of Behind Bars: General Conventions.



Behind Bars: General Conventions presents the basic principles, ground rules and conventions of notation in a definitive but concise guide. It includes the entire first section of the complete edition of Behind Bars: Ground Rules; Chords, Dotted Notes and Ties; Accidentals and Key Signatures; Grace Notes, Arpeggiated Chords, Trills, Glissandos and Vibrato; Metre, Tuplets and Repeat Signs.

The aim of Behind Bars: General Conventions is to create a handy, accessible reference guide which introduces the core principles of music notation: perfect for students, composers, or anyone interested in getting to grips with music notation.


Praise for Behind Bars (Complete Edition)

“An extraordinary achievement… I would pray that it becomes a kind of Holy Writ for notation in this coming century. Certainly nobody could have done it better, and it will be a reference for musicians for decades to come.” Sir Simon Rattle

“After more than 20 years in the business Gould has seen (and heard) it all and Behind Bars is an encyclopaedic distillation of practical professional wisdom.” Gramophone Magazine (Arnold Whittall)

“Gould’s book shows composers how to ensure that the magical transfer of musical ideas from their imaginations to their scores, from their performers to their audiences, is as seamless as possible. Behind Bars is a practical revelation of the poetics of musicals communication.” The Guardian (Tom Service)

“As a single volume, written by one person, it is a remarkable achievement and should be on the bookshelf of any musician.” Classical Music Magazine (Jonathan Wikeley)


About the author



Elaine Gould is a leading authority in the field of contemporary music editing. As Senior New Music Editor at Faber Music, she has worked on the complex and varied scores of house composers Thomas Adès, Julian Anderson, George Benjamin, Jonathan Harvey, Oliver Knussen and Colin Matthews amongst others. Composers, conductors and professional musicians depend upon her skill and knowledge to deliver clean scores in high-pressure situations such as international premieres.

A specialist in standard notation and practices, Elaine is highly sought after as an authority and arbiter of best practice. Composers and music-setters all around the world rely on her expertise and guidance in this increasingly complex field.

Elaine is passionate about sharing her knowledge and raising standards of editing and notation through education. She is regularly invited to deliver lectures and composition seminars to university music departments and music colleges. She teaches a notation course at the University of Birmingham as well as a course she co-designed for editors entering the industry run by the UK Music Publishers’ Association.


Behind Bars: General Conventions is available now in paperback from the Faber Music shop

Listen to Elaine Gould on the Scoring Notes podcast in June 2023 discussing new Behind Bars: General Conventions.