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CallMeZoot
10-16-2006, 05:50 PM
EDIT: I ADDED A FEW THINGS BASED ON NIKOLAS AND TERRY'S SUGGESTIONS -- THEY ARE IN ITALICS

I put together this list when I was in school, and I posted it on another composition group a few years ago. Thought I would share it here -- if anyone has anything to add, please do so.

Basically I wanted to put together a definitive checklist of things to do in my final "engraving" of a score. I imagine that we've all had the experience of having to re-print an entire score multiple times because we forgot to do something simple like check for realistic page turns or include rehearsal letters. I've seen so many student reading sessions where the composer is embarrassed because he overlooked something crucial and his piece is unreadable. This list should be helpful as a reminder of all the details we need to include before a score is complete.


Clerical
Obviously, check ranges, playability, proper transposition, etc.
Note Spelling (awkward lines, augmented 2nds, strange harmonies that could make more sense by re-spelling notes)
Proper beaming / rhythmic notation
Transposed or Concert Score? Is this specified clearly?
Any special transposition instructions the conductor will need to know? (8va piccolo / bass, clef discrepancies in bass clarinet / baritone, etc.)
All metric divisions clarified (for example, when 4/4 changes to 12/8, specify whether the 8th stays constant or quarter=dotted quarter)
Copyright information?Fundamental Performance Elements

Tempo Markings
Any special/descriptive performance instructions ("mysterious," etc.)
Dynamics
Articulations
Phrasing (slurs, breath marks, bowings, etc.)Highly Recommended
Courtesy Accidentals
Cue Notes, especially after long rests
If any instructions carry over a page turn or after a long rest, put a reminder in (parenthesis) on the next page.
Rehearsal Letters
Measure Numbers
Page Numbers
Practical Page Turns
Cover sheet with instrumentation, duration, percussion requirements
Percussion-only score(s) so that players can divide up the parts as they wishEasily overlooked
Does every divided string line indicate whether it is double-stop or divisi (a2, a3, etc.)?
Do shared parts indicate whether they are played by player 1, 2, or both (primo, secondo, a2)?
Does every "divisi" indicate when to return to "unison"
Does every "add mute" or have a "remove mute" later on?
Are there instructions for when percussion players should switch instruments?
Does every doubling instrument indicate when to return to the original (i.e. flute/piccolo)
Is the harp part playable? Is there notation (and time) to change tunings when required?
Is the timpani part playable? Is there notation (and time) to change notes when required?
In parts, are multimeasure rests broken to accomodate rehearsal letters, tempo changes, other important instructions?Anybody have something to add? It would be nice to compile a "definitive" checklist. Anybody have their own checklist like this?

chris.

qccowboy
10-16-2006, 06:03 PM
I'd have to say that "check ranges, playablilty" is so fundamental to the compositional process, that this shouldn't even be included in a checklist of score preparation. If you find range errors in your score, then it probably needs more work than a quick correction from a checklist can afford.

CallMeZoot
10-16-2006, 06:26 PM
I agree, but I still think it's worth a quick double-check in the final process. I tend to write in C, and I've occasionally discovered that when I put a part into its proper transposition it results in awkward fingerings, unplayable trills, confusing enharmonics, or (*gulp*) a note or two out of range. This usually only requires a quick fix, but I'd rather catch it at the last minute than have a player butcher my piece because I wrote a finger-twister.

By the way, this checklist isn't only intended as a "last-minute" check -- I use it throughout the composing process to make sure I'm not missing elements. I usually compose a piece fully in SONAR before I even begin to notate it. The "engraving" is not part of my compositional process--it is done after-the-fact, and is a long process in and of itself--so I find it useful to have some guidelines to keep myself on track.

chris.

Poolman
10-17-2006, 08:01 AM
If you have two players sharing one stave in the score, every time there is only one line of melody it is essential to say "1." (primo), "2." (secondo) or "a 2" (both to play).

Terry Dwyer

nikolas
10-17-2006, 08:22 AM
Great list!

Sometimes, no matter how experienced composer one is, it's easy to bypass something. In my case it's always been the "Score in C" note, which makes things REALLY complicated (or a phone call away anyhow :D).

I think I'll copoy paste your list and enlarge it to a full blown A3 page to have as a poster in my *studio*... ;)

EDIT: 1. when making the parts also, it's really important to check in transopsed instruments (at least) and make the same checklist. Simply automatically transposing the notes a 2nd up sometimes messes things up...

2. Also, again on parts, if you have rehearsal letters, and it happens to be in the middle of a multibar rest, you must break the rest and note the rehearsal letter. Otherwise the person with the parts will get lost. (Example: 9 bars rest C 11 bars rest) (Does it make any sense ???)

3. Harp issues. I won't be analysing the harp here, but it always needs extra care, if nothing else for the spelling. Also the pedal setting is something that most harpists I know do (in the begining of the page or even in every staff), so it's worth giving it to them from time to time...

CallMeZoot
10-17-2006, 09:16 AM
Yeah, transposing instruments can really cause problems, especially when extracting parts -- this is why I left "check ranges and playability" on the list even though it should "go without saying."

I am a saxophone player, and sometimes when I'm composing at the piano or computer I'll write a part that seems perfectly playable, but then when I transpose or extract the part I realize that it would require superman pinkies! Or sometimes a carefully-thought-out spelling of a twisting chromatic figure turns out to use all double and triple sharps when it's transposed!

Fortunately, I can usually change a note here and there at the last minute without any major qualms -- my music tends to be more about rhythm, texture, and gesture, so the specific pitches can often change without disrupting the intent of the piece.

And making sure to clarify "Score in C" or "Transposed Score" is pretty crucial to conductors, especially with a-tonal, non-tonal, bi-tonal, ambiguously-tonal, etc. scores. If you're using functional harmony, it is less crucial because the key signatures will give the answer away.

chris.

CallMeZoot
10-17-2006, 09:22 AM
2. Also, again on parts, if you have rehearsal letters, and it happens to be in the middle of a multibar rest, you must break the rest and note the rehearsal letter. Otherwise the person with the parts will get lost. (Example: 9 bars rest C 11 bars rest) (Does it make any sense ???)


GOOD POINT -- that has happened to me before in Finale. It is VERY easy to overlook. If there is a rehearsal letter or another symbol that occurs in a score while an instrument is resting, that part may be omitted in the score. You have to choose "break multimeasure rest" for that item in order for it to show up in parts. This is a Finale-specific issue -- does it happen in Sibelius too?

I almost missed a deadline once in grad school because I noticed this very problem on my way to my car to drive the score to the ensemble office. I would definitely add this to the list!

chris.

CallMeZoot
10-17-2006, 09:26 AM
3. Harp issues. I won't be analysing the harp here, but it always needs extra care, if nothing else for the spelling. Also the pedal setting is something that most harpists I know do (in the begining of the page or even in every staff), so it's worth giving it to them from time to time...


ALSO a good point -- I completely neglected this because I don't often use a harp in my orchestral works (sorry Gary!). But I'm working on a piece right now which features harp, so I should make sure to include this on the list!

Basically, you need to check for playability (no G# and G-natural in the same area in the piece), and you need to make sure there is enough time to change tuning when required. It's a good idea to put pedal change markings to help the players out in sight reading.

Same thing for TIMPANI -- make sure you leave enough space room for tuning when notes change.

chris.

CallMeZoot
10-17-2006, 09:38 AM
Another thing I just noticed is not on the list (I will add it in in an edit):

If an instruction carries over a page turn or after a long rest, it is a good idea to remind the conductor in (parenthesis).

For example, the trumpets are muted in the on page 1, but they rest for 1293 measures and come back again, muted. It's a good idea to write "(mute)" as a quick reminder for the conductor. This is especially helpful for rehearsing, when you might start in the middle of a piece.

Same thing with changes in tempo or dynamics (a long accelerando or crescendo that, usually notated with a _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ... --- it's a good idea to remind the conductor on the following page what those dashes are for!)...

I will add this to the list.

chris.

CallMeZoot
10-17-2006, 09:43 AM
Heheh, I apologize to any grammarians for the state of this list. It is an English teacher's nightmare!

I've compiled it bit by bit over the years, so the tense is all over the place -- if I ever make a "definitive" version, I'll clean it up! To our British friends, my humblest apologies!

chris.

nikolas
10-17-2006, 09:55 AM
I like it how you posted five times in a row :D

(Thanks for adding to the list).

What I also find crucial is to have dynamics (even repeated once that stay the same), after the page turns. I mean imagine an 80 bar melody from the flute, with small rests here and there to breathe. All played p. The guy would be lost half ways because he wouldn't remember at what dynamic he's in.

And of course, cues to the parts. After a long multimeasure rest a small note cue of a bar or so, might save the day in the end.

What I've always done with small ensembles scores and mainly parts, is to print out the parts and actualyl play them on the piano. Of course unplayable things and instrumental errors are not avoided this way, but any clerical, or copy error can be spoted this way. Basically (at least in the UK) there is no time for rehearsals and 90% of the times it's sight reading... (except for big concerts... :P). This makes the need to have a perfect score more crucial than ever...

guitarpicker
10-22-2006, 11:04 PM
This is a very helpful checklist. Thanks. I have one question, though. You list rehearsal letters AND measure numbers. If I choose to use measure numbers throughout, do I need to use rehearsal letters, too?

Thanks again.

CallMeZoot
10-22-2006, 11:53 PM
This is a very helpful checklist. Thanks. I have one question, though. You list rehearsal letters AND measure numbers. If I choose to use measure numbers throughout, do I need to use rehearsal letters, too?

Thanks again.

I guess it's a matter of personal preference. I like to use both. At the very least, I'd put a box around the measure numbers at new/important sections. This way it's quick and easy for the players to jump to a section in rehearsal. Sometimes during a reading session the conductor will call out a measure number for an important transition that's coming up, and if anyone's lost you'll want them to be able to jump there without scanning the page for a tiny measure number.

The more you do to help your players understand their parts, the better.

chris.

Ed Sharpe
10-23-2006, 11:43 AM
GOOD POINT -- that has happened to me before in Finale. It is VERY easy to overlook. If there is a rehearsal letter or another symbol that occurs in a score while an instrument is resting, that part may be omitted in the score. You have to choose "break multimeasure rest" for that item in order for it to show up in parts. This is a Finale-specific issue -- does it happen in Sibelius too?


I have never seen the behavior in Sibelius. In my experince it is very good about keeping things like rehearsal letters.

guitarpicker
10-23-2006, 12:38 PM
Another point for Sibelius! Is anybody aware of a comparison chart for Finale vs. Sibelius? I'm thinking of switching, because of a plethora of difficulties and frustrations with Finale. Does GPO work better with one than the other?

CallMeZoot
10-23-2006, 01:49 PM
In Finale you have to choose "break multimeasure rest" for an item in order to ensure that it shows up in all parts (and doesn't get "swallowed up" by a multimeasure rest).

This has its good points and bad points. Bad because you can easily forget, and there's no reason why it shouldn't be automatic. Good because you have this setting available for just about any symbol that you want which means you can have a choice over which symbols break rests.

At the risk of starting another "Finale vs. Sibelius" thread, here's my take after learning some Sibelius.

Sibelius makes a lot of choices for you. Fortunately they tend to be GOOD choices, and your score will look good without having to do a lot of tweaking. Most things CAN be tweaked, but perhaps not with the micro-control that you can tweak elements in Finale. Occasionally I've been frustrated because I can't figure out how to do something really simple, but I think that's just because I don't know the program in and out yet.

Finale requires you to think more. You have control over positioning virtually everything. It's excellent to have a lot of choices, but sometimes it adds a lot of tedium to things that should happen automatically. In my opinion, it doesn't lay things out as well out-of-the box. I spend a great deal of time on layout, just spacing measures and systems and staves in the most pleasing way--it's kind of tedius and I don't find Finale's layout functions very intuitive. Sibelius it tends to make itself look good no matter what you throw at it, and when I want to change something like staff spacing, it's usually just a matter of click-and-drag. Still, you can't get "under the hood" as much with Sibelius so if you want your score to have a less traditional look to it, it may take some wrestling. You can make your score look very professional in Finale, but you'll often have to shuffle measures and systems around (and you can't drag them as intuitively as you can in Sibelius).

From what I've heard, Finale seems to have the leg up when it comes to playback, but I don't really use this feature so I've never compared them

When it comes to note entry, I think it's just a matter of preference. I think Sibelius' way of entering notes is more intuitive, but it took me a while to get used to since I grew up with Finale's system.

When it comes to articulations, I prefer Finale--just hold down the '.' key and click a note and it becomes staccato. In Sibelius you're really supposed to put all of your articulations on AS you are entering the notes. But for someone who usually starts with a MIDI file imported from SONAR, I find it a bit harder to go through and add articulations to pre-existing notes. I'm sure with practice I'll get used to the keypad.

But Finale has the incredibly awesome "copy elements" feature, where you can easily copy articulations, dynamics, shapes, slurs, etc. etc. etc. from one passage to another. So if I have a long line with a complex mesh of slurs, articulations, dynamics, etc. I can copy those elements from the phrase and with one-click paste them into any future iterations of that (or similar) figure. This is the main thing that I REALLY miss in Sibelius. Does anybody know if Sibelius has something like this?

I think the Sibelius interface is quicker and more intuitive, but you have to really know it first. A lot of advanced features can happen with just one or two keystrokes or clicks--but you have to know these keyboard shortcuts, and you need to know where to find these functions. Finale is a bit less intuitive -- you have to use a different "tool" for every function. But once you understand this concept, you can find everything pretty quickly, and really go down into the nitty-gritty of things. Sibelius has taken some getting used to -- at first it felt like everything was just hidden from me, I couldn't figure out how to do a thing! But now that I'm more used to it it seems like a much smoother way of working.

Anyway, I'm not 100% sold on Sibelius yet, but I suspect that it will win me over. After playing with Sibelius and then going back to Finale, I find that everything just seems to take longer in the latter. But sometimes in Sibelius I find myself thinking "man if only I were using Finale, I could move that thingy 1 more millimeter to the right and this score would look perfect!"

chris.

Jeff Turner
10-23-2006, 04:26 PM
Chris,

That seems to me to be an honest look at both programs. What one user sees as a feature, another user will see the same behavior as an annoyance. Both are powerful programs and require a certain amount of time and effort by the user to get the best results out of it. Both programs have user forums that are filled with new questions everday. Neither program is as intuitive as they'd like you to believe.

It's possible to get very good results out of either program as well as very poor results.

JT