How does your band library work?

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by tubafran, Sep 18, 2007.

  1. tubafran

    tubafran Active Member

    Just wondering how most bands operate the music library and how do you allocate new music to the library?

    Some years ago the KSB library was kept by "category" and then allocated a code and number e.g. Marches (A) A1 - BB&CF, A2 - Castel Coch, A3 - ORB, Test Pieces, Overtures etc would then be allocated the same way. As new pieces were added they would get the last number in the sequence which of course would then mean it wasn't in an alpabetical order.

    Disadvantages with this system would be how to categorise the music - e.g. items that for example have been a show and a film.

    The library was re-filed some years ago on a purely alphabetical order A1,A2,A3....B1, B2, B3 etc and a separate spreadsheet is kept with additional information about type and where a piece can be allocated to one or more themes it is identified.

    Disadvantage with this system is that as new music is added it gets the last number so we might have 50 pieces begining with "A" that are filed alphabetically but then the last 4 pieces will not be in alphabetical order.

    So what's the best way?

    I was considering scrapping the numbers and codes altogether and simply filing the music in alphabetical order - I've got all the details on a spreadsheet which is easy to adjust and search for information.

    But most bands libraries that I've seen always seem to have a number on the music too - can anyone suggest why? I suppose if you have a sequential set of numbers you can see if something is missing, which is not so easy with just the alphabet by title.
  2. Jan H

    Jan H Moderator Staff Member

    As a matter of fact, I have been breaking my head about the same thing as well, since I've recently taken over the library. For now, i've mainly been taking care of the new pieces, but I have to do something about the big mess of older pieces as well...

    I think the main problem with putting everything alphabetically, is when a lot of pieces are added in the beginning of the alphabet, you have to move all the other pieces backwards, which would mean moving around a lot of paper, changing shelves etc. etc.

    I was now think of alphabetizing and renumbering all the older pieces, and starting from 2007, I will just start giving each piece a number, like 2007-001, 2007-002 etc., and keep all the other information in a spreadsheet or database.

    Another possibility would be to orden alphabetically per year.

    I'd be very interested to hear opinions from other (more experienced) music librarians!
  3. johnmartin

    johnmartin Active Member

    All ours is on computer. You can check out a searchable copy on

    Its all held in a mysql database. We used to order by category and alphabetical within that but as we added more new stuff it bacame unmanageable to constantly rejig the alphabetic ordering.

    We have a row of six filing cabinets each with 4 drawers and each piece is now coded with a letter for the cabinet, a digit for the drawer and a sequential number for the position in the drawer e.g E3-32 will be the fifth cabinet, third drawer at position 32. When a new piece is added it simply goes in the current working drawer and is given the next number in sequence. The computer can sort alphabetically or by category if we need to.

    All works very simply.
  4. Janet Watkins

    Janet Watkins Member

    Not sure if it is the right/best way, but when I took over the library at Whitwell I kept the numbering system allocated according to the title of the piece. A001, A002, A003.....B001, B002,....etc. I entered all the information into a database. Each record has the reference number (as above), status (see below), title, composer, arranger, type (march, show tune, Christmas, popular song, cornet solo, bass duet etc. as appropriate) and a 'notes' column where I put any other useful information eg when and where it was used as a test piece. As new pieces are acquired I assign the next reference number according to the title. In the status column I assign a letter code as follows:
    n - new piece added since last print out of catalogue
    m - missing pieces which were in the original catalogue, but are no longer on the shelf.
    p - piece of music in pad
    o - to be taken out of the pad (MD sends list of music to be weeded out)

    From this information I create a paper copy of catalogue sorted according to title also showing the other information about the piece. There is also a copy in reference number order (not sure what use this is!). I also produce print outs (reports) according to searches on keywords eg Christmas, march, solo etc.

    After new pieces have been added I produce an 'appendix' by searching for the 'n' code in the status field. Periodically I produce a new 'master copy' which assimilates the new pieces, having deleted the 'n' code.

    The 'p' and 'o' codes help me keep track of which titles are in the pads and to produce lists of titles to be handed in.

    I use Microsoft Works Database. I did intend to use Access, but could not find a way of getting a long title to text wrap. Works Database produced the neatest most compact output although I do copy the output into Word to fine tune it.

    I hope this makes sense, and if anyone has a solution to the Access problem I would love to hear about it.
  5. TuTuKu

    TuTuKu Active Member

    At my home band we use the A1, A2, B1, B2 system which works fine... I think the point of having the number written on the music was so that stray bits of music can be filed away pretty easily, especially when there isn't an index of the library at hand.

    I was librarian of our Uni Wind Band last year, and we've just given every piece a number and made sure that there's an up to date spreadsheet, usually ordered in Alphabetical order, but obviously this can be resorted so it's in numebr order (usually just to find out what the last number was when catalogueing a new piece).

    We're just setting up a cataloging system in the Uni Brass Band and are going to follow the lead of the Wind Band, as it seems to work quite simply. Might not be quite so easy with huge libraries, but seeing as we're only 3 years old, I don't expect ours will be huge for a very long time!
  6. ploughboy

    ploughboy Active Member

    B follows A , E follows D etc etc!

    All our christmas stuff has a little Holly leaf in the corner (very artistic!)
  7. Baritonedeaf

    Baritonedeaf Member

    If you update an index and put it in alphabetical order - the A1, A2, A3 etc works fine.

    That is what i do at our band.
  8. alanl58

    alanl58 Member

    We debate whether, for example, "A Brown Bird Singing" should be filed under "A" or the more conventional librarians "B" for "Brown Bird Singing, A" or "The Lost Chord" under "T" or "L" (as in "Lost Chord, The").

    I think the answer depends upon who set up the original paper listings, but there is nothing to stop you cross referencing and having two or three inter-linked spread sheets (I hate database software, far to complicated for jobs like library lists).

    But then you also get the problem of music pads arranged either the alphabetical way, or the traditional librarians way. Have you ever depped and at rehearsal found none of the titles where you might expect them?! Worse when the "current programme" pieces are filed separately and no-one tells you....

  9. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    Ours is strictly alphabetical - with no numbers or anything like that. So a piece starting with Ab goes before a piece starting with Ac. It would seem we are still to join the 21st century at Wigston as the whole library is still categorised by paper filled folders - but there is secondary group of folders that have the library categorised by music type. Confused? :)

    It actually works well - the rule is that pieces are always filed under their first letter unless it starts with "the", but it does throw up a few anomalies - eg The Force of Destiny is filed under L for La Forza Del Destino. I remember several years ago trying to explain to our then librarian that "la" was effectively "the" but he wouldn't have any of it...

    What is important is that every piece has its own card in the envelope stating what parts are there - and any missing. Its been said that that card is more important the the actual music itself...
  10. tpcornet12

    tpcornet12 Member

    Last edited: Sep 18, 2007
  11. Bungle

    Bungle Member

    Thats how ours works. We have a card index box with a card for each catagory listing pieces.
  12. hvb_shizzle

    hvb_shizzle Member

    Ours doesn't work..... that well that is to say.
  13. tubafran

    tubafran Active Member

    Thanks for all the comments, so now I'm in two minds as to what to do - stay as we are or go for just alphabetical.

    Computer system - that's probably the easiest to sort, it's just a record of what you've got and it can be printed out in any order - so that means an alphabetical list can always be produced. With this list you should be able to find where any piece should be in the library

    We have 1200 pieces in the library so that's invaluable. I prefer to use a spreadsheet and have numerous columns with additional information, when bought, price, programme notes, missing parts record, type 1, type 2, type 3. Using the AtoZ sort button it's very easy to say pick out all the Christmas music or show etc.

    If using alphabetical only a good point made above in respect of the physical filing of the music is the need to occasionally re-sort the drawers, perhaps requiring the movement of many pieces throughout the cabinets - solution would be to leave enough space between letters for future additions. Looking at the spread of music in our library pieces begining with S, C, M and B appear most popular, with q,u and x,y,z being the least. So leave bigger gaps for the most popular letters and small for the least.

    Although for those people that file under "The..." or "A.." you'd need to leave a bigger space after those letters.
  14. johnmartin

    johnmartin Active Member

    With our database solution I can do a search over any category. We can even do searches where we might have partial information e.g. part of a title or a composer/arrangers name. I can also tell the conductor if the piece he really wants the band to play is a complete set or not. We also log all loans out to other bands and the reverse, where we have borrowed a set from another band. That helps to make sure they get back what they gave us.

    I am also annotating our records with other attributes e.g. timing info, suitable level, concert suitability etc.

    If anyone is interested I am happy to make the code available but you do have to know a bit about php programming and mysql databases.

    As an aside, I see someone mentioned access databases above. I have also set up the mysql ODBC driver to allow the mysql data to be imported into Access or excel.
  15. brassed_off

    brassed_off Member

    Each piece has a number. New pieces get the next number and are then entered into the catalogue in alphabetical order. Simple.

    Plus, we have a super dooper librarian who is a star :clap: (hi Frances!!).
  16. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    I used to be the librarian for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and our system was actually quite similar to some of those mentioned above.

    Each set of music was in a manila envelope with a list of contents on the front; any missing parts were highlighted. These were catalogued by composer, so each envelope got a number comprising the first letter of the composer's name, followed by a sequential number depending on when the music was acquired. So for instance, the orchestral parts for Handel's Zadok the Priest were H001, Mozart's Musical Joke was M025. Of course, the same system could be used using the title instead of composer or arranger's name (so Festival Music could be F001) but then you get the perennial librarian's problem of what to do with definite and indefinite articles ("the" and "a"). Strictly speaking you should catalogue without using these, even in foreign languages, so Force of Destiny ought to be "Forza del Destino, La". That's why we found it easier to use composer's names.

    There were over 900 items in the SCO library so I needed the numbering system to make it easier to find things. All the numbering system needs to do is allow you to find the stuff on the shelves (or in the cupboard, or whatever) so I'd say keep it as simple and obvious as possible. The bigger your library, the less use an alphabetical system is, imho. If you've only 100-150 items, alphabetical order may well be enough.

    All the records were then computerised in a database with fields for standard things like composer, arranger, publisher, duration, genre, plus other useful things like year of composition, composer or arranger's birth/death dates - these made it easier to plan programmes with reference to things like composer's anniversaries. There were also fields for things like whether the music was currently out, where/when it was used, if any parts were missing, etc. I would say that if you are going to computerise (from a standing start) you should try and capture as much info as possible to make your records as versatile as possible. When I was conducting Blackley I got a copy of the library records into Access and starting including programme notes with each record, so if I wanted to go back to a piece we'd previously used I could print off the programme note without having to research it all again. If you do it really well you could theoretically reach a point where concert programmes can be planned (complete with timings) and programme notes printed from the computer without ever having to go and pull music from the shelves.
  17. Jan H

    Jan H Moderator Staff Member

    for the part of our library that is currently alphabetically organised, I also ignored particles, in all languages (a/the in English, le/la/un/une in French, een/de/het in Dutch, La/Una in Italian etc.). I only ran into some trouble recently when we got a piece with a German title, starting with Die Insel... I put it under the "I", put everyone kept looking for it under the "D"