Writing About Music

Prentice Hall
Richard Wingell  
Total pages
December 2007
Related Titles


For classes in Music Writing and Research, as well as a supplement to Music Appreciation and History courses.


How do you put into the words the experience of hearing Beethoven's Ninth or the Hallelujah Chorus?  Describe a John Coltrane solo or the Jimi Hendrix's blazing guitar work?  For many students, the task of writing about musical experiences is a daunting one.  Writing About Music, 4/e offers practical advice and guidance to help students master the special skills needed to write about this most-elusive of arts.  The text serves as a guide for each phase in the process of researching and writing a paper on a musical topic, and preparing for other projects such as seminar presentations, concert reports, program notes and essay examinations.  Innovative, comprehensive, and internet-savvy, this step-by-step text will remain on music students' shelves as a handy reference and resource for years to come.


  • Customized Guidance throughout the writing process, starting with choosing a topic, designing an outline, writing the draft, through what research means, incorporating musical examples, revising and proofreading to the completion of a final, quality paper.
  • Extensively Updated with several new additions that include important recent works such as Burkholder, Bonds, Wright and Simms, lexicon and multivolume histories revisions, and exciting new links to key internet resources.
  • A Flexible and Efficient Approach allows the text to serve as a useful reference tool for instructors and students seeking advice and reference on research and writing issues.
  • A Unique Span of Coverage that includes a guide to writing styles and common writing errors, sample papers and questions that help portray the teaching material clearly, and important print and electronic resources for music research.
  • Dynamic and User-Friendly Style makes this a market leading text for undergraduate students of music, but useful to all students, including new graduate students, and those enrolled in introductory appreciation and history courses.


New to this Edition

  • NEW - Invaluable Electronic & Print Resources include the revised one-volume, lexicon and multivolume histories now accessible online.  Students are connected to online journals and databases previously available only on CD-ROM, and key resources like Grove Music Online and JSTOR that make current encyclopedia articles, full texts of back issued articles in scholarly journals, and scores readily available online.
  • NEW - Resourceful Revisions and Additions on advising how to avoid plagiarism in a digital age, using the new author-date system of citation, formatting for citing electronic resources, updated references to the Chicago Manual of Style, and a list of entertaining educational references to guides like, Eats, Shoots and Leaves for students to learn and enjoy.
  • NEW - Scope of Discussion has been expanded to include material on musical works in relation to analytical approaches and broader cultural topics.  Works like Stockhausen's Gesang der Junglinge illustrates ways to approach research related to a modernist work.
  • NEW - Critical Thinking Section recognizes the importance of critical thinking in the learning process, and its relevance to research and writing at the undergraduate level.

Table of Contents

Preface to The Fourth Edition

Purpose of the Fourth Edition

Changes in the Fourth Edition

Other Resources

How to Use This Book



Chapter 1. Writing about Music

Why We Write about Music

The Special Challenges of Writing about Music

Inappropriate Ways to Write about Music

Musicological Research and Writing


Chapter 2. Analysis and Research


Questions to Consider

Examples of Works and Research Directions

    Carlo Gesualdo: “Moro, lasso”

    J. S. Bach: Opening Chorus of Cantata No. 80, Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott

    W. A. Mozart: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in C Minor, K. 491, First Movement

    Giuseppe Verdi: Otello, Act I, Scene 3

    Franz Liszt: “Faust” Symphony, First Movement

    Igor Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring, Opening Sections

    Karlheinz Stockhausen: Gesang der J√ľnglinge


Chapter 3. Getting Started: Research

Choosing a Topic

Kinds of Topics

What Research Means

Gathering Materials

Places to Start: Print Resources

    Library Catalogues

    Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

    Histories of Music


    Thematic Catalogues



    Scores and Recordings

Places to Start: Electronic Resources

    Search Engines



    Online Journals


Evaluating Resources

Foreign-Language Resources

When to Stop: How Much Research Is Enough?


Chapter 4. Writing a Research Paper

The Outline

    Topic and Thesis

    Topic Outline versus Sentence Outline




    Revising the Outline

Writing the Draft

    Musical Examples

    Diagrams, Graphics, and Tables



Revising and Editing the Draft

    Computers and Editing

    Checking Spelling and Grammar

    The Editing Process



Keep Your File

Quotation, Paraphrase, and Plagiarism



Chapter 5. Questions of Format

Format for College Papers


        Page Format




        Page Numbers

Format for Quotations

        Short Quotations

        Block Quotations

        Ellipsis and Editorial Additions

Bibliography and Footnote Form: Humanities Style


        Additional Notes for Both Bibliography Entries and Footnotes 


        Articles in Dictionaries and Encyclopedias

        Articles in Periodicals


        Notes on Articles in Lexicons

        Articles in Collections of Essays


        Sound Recordings

        Citing Interviews, Correspondence, etc.

        Citing Electronic resources

The Author-Date System of Citation

        Reference Lists (Lists of Works Cited)

        Parenthetical Citations in the Text

Format Issues Related to Writing about Music

        Stylistic Periods

        Referring to Centuries

        Referring to Musical Works

        Naming Notes and Keys

        Foreign terms

        Musical Examples



Chapter 6. Other Kinds of Writing Projects

Seminar Presentations


        Organizing the Presentation

        Tone and Approach

Concert Reports



        Writing the Report

Program Notes


        Who is the Audience?


        Working within Limits

        Special Problems

        Texts and Translations


Essay Examinations


        Preparing for Essay Examinations

        How to Proceed

        Common Errors



Chapter 7. Writing Style

Some Basic Ideas about Writing

Different Kinds of Prose


The Stance of the Writer

Referring to Yourself

Writing Effective Sentences

        Word Choice

        Word Combinations

        Sentence Structure

Effective Paragraphs

The Effective Essay






Chapter 8. Common Writing Problems

Errors in Basic Grammar and Writing

        Incomplete Sentences

        Run-on Sentences

        Agreement: Subject and Verb

        Agreement: Pronoun and Antecedent

        Proper Cases of Pronouns

        Relative Pronouns

        Misplaced Modifiers

        The Split Infinitive

        Mixed Metaphors

Spelling Issues

        Using a Dictionary

        Forming Possessives

        Plurals of Borrowed Latin and Greek Words

        Foreign Words

        Medieval and Renaissance Names

Some Troublesome Word Pairs

        Its and It's

        Your and You're

        Whose andWho's

        Affect and Effect

        Due to andBecause of

        Fewer and Less

        Like andSuch as

        Predominant andPredominate

        Principal andPrinciple


        The Period

        The Comma

        The Semicolon

        The Colon

        Quotation Marks

        The Hyphen

        The Dash


Special Problems Involved in Writing about Music

        Technical Terms

        Describing Musical Events