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Schenkerian Analysis - NotationGUIDE

SchenkerGUIDE: Guide and Introduction to Schenkerian Analysis logo

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Schenkerian notation is far from standardised but if you follow these basic principles (along with the do's and don'ts below) and strive to be as clear as possible your analyses will at least be intelligible.

In general:

  • slurs should bracket groups of notes into the diminutions (see basic diminutions)
    slurs can also be used to show the connection between two separated occurences of the same note - as with the D flats in the lower of the two layers below

  • stems should pick out structural notes from those diminutions (see Stage Three of working method)
    stems on the lower stave should usually point down and those on the upper stave should usually point up

  • beams should connect middleground diminutions that would be hard to see otherwise - in the example below, the third progression is marked in this way and in this case this progression is also the top line of the fundamental structure

  • quaver flags perform a similar function - in this case one picks out the D flat neighbour note because it is the main diminution other than the fundamental structure

  • caretted numbers (for example , and ) should be used to show the fundamental descent

  • roman numerals should label harmonic units

  • labels such as 'N' (neighbour note), 'Arp.' (arpeggiation), 'P' (passing note) and '5-prg' (fifth progression) may be used to clarify diminutions that are not immediately obvious, but do not clutter your analysis unecessarily.

    Do Don't

    • Align the different levels properly so they line up with each other

    • Clearly mark bar numbers

    • Present your analysis as neatly as possible - the point of analysis is communication

    • Make sure that notes you mark as important in one level appear in the next level closer to the surface as well

    • Return to the same note you started your descent with after an interruption

    • Leave notes hanging in mid air with no slur, beam or stem to explain them

    • Include bar lines or rests in your analysis

    • Group notes together in linear progressions or arpeggiations in more than one direction

    • Mark notes in the middle of slurred diminutions as structural - the first or last note will always be more important