Guidelines for preparing scores and parts for performance


Although Sibelius will always do its best to produce a good, legible full score and instrumental parts that you can feel confident about presenting to a group of players with a minimum of laborious editing by the user, there is no substitute for a real working knowledge of the issues you might face when presenting your score or parts to an ensemble for the first time.

There are plenty of books on the subject of music engraving, but actually the area of score preparation is not quite so concerned with the minutiae of engraving issues like hairpin apertures, beam angles and so on as it is concerned with ensuring that the score is laid out properly, uses an appropriate staff size, includes all necessary markings (even simple things like the instrument that plays a particular part), and so on.

There are many different conventions for score preparation, depending on whether you are preparing music for a jazz ensemble, a commercial recording session, concert music for chamber ensemble, band or orchestra, and so on. But here are a couple of links to some useful guidelines from around the web:

  • The Society for the Promotion of New Music (or spnm as they are now rather trendily-known) in the UK has this useful page
  • The Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association in the US has this page (also available as a PDF)

You may also want to check out this Berklee Press book, Music Notation: Preparing Scores and Parts, and this book by Finale expert Stephen Powell, Music Engraving Today, now in its 2nd edition (though note that a lot of the content specific to Sibelius is now quite out of date). The most widely-respected book on commercial music copying is Clinton Roemer’s The Art of Music Copying: The Preparation of Music for Performance, but this book is now out of print and rather hard to get hold of.

We’ll cover resources specific to the minutiae of music engraving itself in a future post.

(Full disclosure: my links to Amazon go through their “associates” programme, which means that if you buy the book after going to Amazon from a link in my blog, I receive a tiny contribution towards an Amazon gift voucher that I can use to fund my book and CD habit.)

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