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Music Copyist

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Career Description: Transcribe musical parts from scores onto staff paper.

Salary: Not Available

Music Copyist Jobs

About This Music Career

As the name suggests, a Music Copyist transcribes musical parts of a score from an Music Arranger, Composer, or Orchestrator onto staff or manuscript paper. Various instrumental or vocal parts are the what Music Copyist usually reproduces. It is their knowledge of musical notation and musical background that helps the Music Copyist succeed at their task.

The Music Copyist does all of this in an attempt to facilitate the playing or singing of a musician or vocalist. Thus, it is important for the Music Copyist to copy the music neatly and accurately, because if not, it will be extremely difficult for the artist to perform. As a result, in many cases Music Copyists now utilize computer hardware and software to do this job.

Different things a Music Copyist may encounter includes being asked to copy a score that has been changed, or to copy various parts for different instruments. If the Music Copyist is talented musically, they may write the music directly from a record or tape onto paper without even looking at a copy of the music. This is not an easy task, and requires an advanced knowledge of music theory, harmony, composition, notations, and orchestration.

The Music Copyist may work full-time, independently, or for a Music Publisher (need a list of music publisher contacts?), or part-time.

Music Copyists are guaranteed a certain amount in minimum fees and wages, as set forth by the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) – Different types of work result in different fees. Music Copyists are paid usually by each page copied, in relation to the score page. It is sometimes agreed that the Music Copyist be paid by the hour.

Anyone interested in becoming a Music Copyist is urged to contact the AFM for up-to-date rates.

Music Copyists should enjoy good employment prospects, as there are opportunities for individuals in major music and cultural centers, as well as in smaller cities – there is an abundance of composers, Writers, Arrangers (also known as Transcribers), and Orchestrators who require the service of a Music Copyist.

It is common for many Music Copyists do this job part-time while concurrently pursuing a career as a Singer, Musician, Composer, etc. Students can also perform copying duties while in school.

As mentioned, Music Copyists can advance their careers by shifting into a position as an Arranger, Composer, Singer, or Orchestrator. There are also Music Copyists who advance as Music Editors for music publishing companies.

Education and Training
There is not a formal education requirement in order to break in as a Music Copyist. But, they must know how to transcribe parts of music onto manuscript paper.

They must also have a good knowledge of musical notation, theory, and more. This knowledge can be gathered from courses in high school, college, music universities or from private music lessons. It's not unheard of for Music Copyists to self-teach themselves the skill.

Experience, Skills, and Personality
As mentioned, to be successful, the Music Copyist must know how to transcribe musical parts onto manuscript paper. They should be able to decipher music notations and should be knowledgeable of music theory. They must write neatly and accurately, and they should know their way around a computer and relevant software.

Many Music Copyists are Musicians themselves and are aspiring Songwriters and Arrangers.

Unions and Associations
The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and the American Society of Music Copyists are a couple of the organizations Music Copyists can belong to.

Suggestions for Getting Started

  • Advertise your services in newspapers or entertainment magazine in your area.
  • Hang signs and flyers in music stores and showcase clubs in your area.
  • Search the internet and newspapers for music industry careers and any job openings.
  • Seek out local acts and groups to let them know you provide a useful service in their area
  • Be sure to join the American Federation of Musicians.