The first step in analysing and studying a new score is to become acquainted with the overall look of the score. We call this Awareness. This step can further be divided into three parts:
Part 1: The First Pages
Part 2: Scan Through
Part 3: Text Awareness (for works with text – vocal or choral music)
The First Pages
Your study of the score should start at the very beginning. An abundance of information can be found on the first pages that might be vital for the rest of the learning process.
The sort of information that is generally easy to find on the first page and/or the title page of a score might include:
- Editor or arranger
- Opus number (and perhaps a date of writing or of publication)
- Transpositions required
This is helpful information to build the context for what follows. It is well worth the time spent to assemble all of the data available to understand what the composer has created. One might later use this information to research the time period in which it was written, the composer, and available information concerning the work. All of which are required in order to make decisions about how to perform the music.
The next step is to scan through the entire score looking for important sections or changes. Every work and every score has its own appearance. Proceed through to locate large sections that may be delineated by:
- The actual layout of the instrumentation in the score (in some band scores, for example, the bassoons are written below the saxophones whereas in others they are written between the oboes and clarinets)
- The language used for expressive indications
- Double bars and repeats
- Large texture and density changes
- Terms designating style changes
- Key changes
- Differences in lengths between sections or movements
- Meter changes
Vocal/Choral pieces add an extra dimension, with lyrics or even a full libretto. It is important to become familiar with the basics of the text or story right away. In the awareness step, the libretto or text is simply read without much effort to analyse it.
In the ConductIT MOOC you can study these steps more thoroughly. You may start here.