September 21, 2012 at 5:37 PMViolinist, TRAPPED!
Thousands of sheets and books of violin music have finally buried Mrs. Laurie Niles alive in her studio. The situation became dire after she attempted to stuff her latest duet-book purchase from the music store into her ready-to-explode filing cabinet. The cabinet did indeed explode, which explains the books and music piled upon every possible surface in her studio, with Mrs. Niles cowering beneath.
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It's only a slight exaggeration; there is NO MORE ROOM to stuff more music in my studio! No, I take that back. I still have several piles that haven't reached the ceiling; I probably could lay a few more volumes on top, provided I keep the balance and don't send everything swooshing to the floor.
The filing drawers that have accommodated my music for the last eight years have simply filled up. I like my system: a deeper-than-normal filing cabinet where I can mix books and large music, sitting upright, with hanging folders, in which I put those orchestra music practice copies and such. It can all go alphabetical by composer. Except that I've run out of room! At this point, I'm seriously considering commissioning a friend who is talented in carpentry to custom-make some file cabinets.
How do you organize your music? Please share your ideas! We can start with a little vote, to get the ball rolling:
I always hated filing cabinets because I seemed to get things caught and ripped a lot!
Now the violin and fiddle material I use on a somewhat regular bases is in a pair of attache bags based on violin or fiddle.
The problem is my violins are in that back section and I have to always be careful not to knock over the two and a half foot tall stack of books at the corner of the shelf that forms one side of the path that leads to the back section (be afraid, bwaha ha ha ha).
Then I have notebooks for my active GROUP or PERFORMANCE material, that I take out of the practice room with me to use. Each notebook is for the setting I will be going to - orchestra, trio, Special Event, etc. I have several tote bags that these books are held in when not on the practice stand, for different locations, so I can grab and go.
Finally, I have bookshelves with one shelf per instrument material.
We do something similar at work in the accounting office, but with the cardboard type boxes.
Each separate item of your sheet music (which might presently be in a single stack in a completely random order) is assigned a number starting with 1, 2, 3, etc. These can now be arranged on shelves or in a filing cabinet, simply in numerical order.
For each item you create a row (that is, a database record) in an Excel table. The first column should be the numerical Item Number (database primary index). The next few or several columns can be as much information in as many different categories as you have the inclination to enter -- composer, edition, instrumentation, genre, keywords ... whatever you think will be useful in finding music later. Make sure the columns have headings. If you have PDF copies of the items on your computer, you can even have a column that makes a hyperlink to the file, so that you click it and the PDF opens. The link can either be local or WWW (e.g., IMSLP) Select the whole table and click "Format as Table" on the Home Ribbon.
Once your Excel database is complete, whenever you want to find your Mozart sonatas, you can use the standard searching and data sorting tools within Excel to quickly find the correct row (record). Look at the Item Number and you can walk over and pick it out from your shelf.
Whenever you add something, just give it the next higher number and enter its data. If you lose, throw away, or loan an item, don't delete its record. Instead make a 'status' column in your database to indicate what has happened to the item, and on your shelf replace the item with a plain piece of paper that bears the same number.
This method avoids the question of "how to organize -- by composer, or by genre, or by ..." because your information is simultaneously organized in all of those ways.
Write to me if you need more details.
As far as storing your music physically, legal-size filing cabinets are one good way, but the custom-cabinet idea is another. But if you are going to use the filing system that I've mentioned, then you won't be separating small format items from large format, so you'll need shelves that are fairly oversized. If you do commission custom shelves, having vertical slats every 2-3 inches is helpful to prevent sagging, and be careful what kind of finish you select, something that will not stick to your music over time. A waterbased urethane varnish like Benjamin Moore's "Stays Clear" product in low luster will work well if it is properly applied and given sufficient time to cure before putting anything on it.
I have two oak bookcases, 37 x 60 inches each, four shelves each, on one wall. Music is standing, like books, not flat.
I had these cases custom made, and they were well worth the cost. The material and carpenter expenses were far less than retail, and the quality much superior. Even after over ten years, no shelf sag!
I also have a small five shelf case for books, a moving-out-no-room-in-the-truck gift, from years ago in college.
Frequent purging is also a good idea...
And then I have one huge torn Seman Violins folder that houses all my violin music from the last two years of music from my previous orchestra music from my previous school and there is sooo much of it...pretty soon I'm going to have organize this MUCH better than what I'm doing.....I need some shelves In my room :/
But there is even a solution to this. As you catalog your items, you can divide them into subsets by size. So, anything under X inches in height gets a number between 0 and 999. Anything between X and Y inches gets a number between 1000 and 1999, and anything over Y inches high gets a number starting with 2000. You can determine what X and Y should be just by "sizing up" your collection. Then for each item you just first need to determine it's height and then you catalog it as before. Then you can build a set of shelves, with one shelf that is X + 0.5 inches in height, one that is Y + 0.5 inches, and a third shelf that is, say, Y + 4 inches high. This will economize vertical space, slightly and give a more consistent appearance.
Having built a fair amount of the furniture and built-ins in my own home, I advocate the use of veneered plywood. A great deal of shelving can be produced from one sheet of good-quality veneered (e.g., oak or birch) 3/4 inch plywood. Please make sure it is top grade domestic plywood (from a reputable lumber store that supplies cabinet makers) and not the stuff imported from Asia (i.e., the stuff they have at the big box home improvement places) or you will be disappointed with the appearance and your carpenter will be frustrated with its inferior workability. Consider also adding rear 1x2 cleats and a 1x2 hardwood face-frame; it adds a couple of inches to your vertical spacing but also increases stability quite a bit. And it's easy for your carpenter to do. Make sure also that your shelves have a 1/4" plywood back as this will increase stability / squareness and prevent your books from scuffing the walls.
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