Before sitting down to begin work on a piece, a few things can be done to make your life easier.
I make copies of all my sheet music and place them in a binder. This serves two purposes: (1) it keeps the original nicer while still having a performance edition and (2) it lets me keep all my repertoire for a season in one place. After making copies, arrange your pages for minimal page turns. Printed editions often lack a really great organization — fitting the stuff in X pages trumps make sure the page turns are okay.
You can also trim the edges of copies so they fold nicely into the binder. In addition, tabbed separators can be used to organize the pieces.
After the music is organized, hole-punched, and in the binder go through with a highlighter and mark all the dynamic changes with a color. Mark the tempo indications and alterations with another color.
This prevents the dreaded circling of, “important things.” Teachers and students alike often just circle important things on the page (such as dynamics!). After a few months working on the music everything ends up with a circle around. This is ridiculous, but a few highlighters can fix the problem.
In addition to drawing your attention to the expression markings during practice, this sort of pre-reading and marking will give you an idea of the dynamic content of a piece before starting work.
Let’s face it: not a one of us knows, with certainty, every musical term in foreign languages. After the first two steps are done, go through the music an translate every term you’re unfamiliar with. This is easily done with a music dictionary. Sometimes it can be enlightening and interesting to translate the terms with a simple Italian to English or French to English or German to English dictionary. Write in the definitions as best you can next to the terms.
- Write in Fingerings (optional)
Some people like to write in fingerings before sitting down to work on a piece. If that works for you, feel free to add fingerings while prepping the score. I prefer to do this with a guitar in my hand. That said, fingering a piece should be done as early as possible so muscle memory can be accurately dialed in sooner.