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Organizing A Conductor's Score...

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Help!

 

I need advice.  How do you best arrange a large orchestral score for the conductor?  For instance, the instrumentalists get their parts separated, and you try to have page breaks during a time of rest. 

 

What are the guidines for arranging/spacing when it is a full score, meant to be sight-read?  Is legibility the utmost concern, where I just need everything neat, and clear - while not worrying about page turns?  The score as of now is quite cluttered with many markings. 

 

In dense material, what is a preferred amount of measures per page?  I will be printing off a copy in Letter for starters, and later in B4, or A3...So, considering Letter for now, how many measures? :S

 

Also, if there are many time changes, tempo markings, accel/ritard, dynamics - where should these fall?  A couple measures before a page turn?  A couple after?  And which of these aspects do you give precedence to, regarding page turns...???

 

Ack...anyone have any advice for this process o_O?  Specific suggestions for each question, rather than general is preferred. =P

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What are the guidines for arranging/spacing when it is a full score, meant to be sight-read?  Is legibility the utmost concern, where I just need everything neat, and clear - while not worrying about page turns?  The score as of now is quite cluttered with many markings. 

 

Legibility is, by far, the most important consideration. Conductors have to read 20-30 staves at once while instrumentalists only have to read one. So its a huge deal to have things not colliding and score elements unified and consistent. Page turns are not as important, however, they can sometimes be improved by placing them where there is a major change of character, i.e. a change in tempo or key, or sometimes a major section start. The most annoying thing is to have a new section start on a page for only a bar and then have to turn the page; it will cause insecurity with the conductor because he has to ensure the new tempo is correct *and* turn the page at the same time, all the while reading ahead and making cues etc. Its just one extra thing that really should be avoided whenever possible. 

 

In dense material, what is a preferred amount of measures per page?  I will be printing off a copy in Letter for starters, and later in B4, or A3...So, considering Letter for now, how many measures? :S

 

There's no rule for measures per page because spacing will be entirely dictated by the music's density and the page size. Conductor scores should not be in letter size if you can avoid it unless we're talking about chamber works. But orchestral scores need to be larger paper in order to be useful. Make the score in Tabloid (11X17) format (or A3 elsewhere) and then spiral bind it. Sometimes you can get away with a smaller size like 11X14 or 11X15 but for simplicity 11X17 is best.

 

Also, if there are many time changes, tempo markings, accel/ritard, dynamics - where should these fall?  A couple measures before a page turn?  A couple after?  And which of these aspects do you give precedence to, regarding page turns...???

 

Try and get all gradual tempo changes to fall on the same spread (two pages open facing each other, i.e. an even page and the odd page directly after). Having changes across page breaks isn't terribly hard but if you can avoid it, it's a nice gesture. Make the beginning and ending tempo clear!

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Your instinct is right that "cluttered with many markings" is a look you must avoid, both for practicality in performance and so your scores can be taken seriously by strangers as they first take a look at the scores. 

 

That's often a result of too little vertical space between each staff.  Do you have enough space between your staves?  It's most efficient to work in your eventual page size (you say you're starting working with Letter -- that's a sure way to make things too dense vertically if you have a large-ensemble piece).  I recommend working with larger paper and for the times you need to print on Letter size paper, you can just "fit to page" in your printer's settings and/or create a PDF that's reduced to fit the page.

 

Also, your notation program allows you to adjust the font size for all markings.  That's definitely worth experimenting with, to help with visual balance.  As you're learning, cosmetic work takes a lot of time.  But it really pays off in conductor/performer happiness and interest.

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Tokke indeed covers most of the points. Most orchestration books worth their salt have a chapter on laying out score and parts, and for the real engraving details books like Behind Bars are a must.  The presentation of the music makes a real impression on the performers and we can instantly see whether we should trust the composer/arranger and what knowledge of our instrument they have.

 

One thing which may be of comfort is that any decent conductor will get the score in their head before going anywhere near the first rehearsal (even a read-through).  So you won't need to concern yourself with providing a score that they can scan in detail whilst waving the stick, as this is done beforehand at the piano or desk.  The players, on the other hand, may well be literally sight-reading.

 

Hiding staves that contain instruments that are resting is a good idea in scores (Sibelius has a function for this) as it means only things that matter appear on the page and can save space and create clarity. Lutosławski and others used a 'scrap-book' layout where only the actual bars an instrument it playing in are shown and the rest hidden on the same page, which is suprisingly clear.

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well, the thing with getting rid of the staves that don't play, I don't really recommend it. From my experience most conductors I've met, along with myself when I got to conduct, they prefer to see what everything is doing at every moment, including the rests. At some points it may be easier, like when you want to say "all these parts, please play!" but it's just too much to change on the score, and it messes up my conducting when I go from 30 staves on one page to 2. I kinda like the Lutoslawski idea, but conductors don't usually mind having every staff on the page, but there are some that don't like conducting to a score with hidden staves. Perhaps it's just because it's always been done that way or something, but whatever, focus on making it legible first! 

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