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Thread: Score Studying

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    Default Score Studying

    Hello, I'm a beginner when it comes to music, but i already know all the basic music theory and notation. I see some people on this forum talking frequently about score studying, and I would like to know how exactly can I study scores.

    Thanks in advance!

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    The question is, how well do you "read" music? i.e. when you follow a line or a whole score without the music playing, can you hear what you are seeing in your head? If not, no problem, but that determines what's possible. If you're a good score reader, you don't even need your ears.

    I'm terrible at it, but if I know the music (i.e. Ive heard it enough times I can play it in my head) I can follow along with a recording (or in some cases not) without getting lost too many times, and sometimes the score tells me things I didn't know -- how a given effect is achieved, how exactly a figuration I may be mis-hearing is written, what the real rhythm is, how something I didn't know is being butchered, is being butchered. . .

    When I was a teen, because my knowledge of notation was what I learned in school, or from record jackets, I read the shorter (paperback) version of the Harvard Dictionary of Music so I understood the terminology better (i.e. What's an appogiatura?). Then, when I thought I was ready, I took out of the library a full score of a piece I thought I knew well, so I could follow along with a recording. Unfortunately, is was the Brahms First and I was l lost on the first page. But you get better at it.

    Dive in and don't get discouraged.
    Last edited by MarkW; Nov-14-2017 at 21:52.

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    Senior Member Torkelburger's Avatar
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    You can go to your local sheet music store and see if they have scores or maybe they can order for you anything you want. Or if you are close to a university library you might try and study them there. If you don't have the money for scores and recordings, the best thing to do is search for youtube channels that post scores and recordings online for you to study (can't mark on them obviously, but at least you can read through them). "Bartje Bartmans" is a good classical music score channel on youtube and there's tons more. Perhaps others here will recommend some more.

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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    Here you can find downloadable scores in pdf for thousands of works in the public domain:

    http://imslp.org/wiki/Category:Composers

    For newer scores you will have buy or use a library.
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    Senior Member eugeneonagain's Avatar
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    I started off with miniature scores of Haydn string quartets and some Mozart divertimenti (the very same Eine Kleine Nachtmusik score from my teens is in the pile of books next to my bed!). Reading string quartet scores is good practice for following multiple voices that are less static than, say, chorale parts. It helps train your eyes (and ears) to follow multiple staves - from there you can move on to larger ensembles.

    The 'how' is trickier to say. it's probably about repetition, practice. At first you are following single staves (perhaps the soprano line) and then jumping between staves to follow the music. Eventually you sort of do both at the same time.

    There are hundreds to thousands of scores at IMSLP which you can use for this purpose, though reading from paper is preferable (for me at least). So the library suggestions above make sense.

    Torkelburger's suggestion to use youtube score videos is a good one. These allow a convenient all-in-one solution. I often watch score videos. Particularly those of George Gianopoulous, thenameisgarcia and Medtnaculous. Richard Atkinson does analytical score videos using coloured highlighting of parts.

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    If you just want to follow along with a score, get a tablet and download from IMSLP. There are other sources of scores to read online that you can't print, but you can read. boosey.com and the New York Philharmonic have a huge amount of scores online.

    To me, score study means something else: really studying it! What's going on harmonically? What's the structure and form. What keys are we going through? How is the orchestra used...and a lot, lot more. When I was studying conducting, score study was really hard work doing all of the above and the worst part - sitting at the piano with a score opened and trying to play a piano reduction from it. Yep, reading all those staves, doing a quick transposition, picking out what's important and making it make sense to a listener. I started with Haydn string quartets, moving to Haydn and Mozart symphonies (slow movements), then onto Beethoven...hardest thing I ever did - and I never was very good at it. But damn, do you learn a lot about the score doing it. There were some conductors, George Szell for one, who excelled at doing this. He thought it was essential that a conductor be competent in this aspect of score study, and if you couldn't do it, you weren't going to be a student of his.

    Also - I've picked up a lot of scores on Ebay really cheap.

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    Senior Member Gordontrek's Avatar
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    Start simple and work your way up. Maybe take some simple choral scores and analyze those, similar to what you would do in a music theory class. Maybe try to realize them on the piano. Then add more complex scores as your theory knowledge and musicianship increases.
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    I notice YouTube increasingly features scores of (typically vocal or piano) works which can be followed when you listen to the music - the problem is with larger orchestral works if your monitor is on the small side.

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    Personally, I use scores as roadmaps, especially in Mahler and Bruckner. Anytime someone has an analysis, like Bernstein on Brahms or BBC radio or a book like Simpton's book on Nielsen, I write their comments on the score, sometimes color in different sections (you have to do this if you're going follow all the themes in something like Schoenberg's Pelleas) or circle patterns that are notable (like the panting accompaniment that opens Brahms 4th - I just noticed that). That way when I hear the piece a year later, all these details that I've forgotten are still there. Then I keep adding further comments as time goes on.

    You don't have to have extensive knowledge of music to understand it; you just need to follow along and let the experts guide you.

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    I never could master the skill of learning to read even a single melodic line (it still seems to me like an almost supernatural sort of skill), but I can follow a score while the music is playing, and I find it often helps me appreciate it more; I sort of pick up on things that my ears might have missed otherwise.

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    Senior Member senza sordino's Avatar
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    I have some difficulty reading a full score for a big orchestra piece. I tend to follow only the strings in this case, which is not ideal. But Violin Concerti can be easier if I read the piano reduction with the soloist. A few weeks ago I listened to The Dream of Gerontius with a score, but a reduced score - soloists, choir and piano reduction.

    Some symphonies have been written as a piano reduction, perhaps you could listen to a Beethoven symphony while following along with a Liszt piano reduction transcription.

    It can be difficult following with a score when each page is only three or four bars, you have to turn pages every few seconds, and it's easy to lose your place.
    Last edited by senza sordino; Nov-17-2017 at 17:17.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    If you just want to follow along with a score, get a tablet and download from IMSLP. There are other sources of scores to read online that you can't print, but you can read. boosey.com and the New York Philharmonic have a huge amount of scores online.

    To me, score study means something else: really studying it! What's going on harmonically? What's the structure and form. What keys are we going through? How is the orchestra used...and a lot, lot more. When I was studying conducting, score study was really hard work doing all of the above and the worst part - sitting at the piano with a score opened and trying to play a piano reduction from it. Yep, reading all those staves, doing a quick transposition, picking out what's important and making it make sense to a listener. I started with Haydn string quartets, moving to Haydn and Mozart symphonies (slow movements), then onto Beethoven...hardest thing I ever did - and I never was very good at it. But damn, do you learn a lot about the score doing it. There were some conductors, George Szell for one, who excelled at doing this. He thought it was essential that a conductor be competent in this aspect of score study, and if you couldn't do it, you weren't going to be a student of his.

    Also - I've picked up a lot of scores on Ebay really cheap.
    I'm doing some of that - not on the fly piano reductions , but harmonic/structural analysis in an adult education class. We just finished the slow movement of the Mozart clarinet quintet. What I like most is that it makes me a better listener even without the score.

    And while it's not the same thing, over the summer we worked on Mozart's A Major concerto K. 488 moving back and forth between the full score and a two piano reduction.

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    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    I have trouble following the harmony on paper especially with key signatures with a lot of accidentals. I know a lot better on piano where the keys are, and how the intervals and chords sound, and have to translate from paper to keyboard in my head.
    Last edited by Phil loves classical; Nov-18-2017 at 03:46.
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    Senior Member brianvds's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil loves classical View Post
    I have trouble following the harmony on paper especially with key signatures with a lot of accidentals. I know a lot better on piano where the keys are, and how the intervals and chords sound, and have to translate from paper to keyboard in my head.
    Same problem with me. I have no trouble singing or recognizing a given interval in sound. But as effective as western music notation is for writing down music, there is apparently simply no consistent pattern when it comes to recognizing intervals on paper. The result is that I could just never learn how to do it; with any interval I first have to visualize a keyboard. So I remain completely astonished that some people can instantly recognize printed intervals. I don't know how on earth they went about it. Did they also initially visualize a keyboard, and just got very fast at it through lots of practice? Or is there some pattern that I failed to notice? I have no idea. :-)

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