Organising sheet music
February 3, 2019 10:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to figure out how keep my sheet music organised. My folders look like this. Ideally I'd have them alphabetized, but then each time I add a new sheet, I'll have to shift everything else. The other option is just to put them in as they come and have a frequently updated table of contents up front. Just wondering if I'm missing a better solution.

Ps. I'd prefer if solutions don't involve buying new files since I already have a bunch
posted by miaow to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Apologies if this is obvious, but could you put them in so that only the front side of the plastic sheet is used? Then you could ABC them with no shuffling necessary.
posted by astronomite at 10:22 PM on February 3, 2019

Not sure if I'm just being stupid, but I don't see how that would make the shuffling unnecessary. Note that the plastic sheets aren't movable, they're fixed in place (I should have mentioned that in my initial post)
posted by miaow at 10:30 PM on February 3, 2019

How many is a bunch? Dedicate folders with specific letter ranges, for less shuffling?
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:33 PM on February 3, 2019

Oh! In that case, it can't really be done.

You can delay the inevitable a little by leaving gaps at first, so that you can sometimes insert without moving, but eventually you will have to move a page from one pocket to the next or waste space unnecessarily.

However, you can save a little movement between books, assuming you are alphabetizing across a collection of these books rather than only within a single book. When you need to insert into a full book, move the excess sheets into a new book.

This is just an elaboration of the original trick of leaving gaps, and has the same problem of eventually needing more movement.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 10:37 PM on February 3, 2019

I'd start by distributing the sheets I already have across the books I already have in such a way as to leave as many empty pockets between each filled pocket as possible, rather than having all the filled pockets up front and all the empty ones at the end. That way, inserting new sheets doesn't involve shuffling every subsequent sheet down by one space, only those between the first one you're displacing and the next empty pocket.

Once enough gaps have closed up in any given book that inserting a new sheet would require shuffling sheets into the next book, I'd buy another book, insert that into the collection between the book the new sheet needs to go in and the next one, then distribute the sheets from that book across itself and the new book in such a way as to spread empty pockets as evenly as possible across both those books.

A useful refinement might be to keep one book aside for new acquisitions, making no attempt to keep it alphabetized, and defer inserting your new acquisitions into the main collection until you can't easily remember what's in the new acquisitions book and where. The rationale here is that you can get your insertions done with a lot less shuffling if you're doing more than one at once.
posted by flabdablet at 11:38 PM on February 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

A lot of band/orchestra directors I know do filing cabinets with music added to the back of the last one when it’s purchased. Each piece is assigned a cabinet number, and then a letter within the cabinet. Then, they maintain a spreadsheet with the title/composer/arranger/key/style/date performed/other notes/cabinet number and letter in sortable fields and can easily find stuff when needed. You could do the same with your folders- basically what you suggested, just with a spreadsheet and number system.

Depending on the amount of music and how often you access it and mark it, I think your system might be better served with hanging files rather than the books- legal size cabinets give you a lot of room if you end up with oversized originals with any sort of regularity. Sheet protectors are kind of a pain in the butt to deal with sometimes.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:39 PM on February 3, 2019 [4 favorites]

Sheet protectors are kind of a pain in the butt to deal with sometimes.

If you are at all open to the possibility of acquiring a different kind of filing book once your existing lot fills up, sheet protectors in 4x15mm ring binders work really well, allowing as they do for arbitrary insertion and also reliably lying flat when opened out on a music stand.
posted by flabdablet at 12:18 AM on February 4, 2019 [7 favorites]

With those kind of books it's pretty hard. Some music librarians solve a similar problem by having 26 separate sections, alphabetically, by composer, and then the ordering within each letter section is by acquisition date, with a table of contents at the front that you also can append to when your add stuff. (If you know you're going to have a million things by one composer this can be further refined by having, say, a Beethoven folder that's then sorted by acquisition date.)

Most folks I know use those fixed binders for known fixed projects (a recital, audition prep) and use ring binders and sheet protectors for stuff that changes over time.

(And for completeness, what's rapidly taking over is a filing cabinet full of paper, a huge Dropbox folder of scans, a tablet and a foot pedal)
posted by range at 5:06 AM on February 4, 2019

Do you need to travel with them our are they just for home use? For the sheet music I need to lug around, I use 3 ring binders plus a 'cabinet number' + database like suggested above. I add to the end of the section alphabet, so A31, A32, etc. For the sheet music that I've collected, I store it in boxes with letter dividers.
posted by snowymorninblues at 5:14 AM on February 4, 2019

To what use are you putting this sheet music? Do you hope to practice or perform directly out of the binders with the music still in the plastic sleeves? Also, what genre of music and what instrument?

If you just want an easy way to organize and locate your sheet music, what would be wrong with a file cabinet? Or, for that matter, a music cabinet?
posted by slkinsey at 5:40 AM on February 4, 2019

Thanks everyone. I'd like plastic sleeves because I have allergies and live in a dusty area. With loose protectors and ring binders I've only ever had experience with a 2 ring binder which is very wobbly and inconvenient, so it's quite illuminating to discover that 4 ring binders exist! I wish I'd consulted with this great hive mind before I went out and bought those files.
posted by miaow at 6:13 PM on February 5, 2019

a 2 ring binder which is very wobbly and inconvenient

The common or garden ring binder with two 30 or 35mm rings is a beast from the pit. Four little 15mm rings are just the bee's knees.
posted by flabdablet at 8:33 PM on February 5, 2019

What do you think of four 25mm rings?
posted by miaow at 8:45 PM on February 5, 2019

Too sloppy. Sheets will want to slide off the lip of the music stand.
posted by flabdablet at 9:04 PM on February 5, 2019

The larger ring sizes are OK for punched paper, but plastic sheet protectors are slippery little fellows best kept on a very short rein.
posted by flabdablet at 9:05 PM on February 5, 2019

Thank you! I think I'm going to use some of the other excellent suggestions and my existing files for now until I can get hold of binders with small rings — seems no one produces them in India (where I live).
posted by miaow at 10:05 PM on February 5, 2019

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