Judith Weir CBE, Master of the King's Music
David Matthews

The final touch

By Martin Jones

The work doesn’t stop when you’ve finished composing a piece – well, not if you want to get it played. I recently finished my 16th String Quartet, making four since I made my third volume of sets of parts (that was Quartets 9 to 12). So it was time to create Volume Four, with Quartets 13 to 16. They are all written in Dorico notation software, which makes it relatively easy to produce printed scores and parts.

I had already inserted rehearsal letters or figures. The first extra thing for practicality was to create cues towards the end of long rests, and ahead of awkward entries.

Then I needed to adjust the engraving so that page turns were easy, or at least possible, for the players. I also chose a fairly large stave size so that the parts would be clear at playing distance. This usually meant arranging turns before a page was filled, thus needing the staves to be spread out a bit to look nice. That also has the advantage of leaving space for the players to write things in (e.g. bowing or fingering) over the music. I also had to decide whether to start the part on a right-hand or left-hand page. Occasionally a blank page would help. These considerations were less important for the score, so I chose a smaller stave in order to reduce the number of pages.

Then page numbers had to be adjusted to fit with the whole volume. I put an index page for the volume right after the cover, and then a title/index page, with a programme note, before each quartet.

The big job then was the proof-reading. I found places where cautionary accidentals would be helpful. I found surplus slurs here and there, and occasionally a missing one. I moved a few clef changes. I changed some beaming. Then I went through it all again and found some more. I checked dynamics, page headings and fonts.

At last it was time to print. Three copies of everything to make three sets. A system to keep the printed pages in order. Inks to replace. A certain amount of paper wastage. Then you notice something else by way of proof-reading and have to print odd pages again.

Finally binding time, with a nice transparent front cover and a black endpaper. I have a comb binder which perforates up to 8 sheets at a time. Each set has over 400 pages. The binder helps to get the comb through the punched holes, but it always needs a bit of finishing off by hand. So if anyone wants to try my quartets, they are now well presented and easy to explore. You can sample a few on my Youtube Channel (, Nos 7, 12 and 14.