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Basic skills for singers: Score-marking resources

Thank-you to all those who replied to my request for a website or
already-made page about proper marking to make in the choral score. I
was hoping to find a single-page resource I could make available for
free to my students - unfortunately such a thing does not seem to be out
there. I received a total of sixteen replies to my post, a quarter of
which were simply requests to share whatever information I received. Of
the remaining twelve responses, four people recommended one resource,
four more each recommended a different resource (for a total of five
different suggestions), and four more responses are included below. I'm
sure all of the references below are fantastic resources - I just wasn't
looking to purchase a book on the subject, just obtain a handout. If
there is a website with this information on it, or if you have a handout
that you use that you are willing to share, please email it to me.
Other than that, no more recommendations for resources are required.
Thanks for your input one and all!

Vaughn Roste

Summary of the results:

Four people (Kathy Bowers, Bob Copeland, Mike Wade and Jena Dickey)
wrote to suggest Margaret Hillis's "In Rehearsal" booklet written for
the Chicago Symphony Chorus. One of these thought it might be available
on the Chorus America website, but I could find no reference to it
anywhere. Ian Loeppky suggested a page from Decker and Herford's Choral
Conducting Symposium, 2nd ed. Wendy Oesterling suggested "Group Vocal
Techniques" by the late Frauke Haasemann (from Westminster Choir
College). The book is still available. Vicky Boechler recommended
Donald Neuen's Choral Excellence book "Empower the Choir". On pg. 28-32
it gives all the markings a singer needs in a clear format-including
examples. It's available on the web at
$7.25 per copy. Jason Pankey pointed out that a recording of Dale
Warland's session at the 2005 OCDA convention, entitled "Preparing a
Choral Work" is available for purchase at‰0 for $15
plus shipping. Finally, Myron Patterson offered to mail me his handout
called "A choral assistance."

Beyond these suggestions of places where to look, there were four more
people who offered various advice that I reproduced here more or less

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I teach my youngest singers to mark their scores any way that is clear
to them. If they can't tell me what their markings mean a week later,
then they must erase them and use something else. After all, score
markings are meant to remind the students of how to perform a particular
note or section of music. I also show them the way I mark MY music and
many of them use my markings. Sometimes I will give them a few
"traditional" ways to mark music from which they can then choose.

In particular, I always use a check for a breath mark because it is fast
and easy--I can do it without having to stop singing if need be. Some
of my students use an upper case "B" or even write out the word
"breath." I try to discourage full words because by the time they read
the word and react, the music has already gone by!

Carolyn Dwyer

Lower School Choral Director

Holy Innocents' Episcopal School

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I'm attaching a couple of examples of what I've given singers... In
addition to these, I often write up an IPA transcription for foreign
language pieces, if one is not readily available. You can find fonts
for IPA at . Hope this is
helpful; feel free to give me a call if you have any questions.

David B. Gardner, DMA

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I would encourage you to use 2 pieces that you have marked: once when
you were a brand-new college student/singer, and one maybe a couple
years later -- in other words, they would show where you started and
what changed over time. Your own markings will be more easily
explained, and will have more "sticking" power, than a handout, IMO. I
have done this for some time with school choirs, both college and HS.
For example: early in college, if a director said something was wrong
with a note/measure, I would always circle it; as time went by, I
learned that that marking told me nothing the next time I sang the

Dave Stuntz

Durham, NC

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Some of my own ideas:

Breath mark - simple comma ,

Catch breath or quick breath, then parenthesis around it (,)

slow down - squiggly line ~~~~~

brighter tone - star *

sing higher on specific pitch - arrow up (don't have one on my


growing energy (different from cresc.) series of arrows pointing up and
to the right

if note needs to be softer - parenthesis ( p )

If need to open mouth more on note - tall oval 0

If bold attack - exclamation point !

If difficult page turn, I extend the bar lines on the previous page and
add notes if difficulty tuning certain note - two arrows coming from
upper left and lower left, pointing toward center of note

That's all I can think of at the moment. Of course, every singer may
want to do something different, so I tell my singers to write something
that will remind them to do what I want. I give my suggestions, but
leave it to them.

Josh Peterson

on September 16, 2007 10:00pm
Look down to the link entitled Score Analysis Method. There may be something there you could use. "Eat the meat and spit out the bones" as it were. Let me know if this helps.

Matthew Craig
Minister of Music
Anchor Baptist Church
on September 24, 2013 9:17am
If you are willing to share, I'd be interested in any handouts that have been created from this thread on teaching students how to mark their scores.
Thank you!
Angela K. Kintner
Vocal Music
Stevens High School / West Middle School
1200 44th Street
Rapid City, SD 57702