Make Your Mark: Steps Toward Efficient Score Study (Quick Tip)

“It is not often that a man can make opportunities for himself. But he can put himself in such shape that when or if the opportunities come, he is ready.”  – Theodore Roosevelt

I can imagine that while President Roosevelt may have been referring to the development of governmental policy or geo-political strife, his message also can be applied to the craft of music making. And while we all hope that the magic of music making infects our rehearsal space daily, we never know exactly when that first moment will occur. That is the exact reason why we need to be ready at a moment’s notice with a thorough understanding of the repertoire in the event the performers meet us in the rehearsal room with the appropriate level of preparation. At that time, maybe we as conductors can get past the “nuts and bolts” of tone development or rhythmic precision and invest ourselves in the beauty inherent to all grade levels of band repertoire. How do we begin to efficiently digest these scores?

score study

The Method

  1. Read every word in the score.
  2. Explore form and structure.
  3. Analyze key areas and important cadential moments.
  4. Delineate important entrances and emotional arrivals.
  5. Indicate significant changes in dynamics and articulation.
  6. Notate and translate challenging rhythmic figures.
  7.  Evaluate areas that should be addressed early in the rehearsal process.
  8. Systematically craft and…
  9. Successfully prepare the rehearsal plan.

In my experience, tackling the question of “where do I start?” has been the challenge in efficient score study. A conductor could start anywhere, but setting out on our journey with a large, global view and proceeding to smaller, more specific areas seems to be effective in breaking down scores early in the process.

This article was submitted as part of’s TMEA 2018 preview series. Dr. Richardson will be presenting the clinic “Make Your Mark: Steps Towards Efficient Score Study” at the TMEA Convention in San Antonio on Saturday, Feb 17 at 8:00am in CC217. Be sure to join him to learn more about efficient score study!

Dr. Brett Richardson is the coordinator of Music Education and Director of Bands at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, TX.

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