Music Notebook: How to Make and Use One

Do you want to have a successful music career? You need a music notebook to organize all of your accomplishments in and out of school. I’ve used a binder for six years, and it’s helped me a lot.

Music Notebook: How to Make and Use One | Hannah B Flute

Whether you want to be a performer, teacher, or do something else, you can benefit from having a place to organize important materials. Read on for some tips on how to organize a music notebook and what to include.

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What Is a Music Notebook?

A music notebook can refer to a lot of different things. For the purposes of this post, I will be talking about binders that you use to catalog your musical experiences.

Of course, you can make a music notebook to hold loose sheet music. However, if you use a lot of music books and/or an iPad for sheet music, you don’t need a binder for your music. (But let me know if you want tips to organize your sheet music.)

If you’re currently in music school or are a professional musician, having a music notebook can help tremendously. You can use it to take note of your performances and keep track of other projects.

What Goes in a Flute or Music Notebook

You can make your notebook your own, so you can add whatever you want. My flute professor in undergrad required specific sections. But now that I’m out of college and grad school, I do what works for me.

Unless you have specific requirements, you should think about what you want to include or leave out. Here are a few potential sections you may include in your notebook.

Performance Programs

Anytime you give a performance that has a program, get a copy of it. After you get home, you can add the program to your music or flute notebook. I’ve been collecting these since I transferred to a university for my junior year of college.

Now, I can look back on the performances I’ve done over the past six years. If I want to play a piece I’ve played but can’t remember the name, I can look through all of my flute notebooks.

You can also use these programs to remember which ensembles you’ve played in. That can help if you need to write a resume or CV to get into grad school or to get a professional performance job.

Repertoire Lists

You may practice and learn pieces that you won’t get to perform. Because of that, I like to have a section for repertoire lists. When I was in school, I would update the list every semester, but I update it once a year now.

I organize my repertoire list by solo, chamber, and orchestral music. If I work significantly on orchestral excerpts or etudes, I have sections for those as well. And since I play multiple flutes, I will note when I play something on piccolo or alto flute.

You can write out a repertoire list in a word processor of your choice. It can have a lot of formatting or be pretty basic, so do what works for you. And if you’re also a composer, you can create a list of your compositions to add to your notebook.

Resumes or CVs

If you want to make music your career, you should always have access to a copy of your resume or CV. Resumes are usually suitable for performance gigs or other jobs outside of academia.

But if you want to go into academia, you should write a more comprehensive CV. Even if you don’t want to teach college, having a CV is a great way to look back at your career.

You can print off your resume or CV as often as you need. That way, you’ll have a copy that’s up to date, but you won’t have to waste a ton of paper and ink on something that you won’t necessarily use.

Notes From Conventions and Festivals

Whenever you go to a music convention or festival, you may get to attend some informational events. I like to either take notes myself or keep a copy of the handout from the presenter.

Once I get back from the convention, I’ll put the notes in my music notebook. Then, I can look back on what I learned at the event. Now that I’m out of school, this will be even more important.

But even when you’re in school, you should keep track of events you go to. Then, you’ll have a record of what you’ve learned outside of the classroom. And you can use that information when building your career.

Other Relevant Information

One of the best things about a music notebook is that you can make it yours. If you want to add extra sections or leave some out, go for it. You can add sections that apply to your specific degree concentration or career path.

For example, I have a section for my compositions and arrangements. I don’t print all of them out, but I do plan to keep a list of the compositions and arrangements I’ve completed.

If you’re a private lesson teacher, you might want to keep a section with pedagogy resources or your studio policies. That way, you will have easy access to resources to help you run your studio.

How to Make a Music Notebook

Now that you have some ideas of what to include in your music notebook, you should consider how to bring the binder to life. I’ve created a few volumes, so don’t worry if everything you want to include won’t fit in one book.

Also, you can take different steps to put your book together. Think about how you learn best and how you prefer to organize things. Then, you’ll be able to use your notebook more effectively.

Here are a few steps to get you started.

What You Need

First, you need to gather some supplies to develop your music notebook. The supplies may vary, but I like to have the following:

  • Binder
  • Sheet protectors
  • Printer (with plenty of ink)
  • Paper
  • Dividers
  • Performance programs
  • Other printed materials

You could use a hole punch instead of sheet protectors. However, I like to keep things neat, especially old programs. Sheet protectors allow me to put everything in a three-ring binder without damaging the paper.

I created some music divider pages myself, and some have titles while others are blank. If you want to use something a bit cuter than the dividers you find at the store, download your set now!

Start Organizing

Now, you get to print off anything you have on your computer. This can include your latest resume and repertoire list or notes from a recent music event. You’ll also want to grab materials you’ve already printed, like programs.

Separate everything by the sections you want to use so that you can keep relevant things together. That will also make it easier to put your printouts into the binder.

Once you’ve used your music notebook for a while, you can add to it slowly. When you do that, you’ll want to use the same organizational system so that you can put the new items in the correct places.

Use Page Protectors or a Hole Punch

After you have everything you need and it’s all in the right place, you should prepare your items to go in the binder. As I mentioned, I prefer to use sheet protectors over a hole punch.

Hole punches can make the pages look not as good. And if you want to copy your programs for some reason, you may not want them to have holes. But if you don’t mind holes or don’t want to pay for sheet protectors a hole punch is great.

Either way, you need to figure out how you will put all of your stuff in the music notebook to keep it organized. If you don’t want to use sheet protectors or a hole punch, you can use pocket dividers, but those will fill up quickly.

Add the Items to Your Binder

Finally, you get to start filling up your music binder. Personally, I like to organize the sections alphabetically so they’re easy to find. In the current volume, that means my sections are:

  • Compositions & arrangements
  • Performance programs
  • Repertoire lists & resumes
  • Resources & learning
  • Teaching: courses & presentations

In the composition section, I have a couple of pieces that I have yet to list for sale online. One is an original composition that I plan to release in 2022. The other is an arrangement of a copyrighted work that I can’t sell.

My performance program section in this volume is pretty small. I started this volume after finishing my masters a year ago, and with the pandemic, I haven’t gotten to perform as much as I’d like.

I have a single music resume in my rep list and resume section. In a few days, I will add my 2021 repertoire list as well as a CV.

While I attended the virtual NFA convention in August, I have yet to add my notes to the resources section. But I do have a sheet of info on a virtual presentation I gave this past spring.

Unless you have enough stuff to fill up a binder, keep adding to your music notebook. Whenever you get a new program or print off a resume, put a copy in there for your future records.

What Happens When You Fill Your Music Notebook?

When you fill your music binder, you should get another binder. Then, you can start a second volume as you get even more materials. I have at least four different binders with my music stuff.

After you fill up a binder, I’d recommend adding the dates somewhere on the cover or in the binder. Then, you’ll be able to reference the right volume if you need to find something specific.

Will You Make a Music Notebook?

Making a music notebook may seem unnecessary. But when you want to go to grad school or get a music job, it will come in handy. You won’t have to struggle to remember what pieces you’ve played or where you’ve performed.

Instead, you can spend more time practicing your craft. Then, you can get better, and you can make use of The Busy Musician method. Download The Busy Musician’s Practice Bundle to make practicing a breeze!

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