Here are some quick tips on how I like to have music presented to me for work or performance.  There are several ways to prepare your music, but this is what I find most helpful to a good rehearsal and performance.

  • Double sided with page numbers in the proper corners (publishers often spread out the measures in such a way that page turns are not awkward – photocopying music and messing up this left-page right-page rhythm can throw serious curve balls at your pianist.  Just make sure your page numbers are in the outside corners of the pages when they are in a notebook)
  • 3 hole-punched NOT in plastic sleeves.  Plastic sleeves are really awesome.  They are slick, protect your music and also allow for last minute re-pagination.  However… Since the point of a rehearsal is to coordinate between accompanist and singer – you want to remove obstacles to that process.   Plastic sleeves make it difficult to make markings on the music.  A good accompanist should know when you take your breaths, how many times a repeat happens, where you slow down and speed up, where its loud and soft, etc.  Now maybe he has an amazing memory – but I do not.  So I mark everything important on the music. However, in rehearsals – time is money – and to make one mark takes about 20 seconds if the music is in a sleeve as apposed to about 3 otherwise.  This time adds up and also has the effect of discouraging customization.
  • Make sure all of the music is on the page.  Everything is important, including those little chord symbols on the top. (I know this sounds funny, but publishers make their music books a little bigger than an 8 1/2 x 11 page – so when you photocopy your music – try reducing the zoom down to about 94% to make sure you get it all.)
  • Lyrics – if you are singing a different lyric from what is on your music – scribble the correct lyric in.  It gets really hard to follow someone if they are singing lyrics that don’t appear on the music.
  • Tempo Marking – This can be as simple as “FAST” or “SLOW” or as specific as “quarter note = 120”  Here is a website that will allow you to tap a tempo in and readout what tempo you are tapping. I always have a metronome with me (iPhone app)
  • Transpositions – Having a song in your key is a very helpful thing – however if it hasn’t been transposed by a pianist (not a computer) it may cause more problems than it solves. is an excellent source for music and often offers several transposition options.  If you can’t find a suitable version already in print – David at does an incredible job at a fraction of what I would charge for my time.  Other sites including most in-store services just butcher the transposition – often spitting out almost unreadable music laden with confusing enharmonics and excessive ledger lines.  Finaleand Sibelius are two software packages that do an excellent job of transposing, but don’t automatically take into account questions of register and clef and if you misidentify a key signature as major instead of the relative minor the enharmonics are atrocious.  Just keep in mind transposing a piece is not always as easy as a couple of keystrokes.   If you see more than three ledger lines on a transposed piece – things are probably less than ideal.
  • Feel free to mark anything you think the pianist might need to observe.  Highlight dynamics (if you actually observe them) but don’t over do it.  A really important repeat with yellow highlighter can be very helpful.
  • I would also suggest writing your name at the top of each first pageand maybe your phone number/email depending on how well you know your pianist.
  • If this is for an audition put your music in a 1 inch or smaller, hard backed 3 ringer binder (Don’t use a floppy sided binder – they are very slippery!)

This is a rough sketch, but I think it shares some helpful insights in preparing your music.  If you pay attention to these 9 points you’ll definitely be one of my favorites.  There’s just nothing more frustrating than not having a good clean peace of music to work from.  Thanks for checking these suggestions out.