Organize Your Sheet Music
Staying organized with the music you are currently learning, have mastered or simply just knowing what music you have can make your life so much easier especially with audition preparation or if you ever need music for a performance opportunity that may arise. Get started with these tips on how to organize your sheet music.
Let’s start at the very beginning
- Have two separate binders: one for your repertoire (music you are working on in lessons) and one for auditioning.
- Make two copies: Before you begin a new song make two copies, one which you can mark up in your lesson and then save the other for marking audition cuts and other information for your audition pianist.
Organizing Your Repertoire Book
Have a complete and updated repertoire list
Have a running list of songs organized by time period and tempo which you add to each time you learn a new song. This gives you and your teacher an overall idea of what has been accomplished as well as future goals. Seeing your list at a glance, will make it easy to pull audition music or performance material especially when in a crunch.
Divide music with tabs into the following categories
- Great American Songbook: (1920-1940) Berlin, Porter, Gershwin…
- Golden Age & Classic Broadway: (1950-1970) Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Lowe, Bernstein, Kander & Ebb, Bock…
- Pop/Rock Musical: (1980-Present) Webber, Larson, Wildhorn…
- Contemporary Musical: (1990-Present) Robert Brown, Kitt, Miranda, Ahrens/Flaherty, Lippa…
- Pop/Rock (Not from a Musical)
- Wild Card/Showcase
- Classical : Art song, Lieder, Mélodie and Arias
Organizing Your Audition Book
The preparation of your audition book is a clear way to show a casting panel that you are a professional. Having your sheet music well-organized and polished shows that you understand and respect the role of the audition pianist in making your performance successful.
Start with the Binder
- Use a three ringed binder – Do not bring loose sheets of paper that may not fit on the music stand or even possibly fly away. Also do not bring in music books as they often do not stay open unless the spin is really broken in.
- Get a Heavy Duty Binder 1 inch binder – It’s worth investing in a quality “heavy duty” binder with a rubberized edge and plastic sleeve in front and back. The cheap ones don’t last and the rings tend to separate.
- Page Protectors or not – There are a variety of opinions about using sheet protectors. I’m in the anti–sheet protector camp, but if you are going to use them make sure that they are a non-glare finish.
Organize Your Sheet Music
When it comes to the organization of your book, the main goal is to make your music easy to locate quickly. Include a table of contents at the front of the binder, you never know you’re going to be asked to sing additional music. I suggest to organize your sheet music either alphabetically or by category (as shown above).
What NOT TO DO
- Having one-sided music – Music should always be double-sided to allow for fewer page turns.
- Page-turning on a key change/tempo change – You don’t want a pianist to have to take in new information on a page turn. Lay your music out to avoid this, it’s ok to have a third page to flip out, but be sure to give instructions to the pianist before you sing.
- Having unmarked music – Your musical cuts need to be properly and thoroughly marked. Add clear “Start” and “End” marks. Highlighting these words or markings is not a bad thing.
- Having codas/dal segnos – Codas and dal segnos are navigation markers that require the pianist to turn back or ahead in the sheet music. Having to flip back and forth to read codas is asking for your pianist to get lost. Make an extra copy of the music and lay it out so that they can play straight through. (This is when page protectors might be problematic.)
- Having musical information that’s cut off – Sheet music books are usually oversize, so if you’re using old-school copies from a book, the bottom staff of the piano part often gets cut off, or the chords get lost on the top staff. Make sure all the notes are actually there.
Making Your Binder Extra Special
- Add your headshot to the front sleeve of your binder – As you walk holding your binder, this can give the audition panel/accompanist a quick reminder of your beautiful photo.
- Add a copy of your resume on the back sleeve of your binder – Oftentimes, the audition accompanist is the musical director, they might scan over your experience during your audition.
- Lastly, do not include anything in your binder that you are not fully prepared and ready to sing!