The Notation Guide outlines the system of notation used consistently throughout the transcriptions and discusses broad rules of interpretation. Bound with each score are also Performance Notes which are specific to that transcription. The Performance Notes discussing issues of notation, interpretation and performance for that piece: details which cannot be encompassed by the generic Notation Guide. The Performance Notes are not reproduced on this website.
No consistent rules can be applied when interpreting Ellington's manuscripts. Furthermore, the many subtleties of jazz can never be notated accurately: prescriptive notation limits freedom of interpretation. The performer is advised to study this guide and Ellington's recordings. Within the Notation Guide there are guidelines for reading swing rhythms and percussive short notes within melodic and rhythmic figures, and for interpreting the durations of long notes in a variety of contexts. . Ellington seldom wrote accurate note durations. However, if all notes were played accurately - as though it were classic music - the result would likely be music that simply did not swing. Conversely, some modern jazz composes prefer to annotate scores in detail and write accurate note durations throughout. To avoid any confusion it is necessary to explain in some detail the system of notation used in these transcriptions.
Professionally jazz charts should avoid annotation on the basis that the competent jazz musician appreciates how the music should be interpreted without having to read a cluttered manuscript. I follow that approach, and try to add as little annotation as possible to Ellington's orchestrations. To accommodate a wider audience I offer two editions of each transcription using different styles of notation. The following pages of the Notation Guide are an aid to understanding how Ellington wrote, how I have adapted the music, and how the musician should interpret the result. Please study the Notation Guide carefully or view the Samples page to appreciate the differences between the two editions.