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How do you organize your "Songbook"

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22 Users
Noble Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1497

I used to memorize everything and never bring a cheat sheet to the gig. But the bands I played in then only had about 100 or so songs in their "book" and played them over and over again.

The duo I'm in now has almost 500 songs in the "book".

Plus the "memorized music" bands I was in could change the arrangement on the spot if somebody got lost.

The duo I'm now in plays to pre-recorded backing tracks (created by myself). If either Leilani or I gets lost, the backing track will not be able to accommodate us.

So while most of the <500 songs are memorized (all but the newest ones), it is nice to have the "cheat sheet" out there for a reference.

If a symphony orchestra can have music in front of them, so can I ;)


Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats >^. .^< >^. .^<

Noble Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 2171

It's rare to have a computer and printer at a gig

Something weird occurred to me when I read that - so I went and checked all my folders, just to be sure. Yep, I was right. Every single one of the songs in each of those folders is written out in longhand!

Most of mine are too -- I print out staff paper with big wide staves and then use a medium sharpie to write out the chords and melody.

BIG and BOLD are visible in bad light and odd angles. The stuff that comes out of a printer is pretty darn useless outside of the practice chair, imho.

"The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." -- HST

Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 155

For the most part, my songs are in a black marbled Composition Book, which i love because pages don't tend to fall out, like with spiral notebooks.

"The Beauty of Music is my Sanity. Without it, I would simply lose my gravity, and blow away with the breeze." - Ness K(Aka Matt Harris)

Trusted Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 43

I use a free small program called Notekeeper ( Ver: 0.9.4 from ). Very nice program to keep notes of any kind in a file cab type system.It even takes pictures but If it only has text in it then it stays a very small file. I've used one for years and it's still small enough that I can back it up by saving it in the free Yahoo briefcase. I try to keep one file just for music. It's formatable so I try to just keep all songs, theroy charts ,bookmarks or whatever in it then just print off when needed.A tip though is, if you copy text from a web site paste it in a regular windows notepad set for courier new ,then copy that and paste over to Notekeeper. For hard copys I put em in 3 ring hardshells w/ those see-thru plastic page holders.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5480

This is something I did over the past summer during some spare mements. For years, I had them just plain piled up. After that got too much, I alph-ordered them. .

After that got too much, I sorted them by genre and sub genres, which didn't work out so well with some artists. I still have much in that genre/sub-genre area sitting in folders and placed neatly on a side table in a stand, but I'm going to work on that next.

After that, I whittled the list of songs that I played down to a reasonable number so that I could focus on them instead of happening upon them once a month or something. I moved my favorite 105 songs into 5 manilla folders, and played out of one folder, then antoher and so on and so forth until I got "decent" with each, save for thre occasional rough spot or memory problems.

This past weekend, with my Brother-in-law, he wanted to play a song that I knew, but could not remember. Took me forever to dig through the folders to find it. It had to change.

Just two nights ago as the Sox were getting stomped, I sat on the table and too the three ring binder and punched holes and alpha sorted the songs by title. There's actually some additional songs that made the back end of one of the folders that's in there now too. It's probably up to about 130 now and will probably stay there. I was on my way to a 6th folder.

I've also got two other folders. One labeled "Too Difficult", which I go back to every few months and discover that I can play them all of a sudden. The other is called "Purgatory", which is when I added on to one of my sets of 21 folders, I had to take one out. I'll probably just end up putting them in the three ring binder too.

My last folder is called "New Tries". This is where I'll print off a bunch of stuff after some late night surfing. If I like it, it'll end up somewhere else. If not, I normally just leave it in there. I really only toss if I know something is really amuck with the sheet....which certainly can happen.

"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin

Reputable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 424

I have both electronic files and some hard printed copies. I have more electronic files than I have printed stuff. That's because I may copy a song off the Internet, but I don't print it until I am ready to work on it.

The elctronic files are in a directory, with subdirectories named after the artist. Plus there is one subdirectory titled "Miscellaneous" for artists that I only have 1,2 or 3 songs by.

I have two three ring binders for the printed stuff. There is a smaller (1 inch) working binder that has only stuff I am currently playing or learning. This binder has three sections- originals, Jimmy Buffett songs (since I do a lot of those), and other covers. Each are arranged alphabetically by song title. The other binder is larger and has everything else, arranged alphabetically by title. I bought a set of those A to Z dividers for that one.

Lately I have been whittling down the number of songs in my working binder; I only want stuff in htere I am apt to play. Sometimes I have put songs in there, begun to work on them, and later left them for whatever reason. Those I have been putting back into the big binder.



"Growing Older But Not UP!"

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