Customary Procedures

This page gives a general outline of the customary procedures used by members of the group to scan and share big band charts and audio files. These procedures have been developed by trial and error over a number of years, with hundreds of people, and have been found to work the best of the many alternatives we've tried.


Quick links to the points on this page:
Standard Scoring | Create PDFs | Combine PDFs | File Naming | Audio Files (MP3s) | MusicXML


The Starting Point

For the purpose of this example, let's say you are writing an original chart for big band, and you want to share it with the group. Note that there will be no copyright issues with this.

Standard Scoring

First, you should score your chart as 5444. That means 5 saxes (AATTB), 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, and 4 rhythm (piano, guitar, bass, and drums).


If you're editing a chart created by someone else (again being careful of copyright issues), you might want to add any needed parts to bring the chart to 5444 instrumentation.


Some charts are scored 5334 or even 5544 or 5554. That's okay. It totally depends on the writer. These are all considered "full big band" instrumentations.


Charts with fewer instruments than this are usually considered combo groups. That's okay, too, just be sure to designate (name) them properly.

Create PDFs of the score and parts

There are a number of ways to do this. The easiest and cleanest is to print directly to PDF from your notation program.


Alternatively, you can scan the printed or manuscript parts and create PDFs from the scans. See our PDF tools page for more information on this.


If you've already printed and passed out the parts to your group, and played gigs with them, and they have marks all over them, or if your scans turn out, shall we say, "less than optimal," see our page on Cleaning Scans.

Combine all the PDFs into one PDF file

Do NOT put individual PDFs into a zip file. This is a filing, extraction, and printing nightmare.


Instead, use one of the PDF tools to combine all the files for this tune into one PDF file.


Arrange the pages in this file into the proper collation order: Score first, then saxes in order, then trumpets in order, then trombones in order, then rhythm in piano, guitar, bass, drums order. If there is a vocal part, it comes before the saxes. If there is auxiliary percussion, it comes at the end.

Name Your File Properly

Finally, give your file a name that is friendly to all users.

A properly friendly filename has four essential elements.


It can have any number of optional elements. You can add as many of these optional elements as you wish, up to the 255-character (including extension) file naming limit. It's okay to use spaces. You probably already know that very long filenames are more difficult to deal with than shorter file names. If you're a glutton for punishment and want to learn more than you ever imagined about file names, check out this Wikipedia article. But don't say we didn't warn you.


The four essential file naming elements are:

  • Tune Title. This must come first, because most of us sort by tune title. Please do NOT put anything other than the tune title first, such as "Pages from.." or "3rd Trombone part to..." - you can put these elements later in the file name. The tune title MUST come first.

    You should eliminate (or move to the end of the title) any small words that come at the beginning, such as "A" or "The" so the file will be sorted by the first significant word of the title.

  • Instrumentation. This can be the second or third element in the file name and should consist of AT LEAST four numbers, indicating saxes, trumpets, trombones, rhythm. You can add any other variations to this instrumentation element as will help make it clear what the instrumentation is, just from looking at the file name.

    For example, an instrumentation element of 5444 would indicate a full big band, and 3214 would indicate a combo.

    For charts with vocals, we traditionally use V for (any) vocal, or MV (male) or FV (female), followed by the key of the vocal chorus, as in "Jabberwocky (Tzuris) 3214 FV-D.pdf".

    It is also generally accepted that any chart without instrumentation numbers in the file name is 5444.

  • Arranger. This is the other "second or third" element in the file name (instrumentation being the complement). This can be in parentheses, set off by dashes, or simply stated. Optional additions to this element can be the composer, the artist who made it popular, or the style of the arrangement.

    Including the arranger as an essential element of the file name allows those with multiple arrangements of the same song to quickly distinguish between arrangements and find the one they're looking for.

  • The "pdf" file extension. This is the final essential element of the file name. These three letters, in lowercase, preceded by a period, should be the final four characters in a file name.


OPTIONAL ELEMENTS - you can add as many other descriptions into the file name as you think will help, as long as they fit within the character limits for file names.


Just remember, the main purposes for naming a file this way are (1) so you and anyone you share it with can find it when you/they need it; and (2) so you can tell what's in the file without having to open it.


EXAMPLES - GOOD: Here are some examples of good and acceptable file names:

Angel Eyes 5444 Barduhn.pdf

Brian's Song (Engel) 5443 (-D).pdf

C'Est Si Bon - Osser - C5334 - 37pages.pdf

Day In Day Out 5444 Nestico Count Basie.pdf

Fly Me To The Moon - arr. J. LaBarbera (1st Tenor Part).pdf


These examples all tell you exactly what the file contains, and will be easy to find if you go looking for them.


EXAMPLES - NOT SO GOOD: Here are some examples of file names that just don't work. Can you tell why?



#677 A Fine Romance 8 X 11.pdf


Tenderly (RBrooks - GM Borden) trp feature adaptation from RB rec.pdf

Lazy Sunday (Fenno).pdf



There are tons of audio file formats floating around out there: WAV, MP3, WMA, OGG, MP4, M4A... oh, gag. If you want to gag more, click here to see a list of 30 regularly used audio file formats.


To make things easier on everyone, let's all please send ONLY MP3 audio files. These files can be played by anyone (PC, Mac, LINUX) and are relatively small, at about 10% the size of a WAV file.


If you have control over such things, when creating an MP3 file, use a sampling rate of 44.1mHz and a bit rate of at least 128. 160 is better, and 192 may result in a file that's too large.


If you don't have control over such things, don't worry about it; or just accept the defaults.


Please also observe all COPYRIGHT considerations. It is illegal to distribute copies of a commercially-produced recording. According to the copyright law, it is legal to distribute copies of a recording of copyrighted music provided that (a) you own or administer the RECORDING copyright; (b) the tune itself, if still under copyright by someone else, has been recorded before; and (c) you pay the appropriate compulsory license fee.


When distributing recordings of your own band (or someone else's) playing a tune like Woodchoppers' Ball, if you only send it to our group, and the purpose is not to make money but to give other groups something to listen to so they can play the tune, then the chances are slim that anyone will complain. I had a business law professor that told us "there is no crime until someone complains." You have to make your own decisions as to what tunes you want to send out to the group.


Our official position is we ask everyone to obey the letter of the copyright law. We do not encourage or condone copyright violations of any kind. If you're a masochist or truly want to know, you can read the law here. It may be dense, but it is quite literally the letter of the law.


Finally, you can usually find excellent recordings of a tune on YouTube.


We need someone to do some research on this for us, but my impression is that YouTube (owned by Google) has made an arrangement with the copyright powers such that people can post videos of copyrighted music, and YouTube will set up a compensation arrangement with the copyright holders. There may also be some compensation in this for the posters. This is NOT verified, so if someone can do some research on this and let us know for sure, we'll post the results here.


Be aware, permissions to "produce and distribute" audio recordings are DIFFERENT permissions than those required for a video with sound. The latter is a "Synchronization" license, and requires different procedures than for an audio or phonorecording.


MusicXML is a file format used for exchanging manuscript information between various notation programs. Finale, Sibelius, MuseScore, and Capella all import and export MusicXML files. Because their native file formats are proprietary, using MusicXML is the only way to get a notation file from one of these packages into another.


While we don't yet have much information on how well this works, what we've HEARD is that it works well for transferring the notes, staves, clefs, and time signatures. For most other things, such as dynamics, phrasings, articulations, tempos, and text markings, it's spotty at best. Caution: all this is just hearsay. We've already told you more than we know. You can learn more about it at the Recordare website (they developed it), and on Wikipedia, and from the MusicXML Library on Sourceforge.


We need someone to do some actual research on this topic and report to us, so we can post something better than hearsay. Thanks in advance for any help.

The Bottom Line:

Life will be easier for all of us if we all do things the same way - by group development over a number of years, the way outlined in the guidance above. Thanks so much for your cooperation.


Suggestions for and corrections to this page are welcome.



Please click on any of the links at the top of the page for more information on any of the listed topics.