Thoughts on Score Engraving
One of my primary goals is to be a good steward of your music. I believe by considering the below factors, the reading session or concert preparation will allow the musicians to focus on the music—versus simply the notation—which should yield a product that will make you proud. The below ideas are based on conducting several hundred pieces of music and over a dozen student compositions.
- The easier the notation is to read, the less of a chance of a preparation (score study) error or execution (conducting) error.
- Format large wind ensemble scores for 11” x 17” paper.
- Consider the number of measures per page. Having the score overly compressed (too many measures) or stretched out (too few measures) can make it challenging to read, especially when conducting and rehearsing.
- Be sure the music fills the entire page. There is no need for excessive white space above or below the systems. Print a page from your score and try to read it from three feet away, just as a conductor would. Can it be read easily?
- Provide numbers for every measure. Otherwise, it can take 15 minutes of limited score study time for the conductor to number every measure themself.
- Create large time signatures for readability purposes.
- Provide frequent rehearsal numbers. This saves time in rehearsal.
- Ensure crucial text is large and legible. For example, it’s easy to miss “rit.” if the font size is too small.
- It is much easier to see hairpins than to read small text (e.g. “dim.” or “cresc.”)
- Notation software does not have spell check. Don’t forget to proofread.
- Are there extraneous or nonsensical markings? (e.g. a dynamic marking under a rest.)
- Are uncommon or non-standard symbols defined in the score’s front matter?
- For unison lines, do hairpins start and end in the same place? If not, is this intentional?
- Are metric modulations always specified? (e.g. 𝅘𝅥𝅮 = 𝅘𝅥𝅮 or 𝅘𝅥 . = 𝅘𝅥 )
- Feel free to provide subdivisions for asymmetrical meters. (e.g. 2 + 2 + 3)
- Prepare to spend extra time with percussion parts.
- Is everything labeled accurately and frequently in the score and parts?
- Consider the configuration of the instruments. Is it possible for a player to move between instruments in the time provided? Some instruments take more time to move between than others.
- Harp: Is your writing feasible and idiomatic?
- Double Bass: Is pizz. and arco always labeled as appropriate?
- Brass: When mutes are used, is senza also indicated? Is a specific mute indicated? Do players have enough time to insert or remove mutes?
- Glissandi: If a full-duration glissando is desired, is this marked?
- Hairpins: Do hairpins contains starting and ending dynamics?
Considerations When Programming
Before I was a graduate student, I conducted the wind ensemble at Emory University for three years. The Emory University Wind Ensemble consists of fixed personnel who are not music majors but choose to keep the arts in their life while pursuing other careers. I believe there are many universities across the country that face their own unique challenges when programming music.
My intention is not to dissuade anyone from non-standard choices, but only to offer that at times, limited resources can prevent a piece from being programmed.
Your Website: Can your website be easily navigated, and can a quality recording and a complete PDF perusal be found? MIDI is okay if a live recording is not possible.
Double Reeds: 2 oboes and 2 bassoons are common. English horn can be feasible, but having it cued can be very helpful. Required contrabassoon (and contrabass clarinet) can be a tall order.
Four Saxophonists: The vast majority of wind band repertoire is for AATB or SATB saxophones, so only four saxophonists are rostered for the season. If a piece calls for more than four saxophones, that can be a personnel challenge.
Harp: It can be challenging and expensive to hire a harpist. This may prevent a piece from being programmed if the part is required. Piano and double bass are more common, but may not be present in every wind ensemble.
Percussion: While standard percussion was achievable, excessive percussion was hard or impossible.
Electronics: At Emory, I was assisted by three undergraduate work-study students who also played in the ensemble. Having intricate electronics (either with configuration or real-time performance) was not possible.
Other Additional Divisis: Similar to saxophones, multiple divisis in wind parts (e.g. flute, trumpet) were—at times—a reason to select other repertoire. Fixed personnel and one-on-a-part assignments made multiple divisis challenging. Consider publishing minimum and/or “recommended” personnel in your score’s frontmatter.