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A Day in the Life... S01 E73

Score Study and Preparation


Over the years, my approach to studying and preparing scores has changed. I still mark them similarly, but I have found that with larger and more classical works, I try to do a harmonic analysis to help guide my ears in rehearsal. I will often take one score and study it for a few hours, as opposed to several scores (when possible) so I can fully immerse myself in that composition. Only if the work is easy in different and short in duration will I consider studying multiple scores in one day.


My current score study routine looks like this (more or less):


  1. Number every measure

  2. Mark all percussion parts with instrument names

  3. Look for/label any time signature changes

  4. Look for/label any terminology that is unfamiliar

  5. Look for/mark any mute changes, solos, etc.

  6. Mark all major cues in red pencil

  7. Mark all minor/secondary cues in blue pencil

  8. Mark dynamic increases in red

  9. Mark dynamic reductions in blue

  10. Write any major percussion hits (ex: crash cymbals, timpani cues, etc.) higher up in the score for increased visibility

  11. Listen to the piece following the marked cues to check for any missing entrances

  12. Harmonic analysis

  13. Flow chart (if necessary)


I think one of the misnomers people have about conducting is what a conductor does prior to the first rehearsal. Our “practicing” is more based in analysis, audiating, and proactively troubleshooting situations before the ensemble plays their first note. Without these steps, a conductor is less likely to be able to analyze and address problems in rehearsals, which could negatively impact the final performance.

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