To Indent or Not to Indent

"Indent five spaces for a new paragraph!"  Mr. Casson was emphatic.

Tall as a beanpole, red-haired and bearded, Mr. Casson insisted on a five space indention for every paragraph. He was my eighth grade typing teacher. In my junior high  yearbook he wrote, "The  most talent  and loudest mouth I have ever had in my class."

I guess that being a good pianist meant I was a gifted typist. The being loud I did all on my own.

Breaking the rules for things like indention was once a taboo. Now with easy layout at my disposal, I decided to rethink the rules of standard music publishing.

Before we look at music, let's look at some indented paragraphs of writing. If the paragraph is only two sentences long, or if you're searching for differences between the two sentences, indention is a nightmare. (It's different if you're reading War and Peace. There the paragraphs help you.)

In the text you're reading at this very moment, instead of indenting I'm using blocked paragraphs with double-spaces in between them. This is easiest for my eye to understand and recognize. I also like how it increases the amount of white space on the page.

Indenting a simple paragraph might make it hard to compare two similar but different sentences.

From the newly published Schytte Etudes, a fabulous selection of intermediate etudes I have loved teaching. Listen to examples here.

Now let's look at some musical examples. 

Here's the way a standard page of music looks with a slight indention.

This is a multipage piece so indention, measure numbers and all the regular conventions make sense here.  








For contrast, look at this example.

When a student is just beginning to understand the concept of "same and different" in music, it's hard if the elements we're asking them to compare are in different places on the two lines.

Look at the way the same piece looks in  Attention Grabbers Book One.
Everything about the layout makes it easier to process visually.

All the pieces in Piano Town Primer Level are laid out like the Attention Grabber piece above. 

This piece, from Piano Town Lessons Primer, shows how lining up the measures makes comparing things easier. 

The next time you're looking at a piece, consider these layout issues. Sometimes the tiniest detail makes all the difference.