1. “There are spelling and punctuation errors in almost every song; I don't see these in my edition of the poems, or online.”     The spellings and punctuation are in the original manuscripts. Please refer to the Foreword for more about this.

  2. “You are stemming incorrectly; stems for notes at the middle line and higher should be downward.”     That is true, but I've decided I prefer the uniformity of all-upstems in the vocal part. Try it and I hope you'll agree, it is easy to get used to, and it is less ‘noisy-looking’. This is particularly the case due to the frequent use of triplets and other tuplets.

    Even in the guitar staff, I generally keep stems going up, except when indicating voicing (counterpoint). A classic case of this is when notating strumming explicitly, and the first strum has a full chord including bass notes, but some following strums hit only the higher notes in the chord. If the stems are reversed (as the convention dictates), it often forces the noteheads to be arranged differently (when intervals of a second are involved) which, in addition to the stem change, is jarring to the eye and brain. They are (parts of) the same chord, and should look identical when repeated in a group.

  3. “In vocal music, the expression marks are supposed to go above the staff; you have put them under the text.”     Actually I ended up putting the voice expression marks above the staff in most cases, but there were a few songs where I was experimenting with placing them under the text.

  4. “You rely too much on stepwise movement in the vocal part.”     You might be right... This stems from three factors: accessibility to singers with untrained voices (such as myself); a requirement to adhere to musical styles which are within the realm of probable when asking whether Emily herself could have composed in them; and, of course, it sounds well...

    An additional extenuation can be found in an examination of the interplay between voice part and guitar harmonies. I love sounds that—whilst remaining definitely tonal—blur the rules of harmony. Thus the usual harmonic formulas are not being delineated by voice movement; not in the accustomed sense. Rather there is a tension between voice and guitar around what the effective (perceived) harmony is, and the linear motion of the voice is a stabilising quality (and the guitar has recourse to other devices for the like purpose).

  5. “What are these tick-slurs everywhere?”     Ahem, yes...  a ticked slur  That's an innovation on my part. I use a tick-slur as a generic tuplet (metrical group). This includes triplets as well as all other groupings which would normally call for a numeric label over the beam, or for a bracket-and-numeral when the group is not a ligature. I even use the same notation regardless of the duration of the group, although a tuplet spanning something other than one entire beat is a rarity here.

    Why did I do it? There are a lot of tuplets in the vocal parts of the Ballads, and I don't care to see numerals peppering my musical staves. I have given this a great deal of consideration, and concluded that no confusion can arise (at least in this music), and that it is a cleaner notation than the standard for my purposes. For more information about why the melody rhythms are more elaborate than is customary, take a look at this brief essay, which also explains why the tick-slur notation is unambiguous as used.

    Regarding the usual convention of slurring multiple notes sung over one syllable, I do not bother with this since it arises so rarely in these songs; when it does arise, I depend only on extenders (e.g. day____) of the syllables in the text, and their placements under the noteheads.

  6. “Why are your bar numbers so strangely labelled?”     The rationale for the ‘bar numbers’ (measure labels) is to ensure that the numeric part always refers to the corresponding line of the poem. In instrumental sections it doesn't much matter, except that the numbering should be monotonic increasing, so my convention is to use the numeric part of the most recent measure containing poetical text, and to use alphabetic suffixes to distinguish them. The suffixes are also useful when multiple measures of music correspond to one line of poetry, which is rare but does sometimes occur. Introductory measures (including voice lead-ins) have labels with numeric part 0, the only consistent choice within this scheme.

    Labels are shown for every measure, but they are very small and, as there are rarely more than four measures per page (six if you opted for tabs in an appendix), this is not really an issue as it would be in, say, the score for an orchestral part, where in excess of fifty measures on a page is common.

  7. “You're not supposed to use double-barlines at plain time signature changes.”     I know it is an outdated convention to show them, but I prefer it.

  8. “You show a lot of redundant accidentals, where the key signature has already determined them.”     These are known as ‘courtesy accidentals’ and, particularly in the voice part, I felt it was better to include a lot of them. It was a difficult decision, since too many can be at least as confusing as too few. But my compositional style seems to lead to a lot of situations where courtesy accidentals would normally appear, and I would hate to hear these notes sung wrong. In the guitar part I use fewer of them, because the tablature is there as a redundant encoding of all the pitches.

  9. “I know how to read guitar music off the staff; why am I having tabs inflicted on me? Do you know how much space that wastes, how many extra page-turns are entailed??...”     In fact, all the songbooks are available in a layout with the tabs in an appendix. This is pretty clearly advertised on the front page of the site, as well as during the ordering process. If your songbook is in pristine condition, you can get an exchange for the cost of postage. Please visit the exchanges page for more information.

  10. “I like tabs, but yours are very nonstandard. Why did you do this?”     Try them out and you'll quickly adjust. The most obvious difference is that I don't show all the stringlines all the time, only when I feel that there is risk of ambiguity or visual confusion. (There is never any musical meaning to the straight horizontal lines.) Wavy lines indicate that the note should ring (i.e. not be muted; although the absence of a wavy line doesn't necessarily mean you should mute it...).

    The most important other differences can be summarised in a nutshell:

    • I specify barre (bar chords) in a slightly different way, with fret numbers given relative to the barre fret (the latter being given by a Roman numeral as usual).
    • When a fret number is followed by an arrow (>——•) [PLEASE FIX THIS], this means the note is deferred until the dark spot, the rationale being that the stack of fret numbers are given as a chord, so the fingers can get into position together. It also results in a more lucid presentation of arpeggios and other figuration.
    • Light vertical lines are sometimes shown to clarify which notes should be plucked at the same moment.
    • Slides are indicated by slanted lines with curls at the ends. Slides are technical, as opposed to musical, unless there is also a slide shown in the guitar staff. This is not to say that you mustn't hear the slide if there is none in the guitar staff, but when there is also a slide in the staff the glissando is definitely intended to be heard.
    • Anything in square brackets can safely be ignored, and is in the realm of supplementary information or options:
      • If a note (fret number with its optional fingering) is in square brackets, this is either a reminder of which note is already ringing, or an indication that the note is not to be plucked, but may sound, for example by resonance or by an implicit slur (such as releasing a fret to leave the string open).
      • Square brackets are also sometimes used to show an optional note, which you can play or omit as you prefer. (You can identify these unambiguously because the notehead will be of a smaller size in the guitar staff.)
      • Another use of square brackets is to denote an alternative, but in that case the word ‘ossia’ will also be shown. Ossias are not always reflected in the guitar staff, since they often affect fingering only, with the same pitches being sounded.
      If the note is not in square brackets, it is always to be plucked (or strummed).

    There are a few other unusual notations which are used sparingly, such as damping (slow muting), silent finger changes, fretting with fingers of the plucking hand... There is a detailed guide to my tablature notation which will hopefully clear up any other questions.

    Most of these songs are not simple enough to play just from tablature: you will want to refer to the guitar staff as well for rhythm, voice-leading, tempo and expression indications, etc., so you can resolve most questions about the tab notation by correlating with the staff.

  11. “You have failed to split mul-ti-syl-la-ble words.”     Yes—many of my drafts did split them, but I gave this a lot of thought and decided the standard was unacceptable—the standard is to split the words into syllables as in a dictionary, but this is often incorrect from a singing perspective. For example, ‘singing’ is syllabicated in a dictionary as ‘sing-ing’, but it is sung ‘si-nging’; or ‘deep-ly’ which is sung ‘dee-ply’. On the other hand, if I split the words as sung, this leads to confusion since fragments (besides being anomalous-looking because they are split in unconventional ways) often look like words which would be pronounced differently, and ‘dee-ply’ is an example. English is notoriously bad for this. In the end I felt that just writing the multi-syllable word intact, with an extender if necessary to show which notes are covered, is best: the text is clearer, it is more compact, and the above problems are obviated. It seems to me that no confusion can arise from this in the vast majority of cases.

    I make an exception when a word spans an inter-beat boundary, in that case using an extender to link syllables. This does seem clearer, and when the word starts at the end of a line of music and continues on the next line it is unavoidable. Another exception is when a syllable spans multiple notes, although this is pretty rare in the Ballads. In both these cases, I prefer splitting the word the way it would be sung, even if this is at variance with dictionary syllabication.

    On the other hand, when a word spans beats which are tied, it seems preferable not to syllabicate. This may seem pedantic, but such ties occur frequently in the songs.

    Occasionally, I will break the word at a sub-beat if the pace of the vocal delivery is high, since one feels that sub-beats are functioning like beats in these cases. Also, when the natural speech rhythm has been substantially modified for effect, I will sometimes show a break in the word. These just feel right to me in some cases, but (unlike spanning of beat-boundaries) the criterion is subjective.

    The tradition of dividing words into syllables in vocal music mostly exists due to coloratura operatic arias, to choral music in counterpoint, and also to hymn-books which attempt to leave no room for doubt, so a largely unmusical congregation can make something of it and keep together. For me, the benefit of seeing the poems printed without being fragmented into syllables outweighs the slight cognitive overhead of performing the divisions mentally. It works especially well in the Ballads because the vocal lines are composed to follow natural speech rhythms, so things will generally work out with no thought involved. If you are finding it confusing, I would suggest drawing pencil lines between the noteheads and the syllables in the problem cases.

  12. “Your rental-only Terms and Conditions are ridiculous and insulting!”     Note that the ‘rental’ is for your entire lifetime, so there's not much difference between rental and sale. The reason I have decided to make the books available only in this way is to assert my rights to control my creative works, as a struggling artist in a field where exploitation is rampant, where even academic libraries put photocopiers next to their music holdings and do nothing to police the illegal reproduction of copyrighted music—indeed, positively encourage it by this proximity. The details of why rental protects my rights while sale forfeits them are complex, and the interested reader is referred to the wealth of online information, some of which is even correct...

    It seems that most people assume that composers are independently wealthy, or have salaried faculty positions (which is much the same), or are victims of their own passion for art and cannot help themselves but write while they starve. The more I learned about music copyright, the more angry I became about the situation, until I finally settled on this approach. It was either this, or I would not share my music at all. Though compelled to create, I don't fancy getting ripped off—guess I'm old-fashioned!

    At such time as I feel that my investment has been repaid, which would be about £100,000 gross, I will post a notice on this site indicating that rental scores have become the property of those leasing them. Publishers interested in purchasing the copyrights could expect to pay three times that amount, which would be an historic precedent, so I will probably remain the sole copyright holder and set the terms as I wish.

    Performance rights will be costly while there is still the possibility of entering into an exclusive deal with a performer (or duo), but after that has run its course performance rights will be obtainable at something like the usual rates. Ditto for mechanical rights. Note that the songs are technically dramtico-musical works, so the despicable ‘compulsory license’ does not apply, even after the first recording has been brought to market. Permissions (performance or mechanical) must be obtained in advance, from me, and not after the fact (or through some ‘blanket license’) from a performing rights exploitation organisation—these works are not under their jurisdiction.

    In the end, this is an assertion of my rights, and is not intended to curtail your own. The rental fees entitle you to hold the copy in perpetuity, the price is comparable to that of other sheet music, and you are free to enjoy it privately to the fullest.

  13. “Why are these scores handwritten? Didn't anyone tell you we're not in the Stone Age any more?...”     This was a tough decision indeed. Factors contributing to my decision include:

    • I work with computers professionally, I've spent 12-16 hours per day on a computer for over 20 years (not that I earned much by it), and that's about as much as I can take. Music has always been something apart from that for me.
    • In a world where nearly every composer is notesetting their music using computer software, I felt that the organic, personal touch of hand-written scores would be welcome to most (provided the legibility is good, which I believe it is).
    • It is easier to prevent theft and illegal distribution by music OCR.
    • The tablature is nonstandard, and would need to be hand-written anyway, or else I would need to author software just to typeset it adequately, which would be a major and unpalatable undertaking. [It seems that I did undertake it in the interim: the Guitar Transcriptions are prepared with a custom in-house tablature typesetter, and could be laid-out with musical staves (or any images) with full scaling and positioning control. But I'm glad I did hand-written scores for the Brontë Ballads.] If the tabs are handwritten but the staves are noteset in software, the incongruity between them is disturbing and looks much worse than when they are all penned by the same hand.
    • Considering my deviations from conventional notesetting (as detailed in other points on this page), I knew I'd be struggling with the software to obtain the results I wanted.

    The downsides of my decision are mainly some non-idealities in stem thickness etc., and the extra labour entailed, especially when I make mistakes fair-copying the music for print. I'm a slow and twitchy copyist—the draft-copying and the fair-copying of the music have each taken me over an hour per page, not counting correction of errors (for which I use image editing to splice, as being less excruciating if not faster than recopying entire pages). Considering I am an expert hand with computers, you can be sure that my decision to produce hand-written scores was not made lightly!

  14. “I've tried playing these songs with a pick but it's impossible.”     Some of the songs can be played nicely with a pick/plectrum; others not so much, although you can usually manage something decent. These songs are actually a pretty good introduction to fingerstyle, as the plucking techniques are less fancy than most fingerstyle guitar, and there's not much muting required. Also, they should come off well whether you use nails or not. Give it a try—you will like the sounds, and you'll be in a good position to explore other fingerstyle repertoire, too!