Organize Your Sheet Music – What’s Your System?

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“One of these days, I’m going to organize my music!” I have heard that threat many times from students and colleagues, and sometimes myself. Nothing is more frustrating than to be in a hurry to leave the house and be searching frantically for that one piece you thought was right in that stack under the table.

Everyone has their own preferred system to organize their music, but here are the basic methods and some good tips if you’re ready to clean up those piles.

The Folder  Great Music Folder! Whether yours is sleek and attractive in basic black or a colorful design, nothing beats the folder for carrying music to your lessons or rehearsals. It prevents the edges of your music from being crumpled, and it keeps your current music in one handy place. Prefect for “grab and go.” This is a photo of a black folder made specially for music that we decorated at Harp in the Mountains Camp last summer. It’s big enough to hold even large editions without bending. I found these folders at



The Basket 

Music Basket

My student Maura’s basket

  A magazine rack can be a great way to keep your music handy, but not all on your music stand. You can put the magazine rack on the floor next to your chair, and all your music is accessible in one convenient place. If your basket has dividers, you can even store your tuner, metronome and pencils. It’s functional, economical and you can find one to match your decor!


But wait there’s more…

If you have more music to store, I have two more ideas. Both of these address music storage with this important rule in mind: music is best stored flat. You may have noticed that if you try to store music upright in a file, eventually it will curl and bend. Paper was meant to be laid flat.

On the other hand, if you store too much music in a big stack, you can bend or even rip the pages trying to sort through the pile. Here are two of the best options:

The Drawers

Music Cabinet

Music Cabinet

Music cabinets are elegant solutions to music storage. The drawers are big enough to hold large editions, but shallow enough so that the pile will be cumbersome. You can sort your music into categories and file it in an organized fashion. I always keep the top drawer or two of mine for music I am currently practicing. The other drawers are storage. But for those of us who need more room…



The Boxes

Music Boxes

The Best Box

This is my music closet! I discovered these boxes, called The Best Box, online some years ago, and they have saved me hours of painful searching for music I couldn’t find. My music is alphabetized in each category, and I can easily find what I need. There is a nice variety of sizes, so I can choose what fits my music and my space. I get The Best Box at Tempo Music Office.

What categories do I use? I have solos, ensembles, orchestra parts, collections, etudes, wedding music, concertos and a few more. All my music is alphabetized by composer within each category. Ensembles I play with regularly, like Duo Parisienne or SPARX, have dedicated boxes.

Does this stop my desk from getting piled high with music? No, but I know where to put everything when I’m ready to clean house!

Coming soon in another post: going paperless – music in the digital age!

Tell us your favorite music organizing tip!

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  • Elizabeth Volpe Bligh

    I love your ideas on music storage! I have a slightly different system: I catalogue all my music with a number. (A letter could also be added, indicating which category it fits into, i.e. solo, chamber, seasonal, etc.) I keep a small box of recipe cards with dividers. Within each section are the cards for each composer’s name which starts with the letter on the divider. So, under “R”, I have Rimsky-Korsakow, the name of each piece, and the number assigned to it. With this system, I can put my hands on a piece of music within seconds, and I own hundreds of pieces of music. I learned this system from volunteering at the music library at a youth orchestra.


    • Anne Post author

      A very professional system, indeed! And isn’t it a good feeling when you can find what you want?
      I find for most people the difficulty comes as they outgrow one system and need a new one. When did you first decide to catalogue yours?


  • Megan

    I’ve got some fantastic folders where the sleeves can be easily ripped out and reinserted. I use them for my background/wedding gigs as I can easily reset each folder according to any requests for the function. I keep all the most popular requests filed in the plastic sleeves so I can take them from their alphabetical expanding files (providing I’ve put them away in the first place!) and pop them in the folders where required. Love them!


    • Anne Post author

      I think that sounds like a great system. And I have found that the most successful working harpists have systems that they have personalized so that their work is easier, just the way you have!


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