I’ll be honest and say that I’ve always been a little type A. Organization has always come naturally to me. So as I got older, it only made sense for me to create (and use) a music binder.
Up until I transferred to my undergrad, I was never required to make a music binder. But I was so happy to have a place to keep everything. And even now, I still use a music binder.
So, what exactly goes into a music binder?
Let’s Get Organized
For school or work, you probably have to keep all of your papers and projects together or otherwise organized. Well, your music life shouldn’t be any different.
Especially as you progress as a student, you’ll accumulate all sorts of things. That includes notes from your teacher to tons of loose sheet music.
A binder for sheet music?
Yes, you can use a music binder for your loose sheet music. However, I personally wouldn’t do that.
Depending on the binder, it can get clunky. And depending on the specific piece, you may have awkward page turns.
Then there’s the decision of hole punching your music or putting it all in sheet protectors.
The problem with hole punching is that you can accidentally cut out part of the music. On the other hand, using sheet protectors means you have to pull the sheet music out of the protector to make any notes to yourself.
Then there’s the fact that not all sheet music will even fit in a binder (i.e. some sheet music is huge!).
Instead, I dedicate a music binder (or let’s be real, like five of them by now) to more informational stuff. I’ll keep fingering charts, playing tips, and other written info or diagrams in a music binder.
Well, what about sheet music?
Whenever I have a lot of loose sheet music, I’ll use a multi-pocket folder. That way, I can still keep everything organized but it’s easier to pull things out.
I can place the pages where they need to be so I can read them. And I can easily make marks on the sheet music.
Having a music binder for music you’re not working on can be a good solution. As your loose sheet music collection gets bigger, folders won’t be able to handle it.
And if your collection is big enough, then you can store your old/extra music in your practice space.
How to Organize a Music Binder
I’m not gonna get all Marie Kondo on you, but this is a good time to get rid of anything you no longer need or use. Your music binder should only include things that have helpful information.
Taking me as an example. I no longer play saxophone, so why would I need or want a saxophone fingering chart? Hint, I don’t.
But what if you don’t have much informational stuff?
Then you have the easy job of building your collection!
What to put in a music binder
Your music binder can be whatever you want it to be (yes, you can use it for sheet music if you really want to). But a binder is the perfect place to store certain things.
Instrumentalists can keep care and cleaning info for their instruments. Vocalists can store notes on diction in different languages.
Fingering charts are another great addition to an instrumentalist’s music binder. If you’re a current or future teacher, you can add some pedagogical articles.
Performers can add repertoire lists and keep track of programs from past performances. And anyone can store handouts from music festivals and events.
Hole punch or sheet protectors?
I mentioned that neither is a great option for sheet music. However, both are suitable for informational stuff.
But with a hole punch, you still have the potential problem of cutting off words or other information.
Personally, I like to use sheet protectors. They keep me from having to hole punch everything I want in my music binder. I can also put two single-sided papers in one protector.
Finally, they keep all of my stuff in good condition. And I can even store extra page protectors at the back.
Pros and cons of hole punching
Probably the biggest pro of hole punching is that you buy the hole punch once, and that’s it. Sheet protectors can add up over time. So as your collection grows, so do your costs.
Another good thing about hole punching is that single sheets of paper are pretty thin. So you can fit a lot in one binder.
The biggest con for me has to be that you can cut out words or diagrams. While plenty of handouts have a wide margin, not all of them do.
Lastly, hole punching isn’t the most portable. The smaller hole punches aren’t very good quality, and the better hole punches are big and bulky.
Pros and cons of sheet protectors
The best part about sheet protectors is that they protect whatever you put in them. If you like to review your notes while drinking or eating, you can easily clean up any spills.
Second, you can keep extra sheet protectors in your music binder. If you want to quickly add a new set of notes, then you can do that. You won’t need a hole punch or anything.
The first con to sheet protectors is that they can get expensive. As you accumulate more stuff, you’ll have to buy more sheet protectors to store everything.
Sheet protectors are also more bulky than regular paper. So you may not be able to fit as much in your music binder.
Make your sections
Now it’s time to grab and binder and start organizing! The sections you have will depend on what instrument you play, what level you’re at, and how much stuff you have to store.
As a flutist, I like to have a section for flute care and cleaning. That’s especially useful for beginners or teachers. I also like to have a section for fingering charts, from regular to alternative to trill fingerings.
Since I perform regularly, I also like to have a section for programs. Sometimes, I can’t remember a piece from a past performance. So this way, I can go into my music binder and find the program to help me remember a piece.
Also as a performer, I like to keep track of my repertoire. So every so often, I update my repertoire list on my computer. Then, I print it out and put a copy in my music binder.
I also have a miscellaneous section for everything else. Here’s where I put random handouts from music festivals and events and anything else I can think of.
Fill that binder
Now you get to fill your music binder with all of your notes, programs, and repertoire lists!
If you want to get fancy, you can create or download section dividers for your music binder. You can also just put everything in the binder, but at least separate things by some sort of section.
You can use regular tab dividers or just put the section dividers in with everything else. It really is up to you!
Just fill your music binder, and keep it handy so you can add to it or refer to it whenever you need to.
Have you ever used a music binder? Did you find it useful? Let me know in the comments. And be sure to download my free section dividers to use in your music binder!