My six-year-old granddaughter recently discovered to her horror that another child had scribbled in a library book she was interested in reading.  “It wasn’t me, mummy,” she opined to my daughter.  “I would never do such a thing!”                       

Yes, we learn at an early age that what’s in print is somehow sacred and not to be defaced, like the old KJ Bible, covered in black leather and read with hushed tones. 

 Some singers treat their music as holy writ . . . as if marking it up were a mark against their character.  This is, of course, nonsense.  Marking one’s music is essential practice for anyone serious about getting things right.  So scribble away, sinners!  Make those pages your own!  Use your pencils with abandon!  Because you’re not going to remember three-quarters of the stuff you’ve just rehearsed if you don’t.  

LB’s Permission List

Here’s some stuff you can mark that will change the holy writ into wholly lit . . . a guide to lessons already learned:   

1.     Circle the operative word in a line of text

2.     Draw an arrow to show the direction of the phrase

3.     Use hairpins on long notes to remind you to shape up or down

4.     Use a tenuto to show syllables that need extra weight

5.     Put a comma between notes where you need to breathe

6.     Put a bigger comma where the choir is going to breathe together

7.     Put an arrow where NOT to breathe  

8.     Use a phrase mark to show the length and shape of a longer phrase

9.     Draw little glasses to mark a spot where you need to pay careful attention

10.  Write ‘MORE’ to remind you to give extra at that spot

11.  Write ‘BREATHE!’ when the phrase requires a ton of air support

12.  Write ‘MOVE’ where the music always bogs down

13.  Put big slashes where the repeats go

14.  Put little slashes on the beats you routinely miscount

15.  Mark the placement of final consonants

16.  Asterisk a spot where you’ve gone wrong more than twice once.


In short, EVERYTHING that is taught or thought during rehearsal should be reflected in the jots and squiggles that blossom on your page.  Don’t worry, you’re not defacing holy writ.  You’re making it into wholly lit . . . a guide to lessons already learned.  Besides, the copy you have is not a library book that someone else will take out next week.  Or is it? 

If it is, your choir needs to develop a library system where you get the same music every time.  And have a box of pencils always available for rehearsals.  Then there’s no excuse (except laziness) for not remembering what you’ve already learned. 

While none of this is miraculous, if followed weekly the holy writ from which you are all working will transform right before your eyes!  Now, wouldn’t that be a miracle.