computers · marching band · Sibelius · teaching

Getting the details right

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.

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