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How to Make Your Parts Look Professional


When you have finished making all of the final edits and adjustments in the score, it is time to make your parts.


PARTS are the Most Important Thing that you will make. PARTS are more important than the score. Nothing Derails a Session more than the Parts being poorly designed. And unfortunately, because they are usually finished after the score, many people will rush the process with making parts. When the deadline is breathing down your neck it can be really hard to give your parts the attention they need.


But, you gotta do it anyway. Because you owe it to your players,


My name is David Vess, I’m a composer and this how to make your parts look professional.


Just like when we talked about SCORES there are different CONVENTIONS for different mediums.


Take Violin Parts in ORCHESTRA. In Concert world we separate the 1st from the 2nds. We usually put measure numbers only at the top of the system and at Rehearsal marks. We use cues as a way of helping our players know when to come in.


But, when we go to FILM world, the conventions become different. Depending on the number of strings we have, we will probably make a composite part of 1st and 2nd together. This is make it easy to overdub and record passages with more strings at will. Unlike concert world, every single measure must be marked. And we only add cues if we have a specific goal for reorchestration, we don’t use the same way we do in concert world.


As you can see, even though both parts are for the same instrument in the same type of ensemble, we would not make the parts the same way because the conventions are different.


Before I go further, I have to acknowledge that every, does this different and everyone has a LOT of OPINIONS about how to do these things. There is no ONE WAY. IN the end you want to do what is clear for your players.


PARTS are for Instrumentalists. Singers don’t use parts, they sing from the score. For choir they read from the score. In opera they usually will learn from the Vocal Score, which is just the Music for the Singers and a Piano Reduction. When it comes to the Piano, if it is in a chamber setting, they will definitely play from a score. They need to be able to see what the other instruments are doing. The only time that the piano gets a standard Instrumental part is when they are part of the orchestra or the wind ensemble.


PAPER - Publishers will make instrumental parts slightly larger than the average piece of paper (Letter sized in the US). But, if you are a student or are self publishing, you will probably be working with letter sized paper. If you have access to a nice printer, you can use Landscape Tabloid to create booklets. But more on that later. The default will almost always be Letter.


CHECK EVERY PART-but actually. This means looking through the part and pretend playing it. You are going to check that the dynamics make sense, that the commands make sense, that the tempos are visible. It doesn’t take very long to check, I usually do them in groups. Winds, the brass, etc. If you have the option to Optimize, go ahead and do that as you check each part.


CUES After you have gone through each part individually you will now need to create CUES.

CUES are essential to any good part and they are very easy to make. They serve multiple purposes and have different t jobs depending on the medium you are in. A CUE is essentially an excerpt of the score that is put into another part. They are Visually different than the regular music of the part because they are SMALL.


In Orchestra World - CUES are there to help people come in. Parts that don’t play so much like the tuba, need cues to help them come in on time. They are there to give musicians an easier experience of reading the work.


In Wind Ensemble World - CUES have a slightly different job. While they do everything I said they do in Orchestra, WE cues also have to facilitate Instrumental Alternatives for Bands that may not have access to all of the instruments in the WE.


You may have written a super cool English Horn Solo for your High School Band piece, but the Band down in the county over don’t have any English Horns. Or Baritone Saxes. Or a Contrabassoon. So, you would want to strategically give other instruments with similar ranges the CUE so they can cover the PART.


IN FILM WORLD - We only use CUES when we want to have alternate orchestrations and takes. Because the parts are made to be recorded. Other than that, we don’t want them on the parts.


In Chamber World, they are essential. And in Choral World, we only use parts if we have instrumentalists, singers sing from the score.


As you are adding CUES, you should always place them at TEMPO Changes. I usually use 3 measures at a time, sometimes more, sometimes less, it depends on the line.


As best you can, pick the most interesting and rhythmically diverse line. You don’t have to stay within the section, but you want to avoid things that people may struggle to hear. A whole note in 3rd Clarinet may be a poor choice, when you could put the moving line.


Pay attention that the line doesn’t happen numerous times. If there is an unmarked repeat, someone might hear it and come in early and ruin a take.


Another Rule of Thumb when creating PARTS is to destroy Multi-Rests as much as possible.


You just want people to know what is going on. For standard Parts, I try to break MULTI Rests that are 5 measures or more. That is a good way to do it for Reading Sessions as well. Don’t skip CUES!


When you use the CUE, look from the Score - and you can just add it to all of the parts that are resting. This saves you time as you move forward.


FORMAT - After you’ve added CUES you will Format 8-9 Systems per page. When you first click on the part, you will want to count how many systems appear on each page. You want the music to breathe a bit, you want to give players room to write instructions from the conductor in their part. You also want to avoid having dynamics clashing with the tempo and commands. It is better to have less than 8 and just have more pages.


As you do this, you will want to think about how new sections land on the part. How does it fit on the page?


PAGE TURNS - As you are formatting each part individually, you will want to keep an eye out for PAGE TURNS. Do not underestimate the power of a BAD Page turn. If you are in a reading session, this can be devastating if in the wrong place and can cost you precious time and even money if you are trying to record. Since most parts are made as a booklet, you need to think about having rests near the bottom of every 2nd page.


It is totally okay to have some blank spaces to facilitate a PAGE turn.


Ideally, the player can see that there are RESTS at the end of the page, but if you have music that goes right to the end, that can be stressful.


You may also consider adding a Title Page to the Part to Facilitate a Page turn. Not every part needs a title page, usually they are waste, but if the music is only 2 pages or so, then it would be smart to save your players from needing to turn the page at all.


Please keep in Mind that in orchestra -the Winds, Brass and Percussion are all soloists. They each have an individual part and will be in charge of their own page turns. The Exception to this are the Strings, who usually share a stand. One of the players handles the page turns. Ideally, you still have logical page turns throughout, but it sometimes happens in the strings.


For Wind Ensemble, there can sometimes be Combined Parts, where Horn 1 and 2 are one part together. I’m not a huge fan of this, but sometimes it is acceptable. When It doubt, consult the band director that you are working with to see their preference.


DO ONE Last Look Over. Have a friend Look them over.


NOW it is Time to Print. Please be advised that as tedious as it is, you will want to print each part out individually rather than in bulk. Especially if you are doing Double Sided Parts, which you probably are. The reason I point this out is because if You print it all as one group, you run the risk of the last page of the bassoon part being on the same paper as the first page of the 1st Horn. That mistake sucks, so print everything individually. Then you will bind the parts, either as a tabloid booklet, or with tape.


And that is how you do it! Thank you so much for watching.

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