Score Binding Basics

These days 90% of my performance parts are PDFs printed on my home printer. Unlike beautiful Urtext scores, these loose leafs are hardly stage-worthy. Over the years I've gotten very accustomed to binding these scores myself.

My former teacher, Ronda Rider, calls it "New Music Arts and Crafts". Obviously, she is the best.

Why tape your pages together? Loose leafs on stage are a risky proposition. All it takes is one wrong page shift, a wobbly stand, or an over-zealous air conditioning unit and you're spilling sheet music all over the stage in a not-quite-performance-art kind of way.

Some musicians manage to tape their pages together but don't bind them into a booklet. Have you ever seen the accordion-style spill of music off a stand? It's not pretty and there's no elegant way to recover on stage.

So, for the sake of getting through the concert in one piece...

How to Bind Your Score: Basic Method

Supplies: music, strong matte (non-shiny) tape

1. Tape all of your pages left/right sides together so the piece is one long row of pages. Leave a small gap between the pages as you tape them. Avoid putting tape where you might like to write notes in the future. Pencil doesn't stick well to tape.

2. Fold your music accordion-style to create an unbound book. Now is the time to check your page turns. Did you get the pages in the right order?

3. With the accordion of pages collapsed down to a stack of papers, turn the soon-to-be spine of your score towards you.

4. Gently separate a set of two page-pairs (the points where you already taped the pages together) and bind them together with a piece of tape perpendicular to the pages.

5. Continue to tape these pairs until there are none left.

6. Now tape the pairs into pairs.

7. Repeat until all of your pages are taped together.

At first your music is going to be a little... voluminous... the tape needs time to get broken in. It's a good idea to tape your music as soon as you get it so you have plenty of time to get comfortable with the new set up.

If the piece you're learning is very long (say more than 15 pages) it might be worth having it printed double sided on nice paper and bound professionally. This Basic Method of binding scores doesn't work well if the score gets too think.

There you have it, a basic plan of attack for binding your music. Of course, there are other fancy ways of binding that include third page fold-outs, blank pages for page turns, and tricks that begin to compete with pop-up-book artists, but in due time... mastering the basic method is an important first step.

Does anyone have any particular type of tape their in love with? I usually use regular ole' scotch tape, but I've seen some nice results with masking tape. Do share...


  1. 3m Nexcare Gentle Paper tape is fantastic for this sort of thing. It can usually be found in the first aid section. If I'm not mistaken, it's also the recommended tape of the Major Orchestra Librarians Association.

  2. I've found leaving a score as an accordion fold (I always tape the outside of the fold, meaning p1-p2 is taped on the front, p2-p3 on the back, etc) allows me to see up to three pages at a time, which is often a convenient way to avoid inconvenient page turns.

    1. Oh I love me some three page layouts! I totally know what you're talking about and hope to post some strategies for three page layouts in the future. For now I thought I'd keep it simple :)

  3. Maybe I'm not picturing this correctly. Doesn't this just give the same result as using a loose-leaf binder?

    I'm looking for a good way to deal with a 5-page score that has no easy spots for turning pages.

    1. Hi D., You absolutely are - it does achieve the same result as using a binder. I've personally never liked using a binder, so this is my preferred solution.

      Have you thought about trying a stand extender for your 5-page score? I know the wide stand is annoying in performance, but it can be a nice alternative to two stands. Or if there's one good page turn, you could use a three page layout. Here are links to show you what I mean:


  4. I've found artist's tape to work very well.

  5. Does this work for double sided sheets?