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Topic: Formatting the score for my musical - a question

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  1. #1

    Formatting the score for my musical - a question

    I am about to orchestrate the 22 songs in my upcoming musical Rivertown to debut on October, 2009.

    It will include:
    piano/synth
    flute
    clarinet
    oboe
    bassoon
    trumpet
    trombone
    French horn
    percussion
    violin 1 & 2
    cello
    Electric bass

    To me it looks funny the way Finale is formatting the score for me using the wizard on my Mac Pro.

    I found a few scores online to take a peek at, but I am wondering what is considered the "standard" way of setting up a score for the conductor of the pit orchestra. Are all vocals in that score as well?

    I just want to start out right and not have to go back and redo scores.
    I know there are people here who have done this or know.
    It's funny how you take for granted things until YOU have to create a score yourself (or some other task), then everything is not so obvious.

    Thanks for any guidance you can give this orchestrating novice.
    If anyone has a Finale file - even just a page or two - that I could have, that would be wonderful.

    Also what size paper would be best?

    Charles
    MacPro 2.66 - Tiger & Snow Leopard / 16GB RAM / several TB of HD space/ Garritan Libraries / EWQLSO Platinum PLAY / Omnisphere/ Kontakt 2 & 3 / Finale 2010 /DP5/ a VERY patient wife!

  2. #2

    Re: Formatting the score for my musical - a question

    Hmmm. Well, in my show experience there are sometimes piano/conductors and sometimes conductors who just conduct.

    Most musicals I have worked on have "condensed" scores which appear to be piano/vocal parts but have the wind and string cues and some perc. cues noted either on the piano part or in a few extra lines of score.

    If it was me (and I don't know your situation) I would make a full score in score order, a vocal score, and a condensed piano/conductor score.

    Full Score order for your score would be (IMHO):

    flute
    oboe
    bassoon
    clarinet
    trumpet
    French horn
    trombone
    Vocals<--- I added this
    piano/synth
    percussion
    violin 1 & 2
    cello
    Electric bass

    I would set up the piano/conductor score as:

    Vocals
    Woodwinds
    Brass
    Percussion
    Piano (rhythm section)

    and the vocal book:
    Vocals
    Piano (with cues)

    As far as page size - if it's a piano/conductor score it has to be able to stand up without "flopping around" so stiffer paper is in order. Maybe up to 60 pound stock? Instrumental parts can be 8.5x11 in 20 LB in my opinion. Parts for the vocalists (IMHO) should consist of the piano part and their part in a separate book. 8.5x11 would be fine. If I was the conductor (not the pianist as well) I would want a full score (I like non-transposed scores but this would be up to you) on a fairly stiff 11x17 (portrait orientation) stock with a binding that will lay the score flat (comb or wire) and stiff covers (not knowing what kind of music stand will be available in the pit).

    All of this is variable as to resources, time and situation. The professional books I have played out of are oversized stiff stock produced at a blueprint company, but conforming to the organization (roughly) I stated above. The heavier stock in this case makes it easy to maintain the book on the stand also helps the material stand up to being erased countless times (for making cuts - different in every production).

    Hope this helped!
    In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is.

    http://reberclark.blogspot.com http://reberclark.bandcamp.com http://www.youtube.com/reberclark

  3. #3

    Re: Formatting the score for my musical - a question

    Is this a question about the order of the instruments in the score? Here's how I'd do it:

    Flute
    Oboe
    Clarinet
    Bassoon
    Horn
    Trumpet
    Trombone
    Percussion
    Keyboard
    Vocals
    Violin I
    Violin II
    Cello
    Bass

    Depending on how the bass is used, I might want to put it up by the keyboard. If it's used mainly as part of a rhythm section with the keyboard and drums, then it would be fine to put it up there. But if it's used mainly as part of the string section, I'd put it under the cellos.

    The conductor's full score definitely should include the vocals. Longstanding tradition puts all vocal parts directly above the violins, but in the case of pit orchestras for musicals, I think some people prefer to put them at the top of the score.

    As far as page size is concerned, I think that I'd put it on 10x13 or 11x14 if possible. They don't make this size, but most print shops will trim it for you if you ask nicely (Kinko's does it for me, at least). Anything smaller will be too hard to read, anything larger will be too hard to carry.

    I do some professional Finale work from time to time when my schedule allows. If you think my services would be useful, let me know. (I'm an Indiana musician, too!)
    Dan Powers
    www.danielpowers.info

    "It's easier to be a composer than it is to compose."
    --Ray Luke (1928-2010)

  4. #4

    Re: Formatting the score for my musical - a question

    I've been an actor for most of my life and I've done a few musicals. From what I have seen, this is generally what you get when you lease the rights to a Broadway show (and remember that those scores more often than not come from the last road companies, so they may not have as many instruments or as much information as what the originals did on Broadway):

    Soloists get scores with just the melody lines and lyrics for each of their character's numbers. All the chorus numbers are in another book with both the boy's and girl's lyrics and music on a treble and bass staff (or all on the treble staff, which the male chorus members transpose down an octave.)

    The conductor gets either a piano vocal score (like the "complete" published "Vocal Scores" you can buy for any Broadway musical at places like Sam Ash, in NYC) or a conductor's score which, depending on the show and what they provided to the rental house, may contain more or less information than the piano vocal score.

    The piano vocal score has all the music, all the lyrics, and all the music cues (by cues I mean the lines of dialog or stage directions that signal the start of a number or the end of the underscoring) and a full piano part -- which may or may not actually be playable by someone with only two hands. The pianist(s) do play from this score, but most do not play literally every note. They improvise based on the chords, take some of the accompaniment as is or embelish it, reinforcing the rest of the pit as necessary. Sometimes they include the melody line from the vocal part with it (especially in rehearsal, or if a singer starts to wander too far from the tune in performance). Sometimes their only function in a number is to serve as the unifying link between two other sections (for example, the piano doubling a theme which is started by the reeds and picked up by the strings).

    The piano part is sort of a condensed version of the whole orchestral part, without the transpositions for each individual instrument. It is marked up to show which instruments and/or sections play which notes and it is geared more toward cueing them in than notating every fine detail of the performance. For example, you may have a couple of measures of block chords and a notation "Flute+clars", or even just "WW", and few measures later see "+ strings" written in. Since woodwind players double on so many instruments in a pit orchestra, some orchestrators leave the choice of the instrument up to the player. Others spell everything out, or just note it when the choice is important.

    The wind and string players get books that have their parts written out (sometimes with places left for improvisation). Guitarists and Bass players get chord changes and a basic suggestion of the rhythm and style. Drummers can get anything from a fully notated part to nothing at all. It depends on the show and how much they preserve of it for future performances.

    If you are writing a new show, you can do whatever you want. The best advice I can give is look at what others have done before. Talk to your conductor and your musicians if possible. I'm a big believer in writing everything out, because a good player can always improve on what I have done and I'd rather give him more rather than less information. But songs are re-written and re-orchestrated in rehearsal all the time in new musicals, so a lot of this stuff is done very fast and they don't waste time writing out anything that will be obvious to the player or that they can explain to him verbally.

    These are just my impressions, based on what I have seen. There are some contributors to this forum that have a lot more experience than I do writing, orchestrating and performing in pits (I played one of the pianos in a pit, exactly once, for a show that I wrote while still in college and I've turned pages for a couple of keyboard players a couple of times, in a pinch.)

    I would encourage them to respond to you. And I'd also like to suggest, again, that a new forum be started for orchestrating for the musical theater. There is precious little info about this and, now that sampling and virtual instruments have made it possible for more composers to arrange their own material, I think it would help a lot to have all the posts about this in one place, as a reference. Of particular interest to me is feeback from musicians who play in the pits - what their gripes are, what they need from the orchestration, what I can do to make life easier for them. Often there are several ways to orchestrate something and, knowing which of the two is more playable, more idiomatic, or will just sound better in the real world is a big help. (For example, Broadway orchestrators keep telling me that having three violins play a line sounds nice and full on the computer or when recording but, in the theater, even when amplified, it sounds a lot thinner. They recommend, if you only have three or four string players - which is unfortunately becoming the norm these days- it's better to divide them and let your mixer manage the levels.) Recently a reed player made a post here reminding orchestrators that switching from a single reed instrument to a double reed instrument than it takes to switch between two single reed instruments. It made me re-think some of the doubling in my score. In pit orchestras, woodwinds double a LOT because it gives you a wider variety of tone colors when you have such a small orchestra.

  5. #5

    Re: Formatting the score for my musical - a question

    Thank you all SO much for your advice and suggestions.
    I did find some full Broadway scores online in pdf format and that is helping me a lot. I will get busy working on my layout and then go for it. A new place for discussion here on musical theater would be great I think.

    I will take any further ideas any of you have for me.

    Charles
    MacPro 2.66 - Tiger & Snow Leopard / 16GB RAM / several TB of HD space/ Garritan Libraries / EWQLSO Platinum PLAY / Omnisphere/ Kontakt 2 & 3 / Finale 2010 /DP5/ a VERY patient wife!

  6. #6

    Re: Formatting the score for my musical - a question

    I did one musical and here are few things to consider that I found helpful (I didn't conduct it myself back then):

    -put the vocals on the top, choir next to it, I think it's an easy way for the conductor to follow the lead singer(s) and the choir and that way know what is happening on the stage too.
    -I would recommend using the "hollywood" time signatures (time signature changes in the beginning and in the middle with a very big bolded font), since a conductor will have to write these in big otherwise - they always have to be seen, so it's clarity over score looking pretty. You help him/her by doing this already in the printed score. Same goes for instrument names in the beginning of each part - this is something the conductor will have to read.
    -write EVERYTHING to the score that you can think of (meaning dynamics, crescendos, diminuendos, how hig/low they go in the middle etc). The more you have written, the less you have to explain your music and the easier you make it for the conductor and players
    -I think A4 will do well enough, if you just write a clear score and the conductor has proper light. A3 is somewhat clumsy (in my opinion...). Never tried it though, but A4 has done well enough. I think every conductor will go through the score and mark the things there he/she has to point out, so A4 is enough (vertical though)
    -a good rule for rehearsal marks is to have them when something difficult happens or at least in the beginning of each verse/chorus etc. I used to write rehearsal marks like this: A (with big bold font) 1st verse (smaller font) so that choir can easily find the verses, choruses etc. Not everyone is a classical musician, so it's maybe good to point out the obvious parts of the song when they're rehearsing home. And the choir part can even have chords-markings in it so they can practise at home.


    Good luck with your musical, it's awesome, especially when you get to hear it ready finally (can tell you!!!!)

  7. #7

    Re: Formatting the score for my musical - a question

    To follow up on the last reply - youi'll save a lot of rehearsal time by numbering every measure in the score and on the parts. It takes five seconds to say "Cut from the end of bar 42 to the beginning of bar 77" and it can take five minutes to accomplish "Cut from the end of the 5th measure before A to the beginning of the 7th bar after the Andante". Your notation program should offer plenty of options that will help you get the numbers on the parts automatically and you can set or shift some parameters to optimize their placement on the page.

    Speaking of - on the score, put the numbers above the top stave or below the bottom stave or both, and in a large, easily readable font size. Some conductors like to set aside a separate staff in the middle of the score just for bar numbers. In any case, be consistent from piece to piece. On the individual parts, put the bar numbers below the staff at the left barline of each measure. The musicians are trying to grasp an awful lot of information about this new music they're trying to play, so you want to really minimize any possibilities for confusion.
    Paul Baker
    Baker's Jazz And More
    Austin, Texas, USA
    www.bakersjazzandmore.com

  8. #8

    Thanks - I am not so smart

    Thanks again for these great tips.

    And a not so short story you might like.

    I never work with transposing instruments in a score.
    If I am making a soundtrack for my students, I normally just play them in live on the fly and all is well. I don't need to score them - they just need to live in the soundtrack.

    With this musical, of course, I do need to deal with them.
    Thinking about a step up or down or a fourth or whatever hurts my head.
    So my very little mind tries to figure out how to work with these animals.
    In Finale, I decide I need to devise a method that will work for me.
    A way to not deal with transposing instruments and later print out the transposed parts.

    So I decide to create the score with all non-transposing instruments - the clarinet, trumpet are set up as flutes and etc. with the others. Then once the new score is up, I go into audio units and change them to trumpet, clarinet, etc. All is well, but then . . . .

    I think - when I am done with a section - I will extract the "clarinet" and then transpose it so it will work correctly for the clarinet player. OK, sounds reasonable to me. But then I think, I will need to have the final score look correct to the conductor with the transposing instruments looking "normal" with their own key signature. So I try a test to see if I can change just the key signature of the clarinet, but no - it changes all of the staves for all of the instruments!

    Then I recall an email that Dan Powers sent to me in answer to a couple of questions. He said something about concert pitch "view" and "transposed" view. I thought - what does he mean?

    I look in Finale help and yep, there it is about these two "views".
    I did not know you can work in concert pitch view and then switch back to transposed view.

    I should have known that Finale would have a solution for composers so that we would have an easy way to score and NOT think about transposing.

    I told my wife I was stupid - she said "No, you were just ignorant of the facts". Now THAT made me feel a lot better.

    Just a reminder to me, as a teacher, that not everyone knows what you know and sometimes you have to be careful about assuming someone's knowledge level.
    MacPro 2.66 - Tiger & Snow Leopard / 16GB RAM / several TB of HD space/ Garritan Libraries / EWQLSO Platinum PLAY / Omnisphere/ Kontakt 2 & 3 / Finale 2010 /DP5/ a VERY patient wife!

  9. #9

    Re: Formatting the score for my musical - a question

    I always work with a transposed score, for two reasons. First, and most importantly, it shows me exactly where then notes are in the instruments' ranges so I know if I need to re-voice a chord or if a passage is going to be unnecessarily difficult. Second, when I started out decades ago with pencil and paper I made the choice to transpose as I put the notes on paper rather than when I was copying parts (probably much less mental clarity at that point) and using a transposed score view now is like doing my mental calisthenics - it keeps me in shape.
    Paul Baker
    Baker's Jazz And More
    Austin, Texas, USA
    www.bakersjazzandmore.com

  10. #10

    Re: Formatting the score for my musical - a question

    That is a good reminder for me that I need to watch out for instrument ranges. I am fairly familiar with those ranges, but I do keep a chart next to my workstation to remind me.

    You all are very helpful.
    Much appreciated.

    Charles
    MacPro 2.66 - Tiger & Snow Leopard / 16GB RAM / several TB of HD space/ Garritan Libraries / EWQLSO Platinum PLAY / Omnisphere/ Kontakt 2 & 3 / Finale 2010 /DP5/ a VERY patient wife!

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