Seven Ways to Organize Your Mountain of Sheet Music

Seven Ways to Organize Your Mountain of Sheet Music

If there’s one thing we accumulate as music teachers, it’s sheet music.

Whether we use a filing system, a bookshelf, or just pile it on the floor, our ever-growing stash of it can seem overwhelming.

Here are seven ways to keep it organized.

1. Alphabetized by Title

Pros:

This is the fastest way to organize your sheet music and makes it easy to sort through it quickly and find what you’re looking for.

Cons:

This is only an efficient system if you can easily remember the title of each piece.

Also, if you have many music books in your collection you will probably alphabetize them by book title, which makes it harder to find an individual song from the book.

2. Alphabetized by Composer/Arranger

Pros:

This is an easy fix if you have a lot of pieces from a variety of composers and arrangers.

It’s a good way to see all of your music by Bach, Clara Schumann, or Brian Crain at a glance.

Cons:

Again, this only works if you can easily remember which composer wrote which piece.

Many people find it easier to remember the name of a piece than the name of the person who wrote it.

3. Chronological Order

Pros:

This makes it easy to find pieces from a specific era if you’re in a Baroque kind of mood or want to increase your student’s Romantic repertoire.

Cons:

Some music does not fit easily into one time period, you might not remember the era in which a specific piece was written when you go to look for it, and many music books feature works by composers of various time periods, making it difficult to categorize them this way.

4. Divided by Category

Pros:

This is a low-stress way to sort through your music and find your Christmas collection, your hymn arrangements, or your favorite piano sonatas.

Cons:

Many music books have pieces from several categories, and some categories may overlap.

For example, is that copy of Handel’s Messiah filed under “Classical”, “Christmas”, or “Sacred”?

5. Frequency of Use

Pros:

This method keeps the music you reach for most often up front and easily accessible, which saves you time sorting through the rest of the pile.

Cons:

When you are looking for one of the less-frequently used pieces, it will be harder to find and require more digging.

6. Sequential Order

Pros:

If you have many music book series, this is a quick and simple way to organize them.

You can also sort classical and other types of music in the order in which you want to teach them to your students.

Cons:

You may not have many sequential books or a set order in which you want to teach each piece, in which case this method is probably not the one for you.

7. Spreadsheet

Pros:

This is for those who are really serious about organization!

You can use an Excel (or handwritten) spreadsheet to log each piece by title, composer, time period, key signature, time signature, which book or collection it’s from, how many pages it is, approximate performance time, and anything else you want to include.

Cons:

Again, this is for people who want to be really, really organized.

You might not feel the need to catalogue your music in that much detail. It takes a lot of time to set up and requires updating whenever you get new music.

Also, if you use a digital spreadsheet you will have to pull it up on the computer whenever you’re looking for a specific piece.

How do you organize your sheet music and make it easy to find? Let me know in the comments!

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