X / Cross Noteheads in Music Notation

X noteheads, also referred to as “cross” or “crossed” noteheads have a number of functions in modern music notation.

In percussion writing, they are the go-to for non-pitched metallophone instruments such as cymbals or tamtam or gong. For drum set, particularly in jazz or rock charts, cymbals are typically the most active part, and X noteheads help these stand out from the other parts on a 5 line staff.

In vocal music, x noteheads are often used tor spoken text, or for unvoiced sounds / vocal effects. In both instrumental and vocal writing, they can be used to indicate notes of indefinite pitch. And in jazz charts, X noteheads can be used to indicate “ghost” notes in a melodic line.

(for drum set writing, there is an actual “ghost” notehead, which is a regular notehead in parenthesis.)

Cross (x) noteheads can also be used as a special effect to indicate hand / finger damping of instruments such as guitar, or tuned percussion such as vibraphone.

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Create Lead / Top Line Chord Notation for Rock, Jazz & Pop Charts in Sibelius

Lead Line Chord Notation, also referred to as Topline Notation is a shorthand notation convention that is sometimes used for rock, jazz and pop guitar or keyboard charts.

Lead Line / Topline notation is a good way to get the chord voicings you are looking for as a composer or arranger, particularly if you don’t actually play guitar (or piano); it allows you to specify melodic motion of the chords without having to supply details of voicings you may or may not know are practical (or possible) on that instrument.

To create this type of notation, visually, the stems are extended past the noteheads to show that the chords are voiced below (or above) the written lead notes. Here is an example:

Let’s take a look at how to create this type of notation in Sibelius.

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