Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Is Your Music a Mess?

Remember old 'nomes?

Here we are, the first day of spring, and thoughts turn to ....
... spring cleaning?

I've been straightening up and dusting the music room, trying to de-clutter as I go. I think I'm finally ready to give up that old mechanical metronome! I've brought in a couple of baskets to contain small frequently used items, such as the digital metronome, tuners, tuning wrenches, etc, and larger items such as headphones and recording devices. The thing that always slows me down is the mess of sheet music ... and I'm talking multiple piles. What to do with it all?

It's not that I don't try to keep it all organized. At my house, sheets of music notation are organized in a number of different places:

Multiple, thick, three-ring binders full of pages of music slipped into plastic sheet protectors and arranged (mostly) in alphabetical order. Each contains a particular category of music:
  • my arrangements
  • tunes I've gotten from my teacher, Ken Kolodner
  • tunes / arrangements I play with my music partner, Betsy
  • special collections, such as Christmas tunes, or Hymnody of Earth, by Malcolm Dalglish
Plastic containers and expanding files that mimic file drawers
  • music printed out for workshops that I teach
  • music that I commonly give to private students
  • music that I've acquired from other teachers' workshops
Bookcases for actual books full of tunes

Baskets for holding (hiding) loose piles of mostly uncategorized music in no particular order

My dining room table for stuff I'm currently using with my students or in my own practice

My computer - the neatest and easiest to search option!
  • music notation software containing all my arrangements, written out
  • tunes and arrangements scanned into the computer for reference
It's a common problem. My friends and students ask me, "What's the best way to store sheets of music?" There must be as many answers to that question as there are musicians shuffling all that paper. What is your solution to this problem? One master file drawer? Multiple systems like mine? Any words of wisdom out there?

One thing's for sure:
You must find a system that works for YOU.

Then comes the tricky part:
You must USE it!


  1. I've started using Evernote, the ubiquous place to keep everything and anything. My dream is to scan every piece of music into Evernote and then you can easily search for it. Of course you know I'm a geek anyway!

    1. Great idea, Lynn! I'll never be the geek you are, but I've been getting geek lessons and starting to learn about Evernote from the "artist geek" herself (aka Laurie McCarriar). Here's a link for anyone interested in checking out what she has to offer: or for more about Evernote: