We still call this final step of the process “engraving,” though of course, there’s no movable type here or anything that makes us think of printing presses (or ink and quills, for that matter). Some composers prepare sketches and drafts for copyists who make the final versions of the printed music. I’ve never used a copyist, and as I’ve become more and more interested in the visual look of my music, it’s hard to imagine handing that process over to someone else.

For an orchestral piece, there are really two big steps—first, I prepare the conductor’s score, which in many cases is more specifically called a “condensed” score. All of the information is there, but sometimes in a slightly shorthand style. For example, if all three oboes are playing the same music in the same octave on a given page of the score, I’ll simply write the music on one staff, rather than three, and write “a3” to indicate that all three have the same music. Thus, I save some space on the page and perhaps I can make the music a bit larger for the conductor. This process means that each page of the score is slightly different: continuing the example mentioned above, if the following page has no oboe music at all, all three oboe lines disappear. It’s a little complicated, but my preferred notation program (Finale) does a decent job of aiding the process.

Once the score is finished, then I go back and make an additional “score” that becomes the template for the parts. In this score, nothing is reduced or condensed—the document exists solely for the purposes of making the individual parts and I often don’t even print it out. If I make a good template, then Finale generates the parts and there’s no need to do much editing. I do, however, proofread and make sure I haven’t missed a mistake. I also make sure that the players can easily turn the pages.

As of today, I have just three more parts to finish, then the piece will be ready to be rehearsed. More updates soon!

Editing music is fun.

Editing music is fun.

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