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Preparing Your Score

November 9, 2009

I have always maintained that a conductor’s score preparation is as individual as the conductor themselves. What I mean, specifically, is how a conductor marks and prepares a score before the first rehearsal is designed for that particular conductor to “connect” with the music and the composer.  If a conductor can better connect with a composer, then certainly the conductor can enable the musicians in the orchestra to connect with the composer, too.  And, that would almost have to facilitate a better, more informed and sensitive, performance.

My score preparation routine consists of:

  1. Making sure the score is complete, intact, and has no major printing errors (such as pages missing, pages upside down, etc.)
  2. Marking the system breaks with red pen – a ruled line straight across the page. (I use a Sanford Expresso Red Bold Point. It doesn’t bleed through like a Sharpie does.)
  3. Marking the rehearsal letters/numbers with red pen
  4. Writing the transposing instruments’ transpositions in the margin on the left side of each page. Some scores already have this information. I have found out that having the transposition written down on each page has helped me save rehearsal time. No more asking – “Horns? What transposition are you in again?”
  5. Doing the “taktgruppen” – or measure/phrase grouping. This is similar to a Herford analysis. It helps me to “de-compose” the piece and gives me a better idea of how the composer has assembled their ideas. This is also where I analyze the overall form of the piece and also make note of any striking harmonic motion.
  6. Writing in cues, text translations, or any other sort of additional information that will assist me in my rehearsal process.

Some conductors use many colored pencils – crescendo equals red pencil, descrescendo equals blue, etc.  Some use almost no markings whatsoever.

What do you use to mark your scores? It is a process as individual as each one of us!

One Comment leave one →
  1. BrandonM permalink
    November 13, 2009 4:53 pm

    Boy, it seems I approach every score differently, and for reasons that even I am unsure of. Sometimes I make hardly any markings, and on other occasions I am very liberal with annotations. For the last two or three years I have been too minimalist, in my own opinion, so I am trying to be more diligent with that.

    I especially agree on the need to mark transpositions. Also, when a score omits parts with prolonged rests resulting in an ever-changing system of staves, I find it necessary occasionally to mark what part is on each staff.

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