Music preparation - what and why!

I often talk to people who are surprised at the types of music preparation jobs that can be done, so I thought I'd dedicate a post to talking about my work as a copyist and what I can do for you!

Why do people need someone else to prepare their music? Can't you just do it yourself? What do you pay for?

  • Expertise. Those experienced in music preparation have the eye to prepare beautifully clear and accurate music, and the ability to spot and resolve potential issues prior to it being rehearsed or performed. They also have extensive knowledge of theory and notation, the styles and conventions of different genres and specific requirements of different orchestras.
  • Meeting a deadline. Music preparers often get the music incredibly late (or be working on the start as the composer finishes the end!) and a deadline has to be met. Just recently I worked through the night to prepare the score and parts for a piece and a couple of hours later it was being rehearsed in Paris.
  • Efficiency. With extensive software knowledge, work can be done considerably faster and without hassles.
  • Assurance. You can pay many thousands of dollars to have musicians sitting there ready to record your music, or you could have worked hard for many years to have an orchestra perform it in a concert. Whatever context, when the players sit down or the conductor studies his score you need the assurance that everything is clear, accurate and very simply - it must work!
  • Ability. Many composers still write by hand and then pass it on to be prepared. Likewise, many composers and musicians don't know how to write notated music, and will pass on MIDI files from other software to be notated.
  • Independence. To publish your music, traditionally you would have had to pass your music over to a publisher to have it expertly typeset and prepared. But you would have had all of the commitments of having a publisher and would only get a fraction of sales. Now, with composers having their own websites, people are publishing themselves and just need their music expertly typeset, edited and proofread - that's where we come in.

What sort of things can be done?

  • Typeset music from handwritten manuscripts (or scribbles!).
  • Edit and/or proofread music that is already set.
  • Prepare instrumental parts - sometimes just as PDFs and emailed, other times I can provide the library service where I will print/copy and organise/distribute the parts at rehearsals/recording sessions.
  • Singers often need their pieces in a different key - I can transpose these with a very quick turnaround.
  • Tidy and typeset music from programs such as Logic or Pro Tools, adding all of the dynamics, articulation and other technical considerations.
  • Recreate a missing orchestral score from the instrumental parts - can be a lifesaver!
  • Transcribe music from audio.
  • Create reductions of larger scores - such as a rehearsal piano part for an opera.

How did I get in to this?

When I was studying composition with Anthony Ritchie at Otago University, he asked me if I would be interested in setting a set of Christmas carols composed by his father John Ritchie. I loved it, and gradually discovered that this area could in fact be a career in itself.