Organize Music Repertoire

If there is one thing we music therapists have a lot of, it’s this: music. We’re constantly writing, collecting and purchasing songs to use with our students and clients, and I know I’m not the only one who has struggled with the best way to keep my ever-growing repertoire organized.

I quickly learned that my least favorite place to keep music is inside of books — they’re hard to keep open when I’m playing, I forget which songs are in which book, and most of the time I’m in a different room than my music library. I don’t buy books of music anymore; instead, I go for single digital downloads so that I’m not unnecessarily paying for music I’ll never use.

Years ago, I camped out in my living room and binge-watched “How I Met Your Mother” on Netflix while scanning basically all of my favorite songs from the dozens of books I own. It was a long week of tedious work, but so worth it to have digital and printed copies.

Beyond that, I’ve come to realize that there isn’t necessarily one “best” way to keep my music organized. Rather, I rely on 4 different methods to keep tabs on the resources I use every day.

  1. A massive binder.  A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about my big blue binder of music therapy songs. I started compiling this huge 4-inch binder at the beginning of my internship, and it has come in very handy ever since. The songs are organized by category, which makes it quick and easy to find just the right type of song at a moment’s notice. I have electronic copies of most of the songs in my binder, but sometimes it’s more handy to have a physical copy ready to grab and go.
  2. File folders. I also have a small filing cabinet where I keep copies of repertoire for voice students. These are songs that I already have multiple copies of, and can pick out for a student during his or her lesson. Like my binder, I have folders designated by category and then the songs are alphabetized by title within them.
  3. iPad apps. Once upon a time, I spent an entire week scanning a ton of my music and organizing it across a few of my favorite iPad apps. My go-to is Gigbook, which I use not only for my music therapy sessions and lessons, but also for playing gigs. You can sort songs into categories, folders, and set lists, and even make edits to your music and add notes on the fly. Another favorite app is MusicNotes, which instantly syncs with your sheet music purchases from the website. So when I buy a song download for a session or lesson, I can access the music right away on my iPad without having to print. It will even give me transposition options, which comes in super handy.
  4. Dropbox. I would say that at least 60% of the electronic files on my computer’s hard drive are lesson or music therapy repertoire. My music is neatly organized by category, and I can easily search for a song or folder. When I worked at The Hope Institute in addition to running my studio, I needed my repertoire collection in two places on a daily basis. So instead of carrying around a flash drive, printing hard copies, or emailing files to myself, I simply moved my aforementioned electronic folders into my Dropbox account. I could pull them up on any computer, and even on my iPhone or iPad. Dropbox has seriously changed the way I access my music, and I even utilize it to store and share my original songs with members of Listen & Learn Plus.

I am a total nerd when it comes to systems and organizations, so having my music spread out over several different mediums and platforms does make me a little twitchy at times. But I’m at the point where I know exactly where to reach depending on the student and/or setting, which is major progress.

What is your favorite way to organize repertoire? I love learning about new ways to make my work life easier, so please share your tricks of the trade with me. I would be thrilled to add to this list!