Preparing Orchestral Parts

or,
How To Use Surgical Tape Without Going To Med School
(it’s not for paper cuts)

Preparing parts for a professional orchestra is all about the details. After the mammoth task of editing (not to mention writing) the full score, we composers must then break our work into digestible pieces for performance by an orchestra. Scoring must be done according to standard formatting rules and notation practice. This can stave off frustration in rehearsal. A good score should allow the players to gracefully slide into their roles in the same way that a race car driver fits behind the wheel of a well-tuned Indy car. It is in a composer’s best interest to be helpful in this way as the quality of our own music is at stake.

While preparing parts for my latest piece, Prayer Without Words, my research led me to a treasure trove of information on score formatting. Composers, take note. MOLA, the Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association, is a clan devoted to the printed music of large ensembles. They provide “Music Preparation Guidelines for Orchestral Music”, a document which was very helpful!

Among the suggestions:

“The paper for parts should be of
substantial quality […] to ensure
durability, and to stand up to on-stage wind
patterns caused by ventilation systems.”

They must have seen my earlier post on windsocks.

But the biggest lesson I learned from MOLA was that surgical tape really is an accepted way to bind pages together. London Drugs carries a product called 3M Micropore Paper Tape, which works beautifully!

Surgical Tape

This roll of tape is the most unlikely item in my composer’s toolbox, but at least I’ve learned something new. Now that the parts are finished, I can’t wait until the reading on March 23!

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