The knowledge of surface electromyography (SEMG) and the number of applications have increased considerably during the past ten years. However, most methodological developments have taken place locally, resulting in different methodologies among the different groups of users. A specific objective of the European concerted action SENIAM (surface EMG for a non-invasive assessment of muscles) was, besides creating more collaboration among the various European groups, to develop recommendations on sensors, sensor placement, signal processing and modeling. This paper will present the process and the results of the development of the recommendations for the SEMG sensors and sensor placement procedures. Execution of the SENIAM sensor tasks, in the period 1996–1999, has been handled in a number of partly parallel and partly sequential activities. A literature scan was carried out on the use of sensors and sensor placement procedures in European laboratories. In total, 144 peer-reviewed papers were scanned on the applied SEMG sensor properties and sensor placement procedures. This showed a large variability of methodology as well as a rather insufficient description. A special workshop provided an overview on the scientific and clinical knowledge of the effects of sensor properties and sensor placement procedures on the SEMG characteristics. Based on the inventory, the results of the topical workshop and generally accepted state-of-the-art knowledge, a first proposal for sensors and sensor placement procedures was defined. Besides containing a general procedure and recommendations for sensor placement, this was worked out in detail for 27 different muscles. This proposal was evaluated in several European laboratories with respect to technical and practical aspects and also sent to all members of the SENIAM club (>100 members) together with a questionnaire to obtain their comments. Based on this evaluation the final recommendations of SENIAM were made and published (SENIAM 8: European recommendations for surface electromyography, 1999), both as a booklet and as a CD-ROM. In this way a common body of knowledge has been created on SEMG sensors and sensor placement properties as well as practical guidelines for the proper use of SEMG.