Bringing alive the music of Duke Ellington

Transcriptions by Michael Kilpatrick

Summary of Notation Standards

The examples presented in this guide only touch on the vagaries of jazz notation. I have attempted to create a set of transcriptions with standardised notation from source material spanning many decades, written in distinct styles before and after circa 1943. Many of the works by Duke Ellington that I have transcribed contain figures whose rules for note duration cannot be formalised consistently. The general rules for reading the Standard and Original Edition transcriptions can be summarised as follows:

Original Editions

  • There is virtually no phrasing or articulation or dymanic annotation.
  • Quaver rhythms are swung unless otherwise indicated.
  • Crotchets are percussive short notes unless indicated otherwise.
  • For works before circa 1945, off-beat precussive short notes are written as quavers tied to a following quaver or crotchet.
  • Figures are often written for clarity of rhythmic position at the expense of accurate portrayal of note duration.
  • Notes within scalar counterpoint figures or simple block chord progressions are more often played for their full duration.
  • Long notes are shortened (by the duration of a quaver or a crotchet) in many contexts:
    • Isolated interjections
    • At the end of phrases
    • within rhythmic figures to give a percussive feel, separating them from the following note.

Standard Editions

  • Dynamics and minimal annotations are added where appropriate, assuming an understanding of jazz phrasing, inflection and accentuation.
  • Some additional phrasing or breath marks may be added to assist in interpretation.
  • Quaver rhythms are swung unless otherwise indicated.
  • Crotchets are percussive short notes unless indicated otherwise, but quavers are also employed where crotchets cannot be sensibly used.
  • Ellington's early notation is adapted to avoid the ambiguity of percussive short notes comprising tied notes.
  • Figures are often written for clarity of rhythmic position at the expense of accurate portrayal of note duration.
  • Notes within scalar counterpoint figures or simple block chord progressions are more often played for their full duration.
  • Long notes are shortened (by the duration of a quaver or a crotchet) in many contexts:
    • Isolated interjections
    • At the end of phrases
    • within rhythmic figures to give a percussive feel, separating them from the following note.