As a collaborative pianist I play for a lot of singers and it never ceases to amaze me how often I see them in coachings singing from photocopies that are in their binder in a less-then-ideal way. On occasion I also see this with instrumentalists. Although the following tip might seem trivial, I'm going to go out on a limb anyway and to share some thoughts about why I think the following advice is actually pretty important. Here it is:
When using photocopies* of a score and putting them in a binder, don't just punch holes on one side so that you're having to turn the page at the end of each one - punch them in such a way so that you can have them laid out like they are in a book, with pages facing one another. This is not only true for the pianist's music but it's also true for the singer's.
Sounds terribly trivial, doesn't it? But here's why I'm even bothering to blog about it...
- Page-turns, whether in photocopies or in standard books, typically trip up our thought-processes. It's a built-in interruption that can be hard to counteract. In my own process of learning music I find that I have to work pretty hard to learn the music that hovers around the flip of the page so that I don't consistently mess things up. If you're having to turn the page at the end of each one, that's giving yourself twice the number of page-turn spots that can be inadequately learned.
- As singers, memorization is a must. Visual memory is one very important tool to aid in the process but if photocopies are arranged in the less-than-preferred way, not facing one another, your visual map is half the size that it could be. Looking at it another way, there is twice the amount of material that occurs on the same part of the page, making it much more difficult to differentiate one spot from another. For instance, let's say you're having trouble remembering the words at the beginning of the second verse of a song - if your pages are arranged in standard book form, facing one another, the chances that the second verse starts on the same part of the page as the first and third verse of not very likely. You can use this cue as a way to remember what the difference is and how that second verse starts when it is on the top of the left-hand page versus the third verse, which starts on the bottom of the right-hand page.
|What on earth is this?|
- Do you remember those little games they often have in kid's magazines where they show an up-close fragment of a larger image and ask you to identify what it is part of? Playing from music that is not ideally arranged is sort of like looking at one of those up-close images. It's very difficult from this vantage point to get a sense of the whole, to know where you've come from and where you're headed. Musically speaking, this can translate into a less musical performance.
- Turning all those pages can be terribly hard on one's wrist and can also dry out the delicate skin on the tips of one's fingers. We can't have that!
So singers, get those hole-punchers out and tape dispensers out and get to work. In my mind it's worth it.
I'd be curious to hear from some singers on this topic or from anyone that might have some specific research or science that we can use to back-up this seemingly silly little tip of mine. And if you think I've just gone bananas with all this, you can let me know your feelings about that too!
* I don't encourage people to use photocopies unless they own a copy of the score and are using the photocopies for practical purposes. Making photocopies to avoid purchasing the music is illegal!