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Understanding musical scores
Understanding musical scores

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4.1.5 Following the score

Now you have studied the score and marked it up, listen to the music and follow your own score. We’ve also attached our own attempt at marking up the first part of the score as a PDF [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . On this score, red arrows have been used to show the main melody.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: nutcrackercoffee.mp3
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First, allow your ear to find the different sounds of low strings, clarinets, violins and bassoons in turn and, to start off with, just focus your eyes on a single line – try the clarinet that is playing the melody. Now, listen a second time and focus on following just the music of the low strings with that murmuring accompaniment. Finally, listen one more time, and see if you can bring all the lines together, allowing your eye to jump from the low string accompaniment, to the clarinet melody and then the violins and bassoons playing the melody in turn.

Conductors follow the score too, but in a rather different way to what you have been doing. They have to learn the score so they can give direction to the players before they start to produce a particular sound. In performance, the score then becomes a memory aid, but marked up just as you have done to remind them about key landmarks. However, conductors will be reading, and thinking, several bars ahead of the sounds that they are hearing.