Tag Archives: College paper

Skills in Score Preparation


One thing I found while I was decluttering my office was a short paper I wrote in grad school for the course Skills in Score Preparation. I was a music education major. The scores in question were pieces of music, especially multi-instrument or multi-voice pieces for orchestra or ensembles or choruses; the score contains all the parts for each individual instrument and/or voice. The conductor or teacher would need to carefully study all parts of the piece before beginning to rehearse or teach the piece. The conductor/teacher would want to mark the score to remind himself of important points to cover; for example, entrances that would need his cueing, or changes in time signature or key signature.

Skills in Score Preparation was by far the most memorable, interesting, and helpful class I took during my Masters program at Trenton State College (now known as The College of New Jersey). I’ve forgotten the professor’s name, but he was passionate about good conducting and helping us to become better conductors. He was everything you’d want a professor to be: wise, skillful, an excellent communicator, kind, and encouraging.

I wrote the paper in the fall of 1975. I typed it on a typewriter on onionskin paper. The assignment was to list the steps I would take to prepare a score I might use in my career (in my case, in an elementary music classroom). I’m posting it here just in case it might be useful to one of the musicians who follow ARHtistic License.

Steps in Score Preparation:

How to Prepare a Score

for Study in the General Music Class or for Performance by the Chorus

  1. Background Information: by whom, when, and why was the piece composed; what are the characteristics of the composer, the period, and of other pieces of music used for the same purpose; how does this piece adhere to or depart from these general characteristics; what is the meaning of the lyrics, if any; how does the music express the lyrics
  2. Harmonic Analysis: is the harmonic structure predominantly diatonic, modal, atonal, homophonic, polyphonic, monophonic; does a particular chord have a function other than the obvious one; identify key changes and reasons for them
  3. Form: identify major and subordinate themes; examine thematic development; determine pattern formed by themes
  4. Interpretation: determine phrasing, emphasis, dynamics, tempi, other diacritical markings
  5. Musical Elements: glean for terminology which might be unfamiliar to students; check for difficult melodic passages, entrances and harmonies which may require extra attention to master; look for exemplary passages which could be used to illustrate particular musical concepts being studied [After each item in the paper, the professor wrote encouraging comments, like v good, yes, and also good. After this item, the professor wrote the suggestion sustain unusual chords for memory work.]
  6. Fresh Viewpoints: listen to different recordings while following score to hear different interpretations, bring to light aspects that might have been overlooked; read album jackets, books, and articles for additional information

On the cover sheet of my paper, the professor wrote quite comprehensive work, which makes me happy even after 47 years.