The full score is an invaluable additional rehearsal tool that gives the conductor a complete view of the music for every instrument and singer in the show. Using the full score, the conductor can quickly isolate passages that may require special attention in rehearsals. Unless otherwise noted, the full score is rented as optional additional material with the full orchestration.
About Full Scores
Three decades mark important milestones in the evolution of music materials available for the performance of American Musical Shows: the 1940s, 1960s and 1980s. From before 1900 the set of music materials was always hand-copied manuscript and included a piano-vocal score, chorus and vocal material, a full score and individual orchestra parts. Unless a full-scale, printed edition was created, there was only one way to duplicate these materials: By hand. Consequently, only a few sets of materials for the early musical shows existed. More recently, technology has made it possible and practical for a full score to be produced in multiple copies, allowing for simultaneous performances by amateurs and semi-professionals alike.
Until the development of the diazo blueprint process in the early 1940s, it was impossible to make black and white copies of music manuscript in short runs of less than a hundred copies. All manuscript music material was simply hand-copied. Classical engraving was too expensive and slow to be practical for the commercial theatre. A copyist could make several copies of an 80-page violin book by hand, but not several copies of a 500-page full score. The composer or orchestrator wrote out one full score. That score was used by the music copyist to extract orchestra parts and annotate a rehearsal piano-vocal score for the conductor. All changes made during the tryout period were marked by hand in the orchestra parts, not generally re-entered in the full score. By the time a show was ready for its Broadway opening, the most accurate music material was in the orchestra parts. The full score was no longer necessary and was sometimes discarded or misplaced, never to be seen again.
These conditions served the needs of the theatre until the virtual explosion of the number of amateur and semiprofessional performing groups in the 1960s. The expansion was evidence of the widespread popularity of musical shows, and it was fueled by the long-sought availability of funds for schools to pay royalties for the performance of theatre works protected by copyright. Still the blueprint process worked well for only a few hundred copies—with no improvement in the quality of the actual music notation—and no practical way to make many copies of the manuscript full score. Concurrently the development of the music typewriter and the photocopy machine helped create the volume of material necessary for these additional performances. However, most performances were rehearsed and conducted by people who had no contact with the original production and had never seen the one original full score or even been trained in reading one. Their closest contact with that kind of vehicle was with the published short score used in the band literature. Many music directors simply listened to a Cast Recording to get an accurate idea of what a show was supposed to sound like.
It was still economically impractical to correct, edit and reproduce multiple copies of the one full score. To remedy this, the piano-vocal score became more and more elaborate as the music and orchestration became more complex. On Broadway it developed into a full-blown short score, renamed a Piano-Conductor’s Score. Throughout the rehearsal process, the same Piano-Conductor’s Score had to serve as rehearsal piano score, orchestra piano part and conductor’s score, although these are three musically distinct and separate functions. Nevertheless, an effective, cued piano reduction of the corrected orchestration is sufficient for rehearsal piano and conductor, provided a separate, dedicated orchestra piano part is available.
In the 1980s, software programs for the notation of music using a desktop computer were invented. Music engravers who had helped develop the various forms of the music typewriter also helped with the development of computer software programs, and for the first time in music history, there was now a direct connection between the full score and the individual orchestra parts. Only the set of notes written in the full score needed to be entered with the software; the program extracted the individual parts. Many common manuscript errors made as each part was copied separately from the full score were now all but eliminated. Notation “engraved” on the computer and edited to conform with conventional orthographic principles had become far more readable than most hand-copied material. Each part and the full score could be laid out in a practical fashion, and multiple copies of the parts and the full score were easily printed.
Almost nobody goes to a performance of a Musical Show just to hear the orchestration. It is the songs, dances and story that attract the audience. However, the orchestration is designed to frame this particular show and make an instantly recognizable, unique sound world. All of the music, songs, lyrics and choreography are tied together and given special personality by the sound of the accompanying orchestra. The full score defines exactly how this musical personality looks in notation. In traditional music notation, the full score contains each and all of the instrumental lines, vocal solo and ensemble lines, and lyrics. The sequence, keys and musical structure of numbers is the same in all other music materials. Generally, the music director can see what he hears on the Original Cast Album.
Using the full score, the conductor can quickly isolate instrumental passages that may require special attention in rehearsals. He can better judge which of the available players is best suited for each orchestra part just as the principal singers are carefully selected. With the full score, planning rehearsals, separate for strings, winds and brass, as well as full orchestra with and without singers, is practical and more productive in the limited time available. All musical variables such as rhythm, tempo and balance can be adjusted to the musical forces playing and to the acoustics of the performance space.
Conductor, singers and players can communicate about any interpretive idea they wish to express. There should be no more opaque moments where the conductor has to imagine what the players are actually asked to do, by studying a piano reduction. With the full score, the mystery of who plays what is removed. Every phrase can be rehearsed efficiently and logically so that the focus remains always on the most musical aspects of the performance.
© 2014 Tams-Witmark Music Library, Inc.