About using measure numbers in parts and scores

June 11, 2014 Leave a comment

I’ve been away from here for a couple of reasons, but the biggest one is that it’s marching band arranging season. It, like spring, came late this year, which is why I’m still writing. It seems it took longer for my clients to decide on music this year than usual.

Anyway, I was editing parts today – which does need to be done in Sibelius, but not as much as it used to – and I recalled a discussion I recently had with a percussion writer I work with. He uses rehearsal letters and numbers. I tend to just put in double bars where I think they are necessary and then number all measures, both in the score and in parts.

It’s been my experience as a teacher that asking kids in rehearsal to find “seven before G” is really time consuming. One way to fix that is to use the process of “count with me – beginning at letter G, one before, two, three….” I don’t recall who first used that in a rehearsal I attended, but I’ve used it ever since because it immediately involves the performers.

But saying “measure thirty-six” is much faster, and more accurate. It is almost impossible for a performer to mess it up.  (Unless he is just not paying attention. Can’t help that from here.)

Sibelius (and Finale, last I looked) can easily place measure numbers in each bar. I keep them a bit oversized on parts. That way, when the 8-1/2 X 11 inch (landscape) page is shrunk down to fit in a flip folder, they can still be read. It is a bit more cluttered? Maybe, but I think the results are worth it.

measure number example_0002

You can see that the measure numbers look awfully big. But the reduction of the page for flip folio size is about 60 or 65%, and I want them to be readable.

Once I realized that I asked my band members to write in measure numbers in pretty much every major work we rehearsed, I decided my own music would have those built-in. I do the same thing in concert band and jazz ensemble music (although then I make the numbers a little smaller, relative to the staff size.)

What do you think? Which way do you prefer?

Wayne Markworth on marching band planning

April 21, 2014 Leave a comment

My friend Wayne Markworth, retired band director from Centerville HS (OH) and a member of the BOA Hall of Fame, recently updated his web site, Shadow Lake Music. He also has an attached blog and on it he talks about marching band show planning. If you are engaged in such a process right now, you will certainly want to check it out. His book, The Dynamic Marching Band, is also excellent, and I recommend it to you very highly.

Oh, and some guy I know wrote this book on marching band arranging you might want to take a look at, as well. Even if you don’t arrange, there is a lot there about show planning and what to tell your arranger. If you buy stock charts for your show, you may want to review the book anyway so that you can choose wisely.



Don’t be that guy.

Jim Wren on Marching Roundtable

March 4, 2014 Leave a comment

My arranging book is finally available!

March 4, 2014 Leave a comment

Arranging book 2.2.14 cover

I know, I’ve been teasing it for months, but it really is out now! It’s available as a pdf ebook from Marketing Vision Partners for $ 30. I invite you to go take a look! Here’s the Table of Contents page:

Arranging book TOC

While I don’t think anything I put in the book is exactly controversial, I have included quite a bit of material that is based on my years of writing, judging, and working as a band director. One of my goals of the book was to help young band directors not make some of the mistakes I made, or that I have seen others make…hence the “Band Director’s Guide” part of the title. You don’t need to be a working band director to find value in the book, but if you are a marching band director, you will – even if you never plan to arrange a piece of music yourself.

There is an accompanying web page on my publishing site for owners of the book. I hope to expand the materials on this page in the near future so that it can be a resource for those interested in the art and practice of arranging for the marching band.

It took me about three years to write this, off and on, and I think now it has information you will find useful. I hope you enjoy the book!

Seeking Clinton Roemer

February 23, 2014 Leave a comment

Two years ago I mentioned the Standardized Chord Symbol Notation book published in 1976 by Clinton Roemer and Carl Brandt. Since then, an alert reader, Doug Gifford, found his and scanned it. Link to the whole discussion is here. I think it would be great if this book could be republished. I think back then it was self-published. All we really need is permission from Clinton H. Roemer, who holds the copyright.  I thought about just sending a letter to the address on the book, as a shot in the dark locating him. Does anybody out there have a suggestion for a better way? I would really like to see this book get the attention it deserves. Leave me a comment if you have some information, or go to my web site at www.waggonermusic.com and use the comment box there. Thanks!

Getting the details right

February 18, 2014 Leave a comment

When I write a piece, it is generally for someone else to play. (For example, I’m not writing piano arrangements mainly for myself to perform.) Because of that, I really try to get all the articulations and dynamics nailed down in the piece. It takes far longer in a rehearsal to mark a dynamic change, or slurs, or even breath marks than it does for the person doing the notation to get it in there ahead of time.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes, but getting as much of it right as possible the first time is always good practice.

So the book, The Band Director’s Guide to Arranging for Marching Band, has taken about as long to proof and edit as the actual writing took. It’s a struggle to put into words the practices that I’ve used for decades, but by being a teacher first I’m sort of a professional explainer, so I think I arrived at a reasonably clear result. But the proofing and editing…

First, I know that an author cannot proof his own work. It’s not ego, it’s just that your brain fills in the blanks after reading the same passage 50 times. You accidentally drop a word or two and spellcheck doesn’t find it – the words are spelled right, just some are missing – so it takes a fresh set of eyes to look it over for you. They have to be detail oriented, know the subject, and hopefully catch the incorrect spelling and omissions.

I’ve had some excellent proofreaders. First, my daughter and son-in-law did a couple of passes on it. He is a high school choral director, a low brass player and a former member of my marching band staff, and my daughter is a multi-woodwind player and color guard instructor. They know the terminology.

I also had the help of an incredible band director and arranger, now retired, whom I judge with often in the fall. He has more arranging experience than I do and his comments and suggestions were excellent. He also is a painstaking proofreader.

Should I have a couple more proofers? Probably, but the book seems to be 99.9% complete at least, so I figure we can send it out there. Then comes the scary part. Will it be ignored? (Unfortunately, a higher probability than I would like.) Will it generate controversy? (Possible, but I hope not.) Will it sell thousands of copies. (Not likely, but I can dream…)

This is the second full book-length document I’ve done. The first is an alternate-history novel that took 10 years, on and off, to finish. And it’s the first part of a planned trilogy! It’s been proofed by some very knowledgeable folks as well, and now I have rewrites to do. Last time I worked on it was over a year ago, so maybe once this book is out the door I can look at it or the 3 or 4 unfinished books I have at various points of development.

I hope I got most of the details right.

Sibelius 7.5 announced.

February 6, 2014 Leave a comment

At the Sibelius blog Philip Rothman has a post on the new version of Sibelius, 7.5, covering a lot of the new features. Are any of them ground-breaking? No.  The Timeline, which looks like it was derived from a sequencer, will be a helpful addition for some but I don’t know how much I might use it. At least it shows there is still some interest at AVID in keeping development of Sibelius alive. We’ve received sort of mixed messages from AVID about that over the last 18 months.



The Timeline is configurable, so it won’t take up a lot of real estate on your laptop screen. There are improvements to playback, including a bunch of new “rhythmic feels,” like Bebop, Ballad Swing, etc. For some of us who write jazz arrangements these could be very helpful. I wish you could switch from one feel to another in the same score, for tunes like “Green Dolphin Street.” Sib 7.5 will even allow things like “playing ahead of the beat,” which could be pretty cool if it really works in a realistic fashion. There is also “Espressivo 2,” which is supposed to be a more sophisticated algorithm for shaping musical phrases. It will also make appoggiaturas controllable, so they can be adjusted for different performance practices.

It also has some new sharing and social media functions, including publishing directly to Score Exchange. (BTW, I’m starting to put some music on Score Exchange now, so I hope to have a report soon on how it might be working out for normal people.) I’m not sure why I would want to publish a video of my score directly to Facebook, but OK…thanks for that. There is a Draw on all staves enhancement that sounds like not a big deal but should be a time-saver on scores with a lot of instruments. Tuplets have been improved, also.

It’s not an absolute required upgrade, but useful, and it is supposed to cost $ 49. It should be out at the end of February. We’ll see. There were some problems with the current version playing nice with Mac OS X Mavericks, so hopefully those issues will be fixed as well.

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