Does score quality influence performance?

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Does score quality influence performance?

Post by Schonbergian »

Have there been any real studies on this beyond anecdotes?

I always feel as though I'm a more active musician and more "guided" in my musicianship when I'm playing from a properly engraved score with human touches--as though the printing itself and its warmth is one and the same with the music and one translates into the other. However, I'm not sure how scientific this is. I know other musicians that appreciate high-quality scores, but don't know if they've noticed any difference with music-making.

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David Ward
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Re: Does score quality influence performance?

Post by David Ward »

I think there are many on this forum who'd like to believe yes, but I ‘hae ma doots’ (as some might say in this part of Scotland).

To expand on that: if the music is sufficiently convincing, then any score that is better than dreadful should bring an effective performance from committed and suitably able musicians. If, on the other hand, the music is little better than mediocre, then I might suppose that a wonderfully engraved score (and parts) just about could encourage a better performance than might otherwise be the case.

In my longish experience, musicians certainly appreciate good scores and parts, but rarely put extra effort into the performance because of them. Parts that are inadequate and lose rehearsal time are another matter. I've been lucky and have rarely (but not never!) experienced under-rehearsed performances. Indeed, for a couple of my larger projects some rehearsal sessions which were booked were never used. A recent chamber piece of mine did need ‘very many more rehearsals than we'd anticipated’ (to quote one of the performers), but that was for rather special, one-off reasons unrelated to the engraved quality of the score.
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Re: Does score quality influence performance?

Post by odod »

in my country we are forced to read shitty quality of printed music (during college) .. awful engraving :( but hey we've survived ,, and yet now i know that a good engraving does affect on the sight reading too
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Fred G. Unn
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Re: Does score quality influence performance?

Post by Fred G. Unn »

David Ward wrote:
08 Jan 2018, 21:25
Parts that are inadequate and lose rehearsal time are another matter.
I'm also doubtful it affects an actual performance much but it certainly affects sightreading, rehearsals, and the effort the musicians will spend on new music. Years ago I used to play in the ensemble for the BMI Composer's Workshop and while not 100%, there definitely was a strong correlation between reasonably well copied music and the quality of the music. I don't even mean publishable level quality, just that the composer took the time to look through the parts and make sure there were no obvious collisions, all repeats and DS indications were correct, etc. If the composer wasn't willing to even make that minimal effort, it usually meant that it wasn't worth the time for the musicians to give their best effort trying to figure out what was intended. Also, each piece was given 20 minutes for a reading session IIRC, so if the musicians spent 10 minutes asking questions because they couldn't figure out what was on the page, that shot half the time for the reading.

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Re: Does score quality influence performance?

Post by OCTO »

I would say - yes, if it is meant to be played from score (agreeing that there are no 'mistakes').
To clarify, as Fred says: it does affect reading - to say notation affects overall perception - and thus everything else that comes with it.

For me, a perfect engraved score puts as little as possible barrier between musician and the music.

"A perfectly engraved score" puts for musicians zero perception of notation, but everything is seen as pure music.
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Re: Does score quality influence performance?

Post by benwiggy »

There have certainly been studies on the legibility of text, and how pages that follow 'bad' typographic practices can be shown to be more difficult to read. I see no reason why music would not be similar.

'Good practice' in notation is usually there to avoid ambiguity and to reinforce the message. If you write a rhythm but the distance between the notes does not reflect their values, then that will require more processing.

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Re: Does score quality influence performance?

Post by HaraldS »

Score quality influences indeed several things, not only the performance of a piece:
  • it influences on a quite subconscious level the first encounter of a musician with a work. It influences how fast, deep and willingly the musician will build up a personal link to the piece
  • it influences how much a musician likes a piece for a longer time. If you're in an orchestra or band playing the same pieces multiple times, each performance is very much like a reunion with an old friend. If the old friend sounds good, but never looked comparably good and even smelled funny, it's a not-so-nice occasion
  • it influences the performance, as score quality can be responsible for errors or to avoid them
At least that's my experience here in Germany with professional and non-professional musicians.

Paper quality is a huge factor, too. I played in an orchestra where they praised the quality of my paper more than the contents of my work :) :( . Maybe that's also due to the fact that here in Germany, we sometimes play from music printed some 40-80 years ago, so the appearance of the music affects the performance because you can see (and, like the allusion above, smell) how old it is. Don't know if that's the case elsewhere, too. My experience is that you build up another relationship with a piece if you perform it from charts with history.

Music typography is definitely important. Everyone knows the old Petrucci G clef which isn't really a plus for an otherwise good looking score. Font selection can be crucial on a professional level - the better a score looks and feels, the more the musicians will like it. I consider the following video as highly interesting "Wake up & smell the fonts" by Sarah Hyndman. She's only referring to text fonts, not music fonts, but nearly everything is valid for these, too.

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Re: Does score quality influence performance?

Post by tisimst »

Thanks for sharing that, Harald! Very insightful!
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