A Checklist for Making Parts (Tool #37)

I have started making a lot of parts for finished pieces recently, so I figured I should share a version of my checklist that aims to ensure the best quality in an extracted part.

Parts should be:

  • Full of necessary and helpful information
  • Clear in the instructions given
  • Easy to read
  • Visually pleasing
  • Foolproof

In other words, the performer should barely notice your beautiful engraving job so that they can focus on the music they’re playing, and not how you conveyed the information on the page.

I have attached three PDFs:

  1. BADSymphony – Flute – Finale’s default part for my two flute parts (2nd flute doubles piccolo).  Note how awful this engraving job is.
  2. BADSymphony – Piccolo – Finale’s default part for my piccolo part.  Note how awful this engraving job is.
  3. Symphony – Piccolo – My version of the 2nd flute/piccolo part, a combination of both BAD parts and the score (for cues, markings, etc.), plus engraving and looking things over myself.  This is obviously much more readable.

So, here are my tips to turn numbers 1 and 2 into number 3:

Parts Checklist:

[ ] Cover page
[ ] Page margins correct and consistent
[ ] System margins correct and consistent (egs. number of staves per page is acceptable, spacing between lines is okay, etc.)
[ ] Graphics inserted and resized correctly (eg. metric modulation graphics)
[ ] Cues inserted (in the correct transposition, place in score, size of notes, with correct and legible text identifying the instrument, etc.)
[ ] Measure numbers large and non-italicized
[ ] Multimeasure rests broken up according to phrases (as applicable), with measure number ranges large, non-italicized, and below them with enough space allotted
[ ] Rehearsal markings large, clear, consistent, obvious/easy to find quickly
[ ] All fonts consistent (eg. all the same font, or the same font, size, and effect for elements (eg. all movement titles the same, or all expressions the same font, etc.))
[ ] Names of instruments to switch to (for doublers and percussion) with time to do so
[ ] Movement titles and end-of-movement bar lines in the correct places
[ ] Attacca markings inserted appropriately
[ ] Everything cleaned up:
[ ] No crashes
[ ] Neat, organized
[ ] Dynamics, articulations, other markings placed appropriately
[ ] Notes well-spaced (eg. not too close or spread)
[ ] Lyrics and melismas with correct punctuation and lines (dashes/underscores)
[ ] Slurs look aesthetically pleasing (eg. not gigantic and overly large)
[ ] Beat groupings correct (eg. eighth notes grouped correctly in compound meters)
[ ] Page turns accounted for (very important):
[ ] Put page turns in when they are resting, or at parts where the second person on the stand can turn (strings only), or where one hand can be used for turning and the other playing (eg. open strings, woodwind fingerings, piano parts, etc.)
[ ] Tell the players how much time they have (say “V.S. quickly” or “Turn page quickly” for fast page turns, say “Time” for page turns followed by rests)
[ ] Make pages blank to manage page turns if needed (say “Page left blank to facilitate page turns; V.S.” or something like that on the blank page)
[ ] Cut off pages when needed for page turn and indicate V.S. when doing so (eg. leave last 5 inches of page blank if that means they can turn on a rest; the simplest way to do this is increase the bottom margin of the desired final system on that page)
[ ] All set for printing; I upload PDFs online to Staples or a university print shop for quality assurance (egs. made into PDFs; page margins fitting your printer if using your own printer; for booklets: adding extra pages so that number of pages is multiple of 4)
[ ] Have you proofread?
[ ] Have you proofread BACKWARDS?  (Highly recommended; working from the end to the beginning of the piece is a great way to catch errors)
[ ] Have you viewed the part as a PDF on a screen?  (Highly recommended to catch errors)
[ ] Test print (if you prefer to proofread on a physical copy as well as Finale/Sibelius and PDF)

It’s exhaustive, but this checklist really works in producing quality parts.

Questions?  Comments?  Let me know!

Thanks for reading,


3 thoughts on “A Checklist for Making Parts (Tool #37)

  1. Great checklist! Great blog!
    Regarding bar numbers, I know the professional convention is to put them at the start of each system. But I compose for and conduct amateur groups (recorders), and less-advanced players can get lost easily if it’s a new piece. With numbers at the start of each system I can’t yell out a bar number and then expect them to do the math real quick to determine where we are, so I use bold sans-serif bar numbers every 5. It certainly makes playing sessions easier but goes against everything I’ve ever read.

    1. Hi Glen, That is a great system to use. I believe that many film scoring parts have measure numbers at every bar, since the musicians are sight-reading and the sessions are expensive. Measure numbers certainly can be contextual; thank you for pointing that out!

  2. Pingback: Update – A Checklist for Making Parts – Composer's Toolbox

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