Save Money when Binding Music Scores

In these hard economic times, many composers cannot afford the costs of having their scores professionally bound. At the local printshop, scores can cost anything from $5 to $25+ each, depending on size, paper quality, number of pages, graphics, etc.

I have saved myself literally thousands of dollars by learning how to print my own scores. With an initial investment of about $100 for a binding machine, coils, and paper, within the first month, I made back twice that amount of money. Not only is is great to save money, it is extremely convenient for creating last minute copies for submissions, forgetful musicians, interviews, etc. A binding machine is also great for grant proposals and job applications.

What you will need:

A Binding Machine
A standard manual comb binding machine, adjustable for letter-sized and up to 50 regular 24 lb. paper usually runs less than $100. There are extremely inexpensive hand punching models, but these are limited in that they only punch a limited number of pages at one time and can become quite tiring. I purchased the GBC Comb Bind for $60 eight years ago and have no complaints. The main drawback is that you cannot bind vertical 11x17 scores. There are more professional versions that are entirely automated and can do both large and small print scores, but these can run into the hundreds of dollars.

The front and last page of your score, at least, should be a thicker type of paper. Home printers don't take too kindly to heavy 90 lb. cardstock, so you will have to find something in between. Thin 24 lb. paper should not be used for scores. I also like using off-whites, but don't get too fancy with your paper. You can purchase any sizes you need at the local office supply store. Avoid buying paper directly from print shops. Some of them hike up the prices for specialty papers.

Combs come in a variety of sizes, from small 1/8" to 2.5". The box will tell you how many average pages the comb can hold. If your machine only has capacity for 50 pages, however, it is pointless to buy combs that hold 200 pages. Combs should be black or white and allow easy (but not too easy) turning of pages.

A Good Printer
Whether you will be scanning a handwritten score or printing directly from Sibelius or Finale, you need to have a reliable printer. From personal experience I absolutely love my HP (and loathe the Brother printer at work). Now, you may want to do copies at a print shop for double-sided scores. Binding can still be done at home. For lengthy scores, the hours spent trying to manually create double-sided pages may not be worth your time. Black and white copies are farely cheap at most printshops. Color copies can run $1 per page, so you may want to see if it is worth it to print any color pages at home. If you DO use the copier at the print shop, make sure the glass is clean.

How to bind:

1) Read the recommendations and instructions for your binder first.
2) Insert the comb according to your binder's instructions.
3) Punch a test page first to check for alignment.
4) If the test page comes out correctly (all holes are within the page, not skewed, etc.), then begin with a few pages at a time (unless you have a machine version, then you can probably do an entire score with one punch!).
5) Punch the pages
6) Lace the holes in the pages with the combs.
7) Always remain consistent with your punching (front to back or back to front of score).
8) Don't rush! Make sure you are punching the score in the correct order and that everything lines up well.
9) When you are done, close the combs and check the score.
10) If everything is okay, you can move on. If something is misaligned or out of order, you can open the combs again with the binding machine and see if you can correct it.

(Oh, and a little print shop secret, if the hole is just a little off, you can "mend" it with clear tape and repunch it).

This video on YouTube explains how to sew your own music binding cover:


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