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Thread: Writing on Sheet Music

  1. #1

    Writing on Sheet Music

    Since beginning band, I've always been told that you should write on your music to help you with fingerings, dynamics, and musicality, but recently I've been hearing that you shouldn't write on your music unless absolutely necessary like marking repeatedly missed notes or a correction to the piece. I feel that marking down feelings that should be expressed in a passage, writing symbols, and circling emphasised notes helps my playing. Others would argue that the extra writing distracts your eyes from the ACTUAL sheet music where you can already assume which notes should be played out, musicality, etc.

    I would like to hear other opinions on this subject and benefits/disadvantages of each.

    Is writing excessively on music only common in students, or do artists do this too?
    Natalie Colegrove
    Kanstul 975 Euphonium
    Honor Band of America 2019
    @euphieslife

  2. #2
    I can only say that I generally write on my music. It's not that I want to or like to - it simply helps me with some things. A lot depends on your own brain and the kind of work you're doing.

    A world-class trumpet recently posted that you should always memorize your entire recital and never take water on stage with you. Well, both those are impossible for me, but I recognize the value of doing so if you are able AND in a position to do it.
    Dave Werden (ASCAP)
    Euphonium Soloist, U.S. Coast Guard Band, retired
    Adams Artist (Adams E3)
    YouTube: dwerden
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  3. #3
    Join Date
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    I too make some notes on my music. If I miss a flat or sharp once I might miss it again so mark a # or b above that note. If I forget the dymnaic change I might circle it. I TRY to remember to erase these markings before turning the music in but that may not always work out.
    Rick Floyd
    Miraphone 5050 - Warburton Brandon Jones sig mpc
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    "Always play with a good tone, never louder than lovely, never softer than supported." - author unknown.
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  4. #4
    I usually mark my music, but pretty sparingly. And always in a very erasable pencil. And when I turn the music in, I erase the music thoroughly. Some of the things I mark:

    1) If I continually miss a note because of a key change or other reason, I will sometimes mark the # or b or natural sign by the note, but only if I miss this note repeatedly, not on the first pass through a piece.
    2) By the way, I immediately erase a piece of music that has all of the fingerings or slide positions on every single note in the piece (and I look for the person who did this!!!!!)
    3) If there are mistakes in the music, like a wrong note, I write in the correct note (usually in ink if I can do it neatly) and I leave these corrections on the music.
    4) If there are mistakes or omissions like a rehearsal letter or number not on the music or in the wrong place, I fix that.
    5) If a piece speeds up or slows down dramatically, I may put an extra cue for that in the music, perhaps by circling the marking.

    There are surely more like these, but I do try not to inundate the music with marks or comments. Otherwise you have so much "noise" in the music that it is distracting. Or if you circle everything, then nothing stands out at all. In other words, I don't rewrite something that is already there, usually. If there is a dynamic symbol and I miss it or if it needs to be really dramatic, I may highlight it (underline or circle or something to get my attention).

    I must profess a minor beef with many of my band mates. When the director decides he wants something a particular way, like make those four notes staccato, or don't slur that phrase, or slow down here, or any number of things, I immediately have my pencil at the ready to mark those "changes" that he wants. 90% of my bandmates sit on their thumbs and don't mark the changes, and of course, at the very next rehearsal, the director stops and tells people again what he wants, then again they don't mark it, etc. etc. This is where EVERYONE should be notating their music as per the director's wishes. (This happens mostly in the New Horizons Band that I play in, not so much in the other groups.)

    So, in summary, it seems to me inevitable that everyone will make some marks on their music, some more than others. I tend to be somewhat frugal in the marks I make, and in my opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with marking music, beginner or pro. Just do it sensibly and for reasons that help you, and try to return the music to its original condition when done with it.

    One other thing. Use a pencil that erases easily. Fix something on your folder to hold a pencil. I cut out a little piece of cardboard and tape it to the inside of the folder and keep my pencil there. Also, have a really good eraser in your music bag, case, etc. I have one in each of my instrument cases. These are the art store type of erasers usually, and look like a small bar of soap. I also have the erasers that are inside what looks like a pencil sort of. Then you click it and the eraser comes out of the tube. Those are nice, too. But have a pencil and have an eraser. Essential gear for the enterprising musician.
    Last edited by John Morgan; 08-28-2019 at 08:34 AM.
    John Morgan
    The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) 1971-1976
    Adams E3 Custom Series Euphonium, Wessex EP-100 Dolce Euphonium, 1956 B&H Imperial Euphonium
    Adams TB1 Tenor Trombone, Yamaha YBL-822G Bass Trombone
    Wessex TE-360 Bombino Eb Tuba
    Rapid City New Horizons & Municipal Bands (Euphonium)
    Black Hills Symphony Orchestra (Bass Trombone), Powder River Symphony, Gillette, WY (Tenor Trombone)
    Black Hills Brass Quintet (Tuba)

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by davewerden View Post
    ...A world-class trumpet recently posted that you should always memorize your entire recital and never take water on stage with you. Well, both those are impossible for me, but I recognize the value of doing so if you are able AND in a position to do it.
    Can you believe that the Canadian Brass for the most part play their entire concerts without music?? Yee-gads!! I try to play solos memorized and do mostly. But sometimes I just don't have the desire or energy to memorize some particular solos. When in the U.S. Army Band, everyone had to memorize at least 30 or more marches, and then some other stuff, too. So you could play any march in any parade on any day without music. The Herald Trumpets (a subset within the U.S. Army Band) never used music, you had to know the entire repertoire by memory. And you best better know them all, because you never knew what pieces would be called.

    It is funny now that I am an old dude, on some of the tunes I have memorized, I occasionally will be rehearsing a piece, then start day dreaming about something else (focusing and concentrating when you get older gets harder, I guess), and totally forget where I am. I have done that several times over the years. I stop and ask the conductor to kindly please restart that section. And I promise to pay attention!!

    The business about water is curious also. I ALWAYS take water with me on stage. In fact, when I play a series of concerts for schools, if I go out front of the band to do a solo, I hand my water bottle to one of the clarinets so that he/she can give it to me pronto during a band interlude so I can get a quick sip. Before I got to the point where I ALWAYS take water with me on stage, I played a solo with a band in Colorado for a good sized audience many years ago. I was just getting over a nasty cold. I got up on the stage, and the solo was none other than Carnival of Venice. The Harold Brasch version. So I started the first part which was a slow section that also went up high. My mouth was like the Sahara Desert. Too many cold pills, I guess. Dry mouth does not even come close to adequately describing my condition. I struggled like crazy to get through the first section before I had a little break and there was the band interlude. It was agony. I stunk. I was embarrassed beyond belief. So, as soon as the first section ended (I had been furiously thinking this whole time about what was I going to do, quit, make an excuse, etc.), I went over to the trombone section and looked for someone with a water bottle. I found one, asked if it was just water, not oil or something else, and he said just water. So I grabbed the bottle, took several big squirts much to the amusement of the audience who could feel my pain with me, then proceeded on with the piece. The next variation went better, and then I was sort of back to normal and could finish the piece. After that fiasco, I have NEVER gone on stage without a water bottle. Any one who tells you not to take a water bottle with you on stage is, in my humble opinion, either a walking water fountain, or, more likely, just plain nuts. I see countless world class musicians with their water bottles on stage. I'm sure going to have mine!!!
    Last edited by John Morgan; 08-27-2019 at 11:22 PM.
    John Morgan
    The U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own) 1971-1976
    Adams E3 Custom Series Euphonium, Wessex EP-100 Dolce Euphonium, 1956 B&H Imperial Euphonium
    Adams TB1 Tenor Trombone, Yamaha YBL-822G Bass Trombone
    Wessex TE-360 Bombino Eb Tuba
    Rapid City New Horizons & Municipal Bands (Euphonium)
    Black Hills Symphony Orchestra (Bass Trombone), Powder River Symphony, Gillette, WY (Tenor Trombone)
    Black Hills Brass Quintet (Tuba)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
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    Leadwood, MO
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    547
    I do the same. If the conductor wants to deviate in an area (i.e. slow down more than expected, etc.) I will make notes. Any area that I tend to forget something I'll make note of that as well. The more experience you gain you know when you need (or should) notate helpful information. Always have a pencil or mechanical pencil with you. Very helpful. Never make notes in ink unless its your own property. Very irritating when someone makes notes in ink which is not courteous to others that may use the parts after you.
    John 3:16

    Yamaha YSL-630 Trombone
    Conn 15I Euphonium
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    Conn Victor 5H Trombone
    Yamaha 354 Trombone
    Mack Brass 200S BBb Tuba

  7. #7
    My philosophy is this: mark what you need to mark so that the conductor doesn't have to make the same comment twice.

    Two of my favorite quick markings for use in a rehearsal: the dollar sign ($), which means this needs practice, and eyeglasses, which means watch.

    Finally, stay away from highlighters. I played a show once where the player I was subbing for had marked all the key changes with pink highlighter. In the dim light of the pit, I couldn't make out a single one. It took some very lucky guesses not to play something spectacularly wrong.
    Last edited by adrian_quince; 08-27-2019 at 10:51 PM.
    Adrian L. Quince
    Composer, Conductor, Euphoniumist
    www.adrianquince.com

    Kanstul 976 - SM4U

  8. #8
    Always ALWAYS in light pencil, always ALWAYS when told to do so by the conductor and/or section leader, always ALWAYS as a tip to yourself when you’ve fluffed something within your grasp to play correctly or with focused practice.

    Finding a part marked in anything BUT an erasable pencil mark is a special kind of horror for me, and I can never understand why kids as first year students aren’t taught to use pencils ONLY.

    My first instrumental teacher, who became our HS band director, was Revelli trained, so we as students were trained with the same goal of perfectionism AND DISCIPLINE. That training has NEVER failed me, and I never participate in a rehearsal without a pencil on my stand.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
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    Hidden Valley, AZ
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    Once the music is passed out for us, the first thing I do is make copies and turn in the originals.

    Those get punched and set in a ring binder (can't blow away) in concert order.

    Marks will fly in my case, and usually plenty of 'em. At that point, it's my business anyway.

    After the season, the whole thing gets put in my archive.

    DG
    1966 Besson 181 highly modified New Standard
    1918 Hawkes & Son euph 3&1 original
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    1915 York Bb tenorhorn original

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Anderson, Indiana
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    230
    Quote Originally Posted by highpitch View Post
    Once the music is passed out for us, the first thing I do is make copies and turn in the originals. After the season, the whole thing gets put in my archive. DG
    That's exactly what I do. My daughter once had a summer job in college erasing all the markings from orchestral parts. It was ok for her, as she was getting paid, but thinking about the our volunteer community band librarian or the next person who might get my marked up part, I decided to do like "highpitch" and make copies before marking things up even in pencil. Now I can highlight those D.S. markings, write in conductor preferences or anything else I wish to make note of.

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