July 17, 2013

Can you find your music?

It’s all well and good to have a lot of music but if you can’t find it, it doesn’t do you much good.

No matter how your repertoire is stored, you need to be able to find what you have. Sometimes you really need to quickly put your hands on something so you can play it.  Do not be fooled, this is the same problem for us all - how many times have you heard someone bemoan being unable to find the right score?  Or that they can’t think of anything to play in session? 

To access your music quickly, you must be organized.   And your organization system must work for you.  Here are three ways I organize my music:

For tunes I have learned by ear, or have learned so well that I need no paper, I have a catalog.  This can be a list or a set of index cards.  I include the title of the tune, the key (or keys) I typically play it in, the tune type and/or time signature.  If you’re very fancy you can also include the first measure or two to remind you which tune it is and how it starts.  I sort by the title I use.  For example, although it is properly called, “Tha Mi Sgith” in my head I still call it “Pulling Bracken” so it is sorted under P not T. Be sure to sort by the method that makes most sense to you - it is your organization system.

If you typically play from sheet music, you can use a similar organization - you can file your music.  I sort sheets alphabetically by title.  This allows me the freedom to find what I’m looking for when I need to find the dots.  Some things are sorted oddly.  For instance, all my Christmas music is filed under C for Christmas.  I don't think of these tunes individually – in my mind, they are a group and so they are grouped in my files.  For the books, I sort them alphabetically by composer, arranger, or editor (and some random books that are sorted by title because I think about them that way (e.g. my copy of The Caledonian Companion is filed under “Caledonian” because I never remember to give the appropriate credit to Mr. Hardie.   

So take a little time and sort through your music.  Devise a method that suits you and apply it.  Instill order where there might otherwise be chaos.  And enjoy spending your practice time practicing rather than searching for music.

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