There’s nothing more frustrating than having to frantically search through piles of sheet music for the one you’re looking for, especially if you’re in a hurry. For musicians, keeping hordes of sheet music from taking over your life requires organization. Over the years the myriad of downloads, prints, and purchases you’ve made to your music collection have a tendency to pile up and expand all over the place.
However, organizing your sheet music with specific techniques helps make practicing and playing much easier, and it helps ensure that your music lasts so that you won’t have to keep replacing it. These tips can help you catalog your music assortment into a collection that is easy to use and looks great.
Gather your materials
You’ll need to grab some relatively inexpensive materials before you start. For organizing your sheet music effectively, items like non-glare, poly sheet protectors that feature binder holes are about $.08 each and work splendidly because lights won’t negatively influence your ability to read them; and you should pick up (if you don’t already have one) a basic hole-puncher so you can include small booklets and other loose leaf sheets. You’ll also need some colored construction paper, or post-it tabs, and some three-ring binders, the solid cover ones work best, and can be purchased for about $1.
Also, there are a number of file organizers available that hold magazine size folders, but you can (very easily) make your own using oversize cereal boxes. Additionally, you may want to grab some colored sharpies, glitter, or other music note cut-outs and stickers that you can use to decorate and catalog your organizers.
Gather and sort your music
This may take a while, depending on how much music you’ve got, or the amount of time you can dedicate to organization. The key here is to assess each piece of music according to its importance. Ask yourself: Do I really want to keep this? Could I donate it to a beginner music class or the library? Do I want to have this piece handy? Questions like these can help you cull out any sheet music that you just don’t need anymore, or place the ones you love in a location that is easy to find.
This is also the time to make repairs to any damaged sheets. You can make new copies or tape tears so that your sheet music will last longer.
Start Organizing Sheet Music
Grab your sheet protectors and binders and start organizing your sheet music. It’s a good idea to place two sheets in each protector, that way you can easily flip the pages for reading. Any loose sheets that you have, or small booklets can be marked for your hole-puncher (I did this to organize my daughter’s collection of Lego instructional booklets and it worked great) and included in the binders.
Organizing sheet music into categories will make each piece easy for you to find. For example, you can sort them by artist, instruments, or type of genre. If you want to keep all of your Beatles music in one binder, or all of your scales in another, just make sure you use a system that will be easy for you to decipher. You can use your markers to indicate which binder has what music.
- It’s a great idea to keep one binder to use just for your current music. That way you can take your music with you, and you can easily add other pieces to it when you need them. Use a binder with pockets so that you have a convenient place to hold copies of your headshots and resume.
- Use colored construction paper to make natural dividers inside each binder, if required, or use post-it tabs to separate them by artist (alphabetically).
- Choose a specific shelf or cabinet as a dedicated spot for storing and organizing sheet music.
- Place an empty organizer or file tray nearby to use as a catch-all for when you don’t have time to re-file sheet music back in its original place.
- Put your name and public contact information inside the binder that you carry, in case it gets lost or misplaced.
- Freestanding magazine racks make a great substitute for binder organizers if you don’t happen to have the shelf or cabinet space available. Plus, they can hold other items like your metronome or tuner for quick access.
- Try to keep your music flat. Lay the binders (and organizers) horizontally to keep the sheets from curling.
Organizing sheet music helps protect and preserve your collection, and makes it much easier for you to find and use each piece.