computers · jazz · Sibelius · teaching

Brandt-Roemer chord notation book – could it be republished?

Back in the 1970s a small book was printed by two LA copyists, Carl Brandt and Clinton Roemer. It was called “Standardized Chord Symbol Notation: A Uniform System to the Music Profession.” It was the most logical and unambiguous chord symbol system I have ever seen. I don’t know if they ever even did more than one printing. I had a copy, and I cannot locate it. I know that Clinton Roemer is now 90 years old, and lives in Sherman Oaks, CA. I think it and his book on the art of music copying (also excellent) were self-published. Amazon has used copies starting at $ 150!

So my questions are:

Does anyone out there know either of these gentlemen?

Would they be interested in creating an e-book version? I would be happy to work on it.

Even if I could find mine, I would really hate to duplicate it in Sibelius for musicians in the present day without credit to the original authors. I think this little book is so important and has been so subtly influential that it should be made available once again, but I have no idea how to contact the authors and/or copyright holders.

Is there anyone out there who could be any help?


16 thoughts on “Brandt-Roemer chord notation book – could it be republished?

  1. I, too, know of that book. I have a photocopy of it in front of me. It’s

    © Clinton H. Roemer 1976
    Sole Selling Agent: Roerick Music Co.
    4046 Davana Road
    Sherman Oaks, Calif. 91423

    ISBN 0-9612684-2-5

    1. Thanks, Douglas! Trouble is, Roerick Music is Clinton Roemer, and so I don’t know if copies are sitting in his garage,or someplace. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt for me to send a for-real letter and ask! Thanks for the info!

  2. You’d be doing the world a service. Mind you, the world doesn’t seem to have paid much attention to the first run of the book. Pity, because it really is a nice rational system that i try to use myself. I even cobbled together a chord font based on their recommendations.

    1. Font is for Sibelius? Finale? All I remember is that Jenson Publications (which spun off of Hal Leonard in the 70s, then was reabsorbed when Art Jenson decided to sail his boat around the world – if I remember the story correctly) openly stated in their promotional materials that their big band charts were written for (a) “traditional” big band instrumentation, a la the Basie Band, and (b) conformed to Brandt-Roemer. That’s when I started using it and I still do, as much as possible.

  3. Unfortunately, the font probably wouldn’t be useful in Sebilius. I made it in the late 80s for an academic project–chord dictionary for pedal steel–and my boss wanted to use that standard, so he made me a copy which I’ve used since. I mapped the fonts in a way that made sense to me at the time without even considering standard notation programs and it’s never been worth my time to change the mapping. Here’s an example of what it looks like and how I typically use it (I sing and play piano or guitar):

    I actually prefer standard (chords/tune/lyrics) lead sheets, I guess, because they hold so much information, but I’m a baritone, so nothing in the fake books etc. is in my range and I have to transpose everything, so this works well enough.

    1. I wish I could find my copy. I would scan it and try to track the authors down and see if they would allow a reprint. I think it’s in storage, which puts it in one of about 200 boxes…

  4. I have long pondered erasing the jillions of notations (fortunately in pencil) from my copy of “The Art of Music Copying” by Roemer, shaving off the binding, scanning it, and releasing it into the wilds of the internet where it belongs. This rather than letting it continue to gather mold in 8 book stores at $150 or better. Sadly, I find there was a 1985 expanded edition, (an additional 40 pages), that I never saw. I don’t want to buy it to perform this labor. Still considering it though.

    1. Greg –

      Many thanks for the link to your site. I applaud you for trying to get yourself involved in the standardizing of chord notation. I don’t agree with all of your beliefs, but you have presented good, logical reasons for your decisions!

      Things are so different today than when the book was published. When almost all jazz and pop notation was written by hand – especially in commercial and recording situation – lots of things were done for expediency. I’ve just finished a book on marching band arranging, and I mention Brandt-Roemer a little bit, even though it is only peripherally related. I try to make the case in the book for eliminating the use of D.C.s and Codas and such – which were developed to save part-copying time – since we use computer notation now and copying and pasting musical passages is so easy. (There is an argument for saving pages when dealing with marching band-sized parts, but that’s another discussion..)

      I think chord notation developed the same way. It was faster to write a delta symbol than to write “MA” or “MAJ;” faster to write the degree sign – or whatever you call it – rather than “DIM.” But without having to copy parts nowadays, more time can be taken to get the score right, then extract the parts and reformat as necessary. I taught my kids in school all the possible permutations they could run into, but I preferred something standard and logical.

      What I liked about B-R was that, if you were writing by hand, it was almost impossible to sloppily write something confusing. MA and MI were completely different, and the dash, for minor, well – I’ve seen that in all sorts of lengths, from overdone to “is that just a speck on the photocopy?” Today that’s not an issue, depending on how you set up your house style (or whatever they call it in Finale). Still, personally, I’d like to see all the symbols go – the delta, the degree (or whatever), the plus, the dash. I agree with you about the parenthetical brackets – but in sloppy handwriting, B, a flat, a 5, a 6 and a 9 can all look kind of the same. Computers make that so clean as to no longer be required.

      So I see your logic, but I don’t think I would be really comfortable using your system! 🙂 And the “half-diminished” still makes me cringe! Readers, out there, wherever you are – check out Greg’s site and see what you think!

  5. Thanks for your input Jeff, and sorry it has taken me so long to reply. I take your point about abbreviations no longer necessary in these days of computer printouts, but I quite often find myself quickly scribbling down a chord chart by hand. Besides, the symbols have become so entrenched, I think I’d actually rather see a circle than DIM, however easy it is to print. Also, B-R uses the + symbol for augmented when they could have used AUG.
    Similarly for DS markings etc. These can help convey the structure of a piece. Again I think I’d rather see them than read a very long chart, especially where page turns might be an issue.
    MA and MI completely different? Out of seven lines that constitute MA, five of them are in MI (even if the last one is slanting!).
    Anyway, it’s a fascinating subject. What do people thinks anout my comments on C2 and altered chords etc towards the end of my page:

    Greg Chapman

    1. Hi Greg,

      This reminded me to tell you that the Brandt-Roemer book is no longer on my webspace because my internet provider has eliminated all its webspace. I’ll put it back up once I’ve tamed my new paid-for webspace but in the meantime, it probably makes sense, if you have a copy, for you to place it on your space — then you’re in control of the link.

      Thanks for a great blog,


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