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  • Writer's pictureGabrielle

Don't Forget Your Pencil

Green, orange, and blue colored pencils

Originally posted by David Arnold on June 19, 2016

One of the most useful and over-looked tools a musician can have is a pencil. My first saxophone instructor was a never-ending advocate of marking your music. The idea was this: you can’t possibly remember everything so you need to write it down. From that point on I began marking all of my current projects with all sorts of subtle reminders. Of course there is the obvious sharp and flat notes; but there were matters of dynamics and phrasing that needed noting as well. I would also leave myself stylistic reminders by writing the names of famous musicians I wished to channel.

My current music projects don’t involve a lot of reading, however I still find a place for pencil and paper in all that I do. I jot down song names, chord progressions, key centers, and melodic motifs. While I typically don’t write out an entire chart, I often leave detailed notes in the margins of my set list.

As I said before, we can’t remember all of the details. Worse than that, it seems at the very moment we need these recollections they manage to escape us. When we are in the practice room we are calm and collected, unfortunately all of that changes the moment we step on stage. Fortunately when the butterflies take flight or the distractions set us off task we can rely on our notes to bring us back to center.

Thankfully it is never too late to start new habits. This one is extremely simple; all you need to do is make sure you have a pencil in your instrument’s case or in your music bag. It also helps to have a few sheets of paper to jot down notes if you are not using sheet music. Now that you have some of these details on paper you can free your mind to concentrate on other things.


For more information or to sign up for lessons you can contact Marion Music Academy at 319-377-3343, or click here to sign up for a free trial lesson.

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