How to mark your part without making your standpartner hate you.

March 18, 2015, 8:17 AM · Playing violin in orchestra is one of the most enriching activities I get to do. But, it also seems like it is fraught with unspoken expectations. Things like "to be early is to be on-time," "showing up without your pencil is a sin," and that the inside player's fingerings go beneath the line.

These were all things I gradually learned along the way...many times the hard way. One time in particular I had just finished making a very detailed marking, writing out all of the conductor's musical wishes (but apparently it was not very efficient or practical). My standpartner sighed, rolled his eyes, ERASED the long sentence I just wrote, made two slashes and a squiggle, and dropped the pencil on the stand.

That memory apparently stuck with me, and I don't wish it to happen to anyone else. One of the things I hope to do is de-mystify the unspoken orchestral etiquette that can ruin people's experience.

The first area I wanted to tackle was all the marking we use in orchestra to quickly and effectively take notes in your part. This is a bit of a long video, but it contains almost every marking and abbreviation you would need to make changes in your part-and in a way that is professional and courteous to your standpartner.

I'm calling it: "How to quickly and effectively mark your orchestra part without making your standpartner hate you."

I hope it is helpful and enjoyable to watch.
And to learn more about my efforts to help violinists prepare for orchestral playing, visit

Be well and practice well

P.S. If you'd rather see these in a pdf, you can purchase them for a small fee:
Purchase the PDF here


March 18, 2015 at 04:04 PM · Great resource, Michael. I didn't catch the link for the PDF though, and did not immediately see it on your web site either.

March 18, 2015 at 04:46 PM · Ah, yes. Sorry about that: I added a little P.S. where you can purchase the pdf of the list.

March 18, 2015 at 05:08 PM · Got it! Orch-tastic! Definitely worth $1.50.

March 18, 2015 at 10:54 PM · As much info as needed for markings, I think. Excellent!

I'd like to add a little side issue. Students and many amateurs write out full instructions or information, as mentioned in the video, but why? It finally clicked with me that they don't know the lingo, the markings, and that when it's written in common language instead of in our musical shorthand, we're stuck reading 2 languages at the same time, musical notation and shorthand, and the common language. I'm a bit OCD about this and remove everything. Pencil markings are meant to be reminders or simple instructions. If there's a pencil marking, which, of course, looks different from the printing on the page, it's there for attention of some kind. If there are numerous pencil markings and complicated instructions on a page, the notes are impossible to read through seeing a pencil mark and going through an interpretation process that is likely unnecessary. Those markings are for practice, not performance and should be removed well before a performance. We mark the parts as efficiently as possible for the best possible performance, as pointed out in your wonderful video.


March 19, 2015 at 05:24 AM · Oh my gosh this happens to me so often ughhh!

My stand partner insists on using his music, but whenever I mark something on his music, he says that I am vandalizing it and promptly erases.

Maybe he just has OCD?


Edit: I just read the comment before this one -- so coincidental! :) But I guess that explains my stand partner.

Thanks so much for the guide!


March 19, 2015 at 04:24 PM · Ultimately don't you have to share one set of music for the performance? If you and your stand partner have different markings, how can that possibly work?

March 21, 2015 at 12:24 AM · Paul, outside player marks above, inside player marks below...

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