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Laurie Niles

Buried in Sheet Music

August 16, 2013 at 9:07 PM


I've finally reached the tipping point, with my music-storage situation.

I thought I had come up with a clever system for my sheet music. About 10 years ago, after much research, I bought a large cabinet with two big file drawers and two smaller storage drawers.

Music drawer

The file drawers are deep enough to place my books and over-sized music upright, then in between, I can sandwich various files for xeroxed orchestra music, etc. It's alphabetized by composer (mostly), with hanging files for each composer containing file folders of various works.

Music drawer

This worked quite well -- until I filled all 60 inches of file space. At this point, several things started happening.

1. Every time I opened the heavy, music-laden file drawer, the entire cabinet tipped forward ominously, threatening to spill all its contents, send the items atop the cabinet flying, and crush me beneath. Certainly I could not rummage through these files in search of things, knowing that simply opening the drawer would lead to such a spectacular spill, and possibly grave injury. Sometimes, the drawers would just roll open on their own, as if a ghost was examining my music. I began getting the vague sense that I should keep toddlers and small children well away from the cabinet, just in case there was an earthquake (I live in California after all).

2. Because it was so full, I stopped filing music inside the cabinet. Instead, I started piling music books and copies in various places around my studio: in a wicker magazine basket, in plastic magazine files, and in free-form stacks that filled every appropriate-sized nook and cranny. At this point, the next step might be to start a TV show: "Sheet Music Hoarders."

This whole unworkable scenario evolved over a long period of time. I became so accustomed to working around the scary music drawers that I did not realize the obvious: this was not working.

This spring, I finally ran out of space, and it occurred to me: perhaps I could drop my "clever" system and get a (drum roll) big book shelf instead. The basic book shelf seems to work for most people, and I'm not sure why I was over-thinking things quite so much. After at least three months of thinking, looking around, and procrastinating, I finally just did it. I ordered a book shelf! (Here it is). It has quite a lot of space, and it's basically in the form of twelve 15-inch cubes.

It's supposed to come on Monday. Now comes the simple task of emptying the old cabinet, building the shelves and re-arranging my music into a new system. Then….I will have access to my music! Seems almost symbolic. I'm very excited!


From Steve Reizes
Posted on August 17, 2013 at 6:19 AM
Laurie, I have found that putting the music into magazine boxes (these http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/50187340/) works very well to organize and keep nice my (much smaller) collection of sheet music.
From John Cadd
Posted on August 17, 2013 at 11:14 AM
This reminds me of a building firm I worked in shortly after leaving school. The invoices for each month would have a string tag through the corner and crude cardboard squares as outer covers with the month written on them.The "filing " happened in a dingy,dusty little room just like the Carlsberg Complaints Department. Very little light and bare wooden floorboards Each year`s papers formed a set of untidy pyramids around the room .You could die there before finding what you wanted .
From Trevor Jennings
Posted on August 17, 2013 at 12:45 PM
Laurie, erm .. make sure you empty the top drawers of the cabinet first :)
From Anne Horvath
Posted on August 17, 2013 at 1:40 PM
"Simple assembly instructions are included."

Those dreaded words...

Please post results!

From marjory lange
Posted on August 17, 2013 at 6:46 PM
After endorsing Trevor's suggestion...

The only reason I don't like shelves for music is dust. The shelves where the music I use most--no problem. The shelves that really 'store' things get dusty, which is both unsightly and makes me feel guilty. I found that a pretty curtain, tacked over the shelves, worked for me--out of dust's way, completely accessible, and not visible to others who don't need to know I'm a closet music hoarder.

From Laurie Niles
Posted on August 18, 2013 at 5:34 AM
Thank you for the ideas! I think magazine holders might work very well to sort the music within the shelving and keep the dust at bay. I will post a picture once I get it all reorganized. That just may take a bit of time, tho!
From Tom Holzman
Posted on August 18, 2013 at 7:39 PM
Good luck. I admire that you even had a system involving file cabinets. My "system" consists of piles in two different rooms. The only thing I can say for it is that the piles in one room are just violin parts, and the piles in the other room are for piano, etc., accompaniments. I do have a notebook where I keep a large collection of orch music for violin 1, in no particular order. Last I looked, the "Psycho" theme was behind something of Mozart's. Oh we'll, when I retire in January, I can bring some order to this "system". I will say that the one family of professional musicians I know uses bookshelves and folders, and their music is very organized.
From Trevor Jennings
Posted on August 18, 2013 at 10:13 PM
Something I'm now finding very useful for practicing orchestral parts is my iPad. For example, I have a couple of concerts coming up at short notice with some lengthy major pieces I don't know (Dvorak's Piano Concerto is one), and I won't be receiving the parts from the orchestras' librarians until a week before each concert, so I've downloaded what I require from iMSLP to my iPad as PDF files to work on in the interim. No paper to lose or get dusty, of course, and when I finished with the PDFs I'll send them into ethereal oblivion.

From N.A. Mohr
Posted on August 20, 2013 at 1:47 PM
Be a bit careful...particleboard doesn't hold up well to weight, so if you 'overload' the shelves (and paper is very heavy), like you can with solid wood...it might not hold up too well. I also don't bolt my shelves to the wall...but I try and lean them a bit (cardboard underneath the front 'legs') towards the wall to prevent potential tipping. Bolting would be much safer though.

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