Making of your Music Book

It is the end of summer, and for me this usually means making my new book.  To a singer, the concept of the book is of utmost importance.  It is the physical real world repository of music, notes, work, art. Plans for what to work on next, what I am refining, what I want to do, it is what I am presenting, and in a sense what the image is that I presenting to people.

Last year, I made my book spiral bound beautiful number, which I brought with me to Europe on auditions and beyond.  I learned however, that as sexy as it is to have one book that is bound and essentially set in stone.  Reality doesn't really allow for it.  After a few months I started getting asked for specific pieces that weren't in my 25 aria selections I had put together.  I also built one using Staples Arc system, with a beautiful leather bound cover and sturdy construction.  I love this system so much, but it really didn't allow for ease of page turning in an audition situation.  When putting together an audition book, the simpler the page turns, and therefore the simpler for the pianist the better.  This year I am returning to a 3 hole punched notebook…. what is different this year, is that I am also putting it online in Evernote and on my iPad in ForScore.  

Before we go any further we should talk about how many books, or copies we need.  When I was in school I had 3 identical copies.  One for me, one for my pianist, and one for my voice teacher.  If you are still in school, I highly recommend this is the approach you do, when you start to do auditions I would recommend adding a 4th book that will have clean copies and only the notes that you have really decided need to be there for the pianist, as opposed to marks that you are making for yourself or your technique (reminders etc).

Currently I make two copies, I make one which I entitle my "workbook" and the second which I call my audition book.

(obviously you will need to duplicate this for how ever many copies you will be having.)

Basic Materials you will need:

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3 Ring Binder

You will have to decide how many you need, 2 for me this year.  I would also get 1 of them (if not all of them) in black.  Get the best one they have in the store usually I go with an Avery Durable Binder somewhere between 1.5 and 2 inches.  This year I decided to try Staples Better Binder.  I got one in Black and one in Dark Blue, and I am starting with a 1 inch, and if I need I will buy a bigger one later.

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Table of Contents

I would get no fewer than 10 tabs, usually I go for 31 and leave room for expansion as the year progresses. If you can find the ones in color, those are best.  Though both Staples I went to today were out of them.

Protip

Protip

 Before writing anything in your book, make color photocopies and/or scan a copy of the first page of table of contents.  Things will change over time, and the erasing and writing in again just starts to look dingy.

Your Music

  • Make a list of all the pieces you plan on including.  Then organize this list in the following alphabetical manner

1. Composer Last Name 2. Opera 3. Aria Title.

I have asked dozens of pianists what way they would like to see a book organized if they had a choice, this is the most common answer, and one that they almost never see.  When they do, they always seem very pleased with it.

  • Print or Photocopies all of your arias and songs. 

I have had enough students come in with poorly photocopied music that I feel I need to give a little tutorial on how to make the copies.

Photocopying Tutorial.

Count the number of pages of the piece and figure what is the least amount of page turns. Arrange the music with as few page turns as necessary.  This means in a 4 page piece, there should only be one page turn, between page 2 and 3.  I realize

Make the copies double sided.  If you can't then use scotch tape and tape the upper and lower corners of the music to make them double sided.  

Do not under any circumstances use staples.  

Do not use clear vinyl sheet protectors.  If you are asked specifically to use the clear plastic sheet protectors, take the time and money to make a separate book specifically for that person with the covers.  Most pianists do not want nor appreciate them.  

Do not under any circumstances use staples.  should i write that again?

Now all that is left to put the music in the binder, in the right order…

but I have 3 binders…. 

So in your's, aka the work book.  You have the music, you should also include in there: translations, ipa, research notes, notes on character, interpretation, etc

in all the others you should just have the music, clearly marked.  any cuts, tempos, etc all clearly marked.  Don't include anything in there that you don't want to do..

let me elaborate on that for a minute. In an audition book, you should only include arias and songs you are feeling ready to sing and present.  It has happened in auditions that they want to hear something else, and pianists have gone through and offered pieces they find in the auditioners book.  Yes this has happened.  If you only include copies of music you want to offer, then there is no problem.  If on the other hand, you start to include songs you are working on, then all of the sudden, they could ask for something that you don't actually know yet.

My answer is simple.  The workbook, is the complete and total copy of what you have.  Keep the numbers the same on the other copy, but only include the songs you want to on the list… if this means that of your 31 dividers you only have 4 things in that book and the rest are blank, that is totally cool.