A beginner’s guide to score preparation

We get this question all the time: “How do I practice when the practice tracks aren’t available yet?”

I love this question, because it always opens up a discussion about the different ways that we practice. Is singing the only or dare I say…the best way to practice and prepare for the All-State Choir auditions?

Here are some non-singing but very important things to do when you first get your music. They will help you to stay organized and efficient in your future practice.

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The Steps

  1. Raid an office supply store (my favorite!) You’ll need:
    1. A 1-inch 3-ring binder with rings that are completely round and not flat.
    2. Tabs or post-it notes and tape if you are doing it on the cheap.
    3. Color pencils
    4. Highlighters in light, transparent colors
    5. Correction tape (Not wet paint kind!)
    6. Optional: Hole reinforcing stickers and a heavy-duty hole puncher ( I like this one because it makes me feel like the hulk when I use that big handle.)
  2. Obtain the All-State music. Once I purchase my originals I  immediately make copies for my personal use for my first, messy run at the music. That way, my originals stay pristine and I can use them for a later draft.
  3. Number the measures, or at least the first measure of each line. (Gloria uses rehearsal numbers instead of measure numbers….so don’t bother with this one.)
  4. This may be controversial….but I’m going to ask you to use your new correction tape to white out any translation or language other than the one you sing in. You need the extra space for your own notes, not unimportant things that distract you. For instance, the Gloria will be sung in Latin, so you can get rid of the English and all cue-sized notes that correspond to the English.
  5. Highlight your part
    1.  I prefer to highlight the words I am singing instead of the notes because my eyes need those more.
    2. If you are sharing a line with another voice part, you may choose to jump up to the staff and highlight the notes you are singing OR very carefully white out other parts that are close to your line and distracting (especially in, for instance, La Danza where the parts are very close together on the staff and alternate between 2- and 3- part singing.)
    3. Be very careful with your highlighting so that you don’t revert to auto-pilot and highlight the wrong line (another reason you’ll be glad you’re using copies and not originals). For example,  Choir 1 vs. 2 in the Bach.
  6. Use a second highlighter to highlight changing time signatures, and a third to highlight changing key signatures.
  7. Devise a color-coding system using your colored pencils. You’ll need a color for each of the following:
    1. Dynamics (pp, p, mp, crescendo, decrescendo, sotto voce, etc.)
    2. Articulation (staccato, accent, tenuto, etc.)
    3. Tempo (rit., a tempo, accelerando etc.)
    4. Later on, I’ll post a guide to color coding phrasing and language, so reserve a few colors for that!
  8. Label your songs using tabs and arrange them in your binder. If you’re using copies, I’d recommend placing Region music in front of area music. If you’re using originals, arrange them smallest to largest OR put the tabs across the top of the page so that music doesn’t get swallowed up. If you don’t want to purchase tabs, then you can cut up post-it notes, just make sure you reinforce them with tape.

Voila! A little project to get you started and to fill that little hole in your heart until practice tracks arrive… Hopefully, you will see the value in this every time you open up your book to practice. Until next time!



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