How to Organize Sheet Music

Are you tired of wasting time looking for a piece you want to practice? You should consider how to organize sheet music.

How to Organize Sheet Music | Hannah B Flute

Having a good organizational system can help you keep track of everything in your library. You should use a system whether you use paper or an iPad for your sheet music.

Before I get into the tips, this post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure policy to learn more.

How to Organize Sheet Music on Paper

Almost every musician has at least some sheet music on paper. You probably bought a beginner method book when you first started. Even if you use an iPad for sheet music now, paper music is still useful.

So if you want to keep track of your paper copies, you need to know how to organize sheet music. That way, you’ll be able to find a piece you want to play.

Here are some things you can do to organize your print sheet music.

Decide on a Cataloguing System

First, you need to decide how you will organize the music you have. You can organize music by:

  • Composer
  • Era
  • Instrument (such as flute vs. piccolo)
  • Instrumentation (such as solo vs. chamber)
  • Level

The system you use may depend on how much music you have. If you have a small sheet music library, you might want to just organize sheet music by composer.

But as your library grows, it helps to further break things down by era or instrumentation. That way, you won’t have to take forever to search for a piece.

Find Space for the Music

Next, you need to figure out where you will store all of your music. I currently use a bookshelf, and I can fit all of my music there. Some musicians will use filing cabinets, which is nice if you want to secure your music more.

Another option is to keep your music in boxes. That can work well for music you don’t access that often.

Think about how much music you have and your cataloguing system. Then, you’ll be able to find space in your home or studio. You can make space if you don’t have quite enough.

Consider Looseleaf Copies

You may have a lot of music books, but what about looseleaf copies? If you buy digital files (such as from Flute Files) or download music from IMSLP, it will be on loose paper.

Consider how many files you have that aren’t part of a music book. Then, you can find a way to organize that sheet music. You can use a binder or a folder so that you can keep the music in one place.

If you have a lot of related looseleaf parts, maybe you take them to a print shop to bind them together. Do whatever makes sense for you and your space.

Set Aside Time

Whether you have a small or large music library, you’ll need time to organize sheet music. If you have a small amount of music, you might only need 10 to 30 minutes.

On the other hand, it might take over an hour to organize a lot more music. Give yourself plenty of time to gather all of your music. Then, you may need more time to make space for your books.

Finally, you will need some time to put everything in order based on your cataloguing system. Of course, you should also take time to put your music in a filing cabinet or on a bookshelf.

Stick to the System

Once you set up your sheet music organization system, stick to it. Whenever you buy a new piece of music, put it where it’s supposed to go.

That way, you won’t have to reorganize your music later. Instead, you can look at your library and quickly search for almost any piece you own.

If you want to save time in your practice, that will be super helpful. You don’t need to worry about not finding music that you want to play.

How to Organize Sheet Music on an iPad

If you use an iPad to read sheet music, you have to consider how to organize sheet music digitally. You can use some of the same steps, but you don’t have to think about all of the same things as with an paper library.

On the other hand, there are some different things to consider. That way, you can make the most of your iPad.

Here are some tips to follow when setting up your iPad to easily find sheet music.

Consider the Apps You Use

First, you should think about the iPad apps you use for sheet music. I use forScore to read sheet music, and you can organize your files there. The Apple Files app is also useful for music you need but that you aren’t using.

If you buy or have a lot of print music, you should also use a scanner app. I believe you can scan PDFs using the standard camera app. However, it’s nice to have a scanner app to separate music from everything else.

Using a nice stack of apps can help make organizing your iPad easier. It will also help when it comes time to start practicing and annotating your music.

Create Folders

If you use the Files app, create folders to help separate your music. Think about the cataloguing system you want to use. Then, you can title the folders accordingly.

You can create as many folders as you want, so you can organize sheet music as little or as much as you want. That way, you’ll be able to find music more easily when you’re looking to practice something.

Even if you don’t read the music in the Files app, folders are useful. You’ll know where to go in case you need to find a backup copy of a piece of music.

Set Good Titles

The next thing you should do is set good titles for each piece. I’d recommend using the composer’s last name and the piece title. Whether you’re using the Files app or forScore, you can search to find a specific file.

Especially with IMSLP downloads, there are a lot of random numbers and letters. That can make it hard to find the right title that you want. So as soon as you download or scan a piece, give it a descriptive title.

Think about what you’d use to search for that piece. Then, you’ll know what title to use for the file in question.

Add Tags and More

If you use forScore, you can add tags for things like the composer name, genre, and other things. I create tags based on the instrument or type of piece, for example.

You may not need tags at first. But as you add more music to forScore, it will take forever to scroll through your list of all files. Tags let you narrow things down.

If you need to organize music for an ensemble, you can even create a setlist. That way, you’ll have all of your pieces in one folder. You can remove files after the concert is over to keep from confusing them with current music.

Scan Your Physical Music

Finally, you should go through your physical sheet music library. Look at the pieces you want to scan to play from your iPad. Then, you can take time to scan everything.

This will take time at first, so I recommend spreading things out over a few days. Eventually, you’ll have all of the music you want ready to read on your iPad.

As you add each piece, go through and set a good title. When you import the music into forScore, add tags accordingly. Then, you won’t have to struggle to find your music when you want to practice.

How Will You Organize Sheet Music?

Knowing how to organize sheet music is crucial for musicians. If you have a lot of music, you don’t want to spend hours looking for a specific piece.

Whether you use paper or an iPad, create a good system. That way, you can follow it with every new piece you add to your library.

Do you want to make the most of an iPad for sheet music? Download the forScore and More Guide today!


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