It was asked of me recently if I could discuss my thoughts on what is the best way to submit scores for composition competitions (thank you Dreux!). Not having been involved in these types of competitions myself, I decided to research this question through my network of people here at Berklee that have submitted music for these types of events or have been adjudicators (there are hundreds of competitions worldwide). Here are a few things I found out, in no particular order (most of these you would do for a commercial client as well):
1. Follow the directions that are posted for the competition: This may be obvious, but you would be surprised how many people overlook various submission requirements simply because they didn’t double and triple check what they were submitting in the package, when they were submitting it and how they were submitting it.
2. Don’t miss the deadline: An often missed detail and one that will usually disqualify you right away because of the sheer number of submissions that need to be reviewed.
3. Scores should look professional and created in Finale, Sibelius or other high end notation software. Of course, just because one uses notation software doesn’t mean that they know how to use proper page layout techniques. This one detail could make a big difference in whether your score even gets looked at so give it the priority it deserves. There are several good books on this in print. Another option is to simply have a professional create the score or at least “fine tune” what you’ve already started.
4. Use 11 x 17 inch score paper, in portrait view, for an orchestral size instrumentation. I know from my own experience as an educator how difficult it is to review a score that has 25-30 staffs. Printed on 8.5 x 11 inch paper only makes the job incredibly more difficult and worthy of discarding the score – get out the magnifying glass!
5. Be sure to put a front and back cover on the score. Often, the front cover is clear plastic and the back is black and firm, but there are no absolute rules on this – it just makes the whole score look professional (and special) when this is done.
6. Related to number 5, be sure to bind the score. This is usually done with wire spiral binding or plastic spiral binding. Both of these options are normally pretty easy to take care of at most photo copying centers.
7. Send a sound file of the best quality that you have access to. I’ve noticed in my own research that it is often okay to send a MIDI representation of your work in addition to the score. This is just to speed up the review process and normally a point that is made in the submission guidelines.
8. If the competition is looking for music in the style of George Gershwin, your composition should not sound like something that A.R. Rahman wrote for “Slum Dog Millionaire.” Be sure that your composition fits any stylistic requirements that are called for.
9. Place copyright information (“© 2011 Open Gate Music”) at the bottom of the first page of your score - even if it’s not officially copyrighted through the US Library of Congress.
I can’t say enough how important it is to proof read, proof read and then proof read again before sending out your package. The proof reader doesn’t have to necessarily hear the score the way you do, but a second or third set of eyes will more easily see things that you won’t (they can often be far more objective as well). When ready to proof read, DO NOT do it on the computer. Print out the score so you can REALLY see what it is going to look like. Many mistakes not seen on the computer screen become quite obvious on the printed page. Often, a competition will require several scores from you, so make sure you have thoroughly gone through the score BEFORE printing these extra copies (that are also bound and covered).
I’ve uploaded a couple of scores with different instrumentation and layouts for you to get an idea what is required. I’m certainly open to hearing of anyone else that has had experience with these types of submissions.