Score Preparation Guidelines

Paper Sizes

There are four common, standard options for paper size that will serve your scores well in most cases:

  • Letter (8.5" x 11")
  • 9" x 12"
  • 10" x 13"
  • Tabloid (11" x 17")

Working from small to large, letter-sized scores are used most commonly in vocal or choral music. Occasionally, a solo piece will work well on letter-sized paper, however 9" x 12" is usually optimal for most solo and chamber music. 

11" x 17" paper is often best suited for large ensemble music - it is rare that a solo or chamber work is more practical in this form. Scores with 20 or fewer instruments can fit on 9" x 12" or 10" x 13".  ACA is flexible with paper size, but its best to use formats that are right for the occasion. Example, large ensembles at primary or secondary education institutions may find it more practical to use letter-formatted materials for their own printing and copying purposes.

In most cases, scores and parts from the same piece should use the same paper size. The exceptions occur when using large paper for large ensemble works - namely, tabloid and legal. In such cases, it is prudent to format parts for 9" x 12" for ease of reading and handling on music stands.

ACA reserves the right to reformat music to fit optimal size paper for performance and cost effectiveness.

Two things should be avoided in most cases: custom paper sizes, and non-US paper sizes.

Email the ACA publishing director at [email protected] to discuss any unusual situations.


General Formatting

It is imperative that all ACA composers follow guidelines. ACA reserves the right to send materials back to the composer for correction before accepting works in which the requirements listed below are not met. Non-traditionally notated works may be exempt from certain details.

Overall, clarity in presentation will be of greatest benefit to those performing your work. In general, this means that there should be enough space for artists to discern all elements of the music they are required to play. There may be more blank space than you think you may want, however it is better to err on the side of too much blank space than to overcrowd the page. Before submitting a work, ensure that it is thoroughly proofread and edited so that there are no colliding elements on any given page.

The minimum margin space to afford clarity in print should be at least 1/2". Consider how the paper will bend in a saddle-stitch and how much room a coil will need to secure the binding. Moreover, when proofreading, ensure that each page has the same margins - for example, a cutaway score should expand space between staves or adjust the number of systems on a page with fewer instruments to match the same top and bottom margins as a page with more instruments.

The first page of music on either a score or a part must include the following pieces of information:

  • Title of the piece
  • Composer's name
  • Copyright in the following form: ©20XX [Your Name]; Publishing license granted to [American Composers Edition (BMI) -OR- American Concert Editions (ASCAP)]
  • Movement title (if applicable)
  • Lyricist (if applicable)
  • Transposed or concert score (if applicable)

To clarify a couple of points: a multi-movement piece must include BOTH the title of the complete work as well as the title of the first movement. Additionally, please use the copyright publishing credit that reflects your PRO affiliation. Optionally, it is also considered standard to list the year of composition alongside your name on the front page in the following format: "Your Name (20XX)".

Following the first page, ensure that your page numbers follow the convention of odd-numbered pages on the right and even-numbered pages on the left. Traditionally, scores start on page 1 - a right-hand page. In some cases, it is appropriate to format a score or a part to begin on the left-hand page, however these will still follow the same convention and start on page 2. As a reminder; when using separate Sibelius/Finale/Dorico files for separate movements of the same piece, remember to change the page numbers to reflect the continuation of the piece across movements.


In addition to the general formatting guidelines, there are some things to consider specific to scores.

Optional Score Front Matter:

  • Title Page
  • Performance Notes
  • Program Notes

Your title page itself should contain the title exactly as it should appear in a formal concert program, including particular capitalization, diacritical markings, and other semantic specifics. Please always use this exact title when listing the work in a program or on a recording. Optionally, this title page can include movement titles and page numbers (as in a table of contents), and the duration of the piece and/or movements within the piece.

Program notes, of course, are always appreciated by artists and presenters looking for some background on your piece that will help to inform their performance and programming decisions respectively. Some sample questions to address in your program notes could be:

  • What and/or who was this piece written for? What was the inception of the work?
  • What musical aspects were you most interested in exploring? What musical concepts or ideas did you build on or work with?
  • Did any ideas for the piece come from non-musical sources? How do they inform the music?
  • When a performer approaches this work, what would you like them to know about style and aesthetic?

If your work has any non-traditional notations, some performance notes may be in order. In addition to a description of the desired resulting sound, some guidance on how to achieve that sound as well as a graphic of the notation for reference may be in order.

There are three other pieces of front matter that are required depending on the forces of the work:

  1. An instrumentation page may be necessary to include if the piece uses large enough forces. Naturally, these include orchestras and wind ensembles of any size, but also include sinfonietta and large chamber ensembles. A good rule would be to use one if the ensemble is too big to be listed in the subtitle of the piece. Furthermore, any work with percussion should include an instrumentation page with a complete listing of required instruments, and any division of them amidst the percussionists, if applicable.
  2. If the submitted work is for voice, chorus, opera, oratorio, or uses text in any way, you must include a page with the text in full for reference. In addition to the text, always list a credit the author, poet, or translator, on the text page and title page, even if it is yourself or a well-known public domain source like Shakespeare or the King James Bible. Credit information as supplied by copyright owners should always appear on the page with the printed text.
  3. Technical and setup requirements should be listed for any piece with audio/video or spatial components. While detailed instructions with references to current technologies are useful, remember that your scores will exist in a future with different tech - as a general rule, try to imagine that someone is looking at your score years down the line, and create instructions and descriptions that are as universal as possible.


While many musicians are reading from tablets in concert, many more are still using print parts. While some non-traditionally notated works can and should be read from the score or from similarly non-traditional parts, most parts should take the following points into consideration.

First off, any discussion of preparing parts would be incomplete without taking page turns into consideration. Relating back to the discussion on clarity, it is always preferable to use some blank space on a page (or an entire blank page) to ensure a comfortable page turn than to crowd a page for a page turn's sake or neglect a page turn entirely.

It is sometimes a good idea to use a cover page on parts. Most often, this is necessary when a part is only 1 or 2 pages long so that the part can be printed into a booklet - leaflet parts will not be accepted. Other cases in which a cover page may be a good idea include when the best page turns are available on even-numbered pages of music. In such situations, of course, pages should be re-numbered so that the music starts on page 2 and page turns occur on odd-numbered pages.

While most commonly necessary in large ensemble or electroacoustic pieces, cues are often thoughtful additions to parts. Cues should usually not be longer than 2 measures - rather than asking a player to find a line, try to find distinctive moments that can lead artists to more immediate placement in a group of rests. A good rule of thumb would be to include a cue for a player resting for 10-20 measures. In longer sections of rest, it may be necessary to include multiple cues before an entrance for ease of long-form counting, though that comes with some more room to place cues further apart.

When formatting parts, do not create parts for more than one instrument. If it is important for a musician to see what another musician is playing, simply use a cue instead. Furthermore, parts should not exist as scores with one part emphasized. If all artists should not be playing from the score in concert (i.e. solos, some duos, non-traditional notations), each individual should have their own part.