There are many sides to a lot of industries that don’t seem to have a lot to do with the industry itself. For example, General Motors (GM to the layman out there) makes cars. Duh. Well, GM has something called GM Financial, which is their in-house financing service, which started with the goal of providing loans for customers to purchases GM products. GM Financial now makes many other kinds of loans and, I would hazard a small bet, is far more profitable than the business of actually making cars. It seems strange that a entire part of a car manufacturing company, is actually a financial services company. Or maybe that’s just very smart business (which, incidentally, it is).
The music preparation “industry” can, at times, feel distant from the actual music we are privileged to work on. Largely, companies like Engraver’s Mark Music make sure the music in written clearly, cleaning up and editing scores and parts so there are no collisions with expressions and notes or articulations and alike, and then doing a vast amount of digital file organization, printing, taping, organizing, etc. etc. All these tasks are vital to getting well written and accurately engraved music in front of a player, but they are also very non-musical at times. Much of this can be done without ever listening at all to the music being engraved and edited. Most of the time, a music engraver, or copyist to use a slightly more modern term, can feel like a technician; someone putting all the nuts and bolts together in the proper way and sending the finished product out the door.
One of the most defining characteristics of being a musician is the dedication to the art of practicing your instrument. Musicians spend decades and decades refining their craft, getting closer and closer to their instruments, growing and changing with their instruments as time goes by. I remember times in my early professional life where I would play bass (my primary instrument and first musical love) for 12+ hours a day, between rehearsals, sessions and gigs. There were rarely a time during a day when the bass wasn’t in my hands. But as Engraver’s Mark Music grew and expanded and as I made the professional choice to be a music engraver, I struggled with the concept of practicing music engraving. Do you practice a technical skill, or is it just a matter of repetitive training, which, while there are certainly elements of repetitiveness in musical instrument practicing, involves so much more than just mindless repetition.
Well, for music engravers and copyists like myself, the music notation software we use is our instrument. Or at least, it's our primary instrument. So, taking the approach that music engraving was my instrument, I learned how to practice this new instrument. Some of my “practice time” involves experimenting with new composing techniques and finding ways to make them appear on the page the way I envision them. Other times, I’m working hard at refining and creates templates, or command scripts in various programs to create greater accuracy and efficiency. These kinds of things are not just our tools, but our instruments.
So does this mean we as music engravers let our years of musical training go dim and cold while we become more and more computer technicians. It shouldn’t and in fact, to do our job well, it mustn’t. Here are Engraver’s Mark Music, we get asked often to not only engrave a piece of music, but to edit it for publication as well. That means not only do we have to make sure all the notes are in the right place at the right time, but we have to judge whether it's the right note in the right place at the right time. This takes a very specialized skill set to do both. While a good copyist must know how to notate a passage of music correctly from a technical point of view, they must also know whether it’s written in the appropriate range for the instrument, or whether the instrumentation that is used in an orchestration will achieve the sound a composer and/or orchestrator is looking to achieve.
There are so many decisions that can go into a simple music engraving assignment that it is imperative that a music engraver practices his instrument. At times, this can seem like very un-musical practicing, but it all comes together to create the best version of a composer’s music, made as accurately as possible, with the speed and refinement that should go along with constant practice and refinement of the skill of music engraving. Here at Engraver’s Mark Music, we actually assign homework for our engravers, asking them to explore, create and reimagine our templates, workflows, scripts, editing practices, printing and binding processes and any other part of our business. This makes for an environment where we are constantly looking for ways to improve our understanding of our instruments, create new tools and methods to achieve the results we want and our clients expect from us.
The success and growth of Engraver’s Mark Music isn’t based on repetitive tasks done over and over again until they have become rote and require less and less thought. On the contrary, our business has grown from the moments and places where we really practiced our techniques and skills; honing them to the point where they display the value of our services and expertise to our clients in clear terms, with measurable results and pitch-perfect accuracy. Come and see how a dedicated team of music engravers can show you the results of their practicing, knowing that their dedication to their instrument, will make your music sound and look its best.
Sammy Sanfilippo, CEO of Engraver's Mark Music