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What hardware should I use for Filing choral music?

Thanks for all the responses, so many! polly

We have about 600 titles in our choir library. We keep each title in a
separate filing box (Gamble Heavy Duty # 70B201, 70B202, & 70B203 depending
on size needed). The titles are numbered consecutively in order of the time
I entered the info into the computer -- 001 being the oldest, 628 is
currently the most recent. All pertinent information about the music (title,
composer, arranger, voicing, file #, subject , season, etc.) is entered into
a simple data base. That info is then used to print the labels for the boxes
as well as lists sorted by whatever criteria is important. (I have separate
printouts sorted by Title, Composer, Subject, and Scripture reference.)

By having an open numbering system, new acquisitions always become the
highest numbers to date. You don't have to worry about shifting things
around if, for example, your Christmas shelf starts to overflow. There is no
Christmas shelf. The numbering of the titles is essentially random--it
doesn't matter what the number is--everything is in the database.

The file boxes are stored on shelving that I built from standard parts
available from Home Depot. Since the file boxes are 7-!/2" high, I set the
shelves 8" apart. This allows for maximum storage as I can fit 10 rows of
shelving under an 8' ceiling height. Also with the close spacing, the
optional dust covers are unnecessary.

Good luck with your project.

-- --------------
I use the Pepper file folders in my filing cabinet.

We got cheap file cabinets from a used place, and use standing accordion
files in them. I have it catalogued in a simple data base on the
computer, so I can find what we have quickly. They are stored by title,
because that is how most of the member would look, but the data base is
searchable by composer, etc.


My ensemble is small enough (an octet) that I can get away with hanging
folders in a file cabinet. For me, it's never been where one puts the
stuff, but how to remember what you have and when you performed it for whom.

Whether you put it on shelves, in filing boxes, or in drawers, you
should use Your Music Librarian software to keep track of it. For less
than $150, you can organize your entire library, manage your rosters,
design your performances and print great-looking programs. And version
2, which will be available soon, will also organize your
uniforms/costumes, instruments, and accessories.

Find us on the web at

John W. Leeger
Your Music Librarian, Inc.


Polly, I've found the simplest and cheapest is to use filing cabinets (legal
size-width if you can get them) and file each piece in a 2"-expansion manila
file jacket. If you have large numbers of a work, you use as many file
jackets as necessary and make sure they are marked "1 of 4" and so forth. I
have maintained my libraries this way as well as on shelves, and I found
them to be equally fine on preserving the music in good condition (since
unlike folders, file jackets have completely closed sides, nothing spills
out and nothing pokes in; and even the cheap manila jackets are rigid enough
that the music stands upright instead of bowing as it does in plain folders.

I use a two-number system: a library number stamped in black in the upper
lefthand corner of the cover (or, if the cover is slick, in the upper
righthand corner of the title page) and an individual folder number written
in red ink just below it (consecutive through however many copies one has of
the piece). Each singer has a unique folder number (1 is the director, 2
and 3 are the accompanists) and receives the copies with their folder
number. If they are ever issued an octavo with some number other than their
own, a note to that effect goes into the file jacket so we know when
collecting them who is responsible for what, as when two different choirs
are doing the same work (multiple choir works). Then the octavos are stored
in numerical order in the file cabinets except for the oversize ones (which
are stored in their own legal-size cabinet in legal-size jackets).

In an ideal world, I'd want shelves and the black boxes with lids, but I've
made do with shelves and the jackets in a previous job and that was not bad
at all.

BTW, my personal single-copy files are in jackets by voicing and theme.
They are stored in white filing boxes on industrial-strength wire shelves
in two double closets at home. There are nine (maybe ten) of those boxes,
since I do/have done just about every level/voicing/interest both pastoral
and school. I write comments on the cover and I even keep copies of
settings I don't like so that if I'm looking for a specific text setting or
arrangement and there are twenty available (Amazing Grace, for instance) I
don't accidentally repurchase a single copy of something I've already
decided won't do (and they may come in handy with a different group in the
future, who knows!).

Pax Domini sit semper tecum.

Patricia Warren, DMA

We use the old-fashioned system of regular file cabinets with hanging
folders.....if the file cabinets do not have the hardware for hanging, you
can purchase them at an office supply store.......also the hanging
The Wenger system is nice but way out of our price range.
Marvin Huls
Westmoreland Choral Society
Shirley Huls
Westmoreland Youth Chorus
Greensburg. Pa.


Kenyon bought that shelf system from Wenger--best I've ever seen or used.


We use full suspension legal sized file drawers - the regular kind,
no specifically for music. I cut file folders down to 10-1/2" - and
can get two sets of music if I file sideways - approaching the drawer
from the side. It sounds weird, but it really works for us - and the
price is right. Make sure to get full-suspension files so the drawer
can be pulled out all the way. Good luck!
Best wishes,
Mike Ellingsen


Mine is simple and the only one I like! Each piece is given a number, which
stamped on it. I made up a stamp that says "Music Department, Univ at
MX ____" (MX is mixed, W is women, M is men). the first piece I buy is MX
and so on. It doesn't work to file alphabetically either by title or
becuase very time you buy a new piece you have to move all the boxes!

Then set up a simple database where you can look up pieces by whatever you
might need: composer, title, season, text, type of piece, a cappella,
voicing, etc. Mine

# of copies
type (madrigal, non-western, part-song, Xmas, Jewish, patriotic, humor, etc)

I have it on all the computers here, in case one crashes. But since this
set up long before computers, I also have everything on an index card file,
one set for composers, one for titles. It enver crashes!

Good old filing cabinets do the trick for us. Chances are that you can

get used ones cheaply, or even donated. Then, the music is placed in (or

divided by, depending on quantity) labeled manila folders. The music is put

in alphabetical order by title.

Finally, it helps to keep a record of all music, either on computer or

on a hand-written/typed list (preferably both, in case of computer crashes).

If you keep it on computer, keep a back-up disk or two, and an updated

print-out as well.

What to keep on this record ? (Alphabetical) titles of music,

with composer, instrumentation, usage (children? adult choir? adults and

children ?), and voice distribution. Perhaps make a list of composers, with

their works listed beneath them.

Also, it'll be useful down the road (and hundreds of octavos later) if

you now begin to keep a listing of events, seasons, or topics that you can

easily divide or categorize your music into.

I hope that this has been helpful !

---Armand J. Di Scenna---


We looked at all the options we could find. Honestly, the Wenger units
did not impress us as much as the storage units from a firm called "Space
Saver." These are expensive (like the Wenger's), but with more flexibility
and better construction. They sound like more than you need at this point.

You say you have 14 boxes. At that size, file cabinets might do just
fine. We have ours alphabetically by title, with regular-size music in the
file cabinets. We still keep "larger" works (such as Messiah -- things
which are book-size) on shelving, as those books simply eat up the
file-cabinet space.

For cataloging, at the size of your library, a simple Excel file will
do pretty well. Headings for catalog #, Composer, arranger, title, voicing,
season or occasion, and whatever else (publisher, numbr of copies, whatever
you need). Then you can sort it out by any of these fields. For a more
detailed kind of access, we're going to a database program from File-Maker
pro. Haven't got it all worked out yet, but it looks like it will do the

I keep my music in a numeric file system, placed in file folders, housed in
upright file cabinets.
I use a microsoft access database file for the database. I have the music
catagorized by title, composer, arranger, text, purchase date, etc.

I will share the access file if you wish to use it.
I like wenger, but seriously, the file cabinet is just as good at half the



We use lateral filing cabinets with anthems put into file folders first
(some with side closures, some not) and then into hanging folders. I have
used the Wenger system and also the Gamble music boxes. Both are more
expensive (Wenger & Gamble) but good- it just depends upon what your budget
for music administration really can afford...

Chris Beaver


I like a filing cabinet system with manila folders. (It's the easiest
way for pulling out one copy to look over and play.) And I've found
that when the drawers begin to be too crowded, I can ask for a filing
cabinet in the church newsletter and acquire one. I file by title, but
essential to finding the right anthem is my data base that cross
references composers, subjects, solo instruments used in the
accompaniment, and vocal soloists used. The most important of these is
SUBJECT! I keep Easter and Lent/ Christmas and Advent in separate
filing boxes. There are many systems for doing this, and software
programs, which you will no doubt hear about from our colleagues.

Ruth McKendree Treen


I have tall open metal shelving and MusiiFile Boxes from Gamble. I have
the 3 in boxes (they also have 1 and 2 inch sizes) and put multiple
selections in the same box. Just mark what is in the box. I have finally
gotten everything on a Appleworks6 database and soon (o bliss) I will
touch a button and have printed lables instead of scibbles on the box.
I like the system because I can browse for "inspiration". I put our major
works in big stationary boxes and keep them, labeled on the side, on the
top of the shelves.

Stephen A. Stomps, Director of Choirs


Never underestimate the ability of children. They can surprise you when
presented with a challenge!)

Polly Murray
Founder/Artistic Director
ChildrenSong of New Jersey

Dear colleagues,

Thank you to those who resonded to my query about filing systems. Given all
considerations, I think we will go with the Gamble boxed on shelves on 3
walls and a cabinet/counter on the 4th wall. Walls with be approx. 12' high
and we'll keep a ladder in there permanently. We will continue using a
number system on a data base. Thank you again for your responses (see

Douglas J. Benton
Director of Music Ministries
Gold Canyon UMC, AZ

* * *

What I would like to have is the Wenger music file system. It's too
expensive, however.

Consider using hanging files in the standard cabinets. I now use them
in vertical files and am very happy with them. I've found that I can
place more music into a smaller space with the files than I could with
boxes, which I used for many years. Also, I find the files are a bit
more convenient since there are no tops to take off, etc. With the tabs
that usually come with the files, the music is easily labeled.

* * *

I agree the boxes are a pain, but they keep the music in good shape and look
much better that file folders.

* * *

I know Wenger is a good name to trust, you may want to search around
their website at ... another site that has a
similar storage system to Wenger's is so you may want to check them
out as well. Hope this helps.

* * *

Oh...I have the same problem you have, except, I have
all of my octavos in file cabinets in folders, not boxes.

* * *

There's a ChoralNet resource on this topic: > Other Links > Choral Accessories > Filing

[I should have known!]

* * *

I have used every type of storage from the envelopes to the whit boxes to
the hard boxes, and the thing I have found best is expanding file pockets
(made by Mead or Sanford). You can get them at an office supply store
anywhere. Here are the advantates:

1. They stand vertically and don't flop or curl like envelopes
2. They have hard front and backs, so they protect the music quite well.
3. They are only slightly wider than the music you have in them (unlike the
boxes that are at a set width).
4. You can put a label on them that is plainly visible.
5. They are less expensive than most other systems
6. You can buy them in different sizes (1.5" to 3" I believe)
7. You can use them in file drawers or shelves.

There is my two cents. Hope that helps!

* * *

First, congratulations! You are indeed in an enviable position!

Second, I actually prefer the Gamble boxes, and always have. In my present
situation, I have a bunch of file cabinets, but I don't like them. It's too
hard to see what is there, if things are filed correctly, etc., whereas with
the Gamble boxes, it's very easy to see what is there and if things are in
order. I think they also look neater, than a bunch of mis-matched file
cabinets (which is what I have now).

At one church, where I bought the Gamble boxes, I was able to get the labels
done in different colors of ink to distinguish between liturgical seasons,
which also was a quick reference, but then that was before the days of
computers. I now have my music library in a database, so that is not as
much an issue.

* * *

I like my industrial strength metal shelves. I can walk down the "aisles"
and see what I want quickly (much to the chagrin of some of my
librarians). I have 3in Gamble octavo boxes which are amply sturdy for
sitting on shelves and inexpensive enough not to worry if they get

* * *

Some years ago, when the choir library in the church I attended was
redesigned, they installed a counter (rather like a kitchen counter, but
without a sink!) with vertical files of the kind you described beneath
(three tiers, as I recall, and the counter was long enough for three or
perhaps four file drawers, the kind that pull out sideways). Octavo
copies were filed in these hanging files. Thicker copies (oratorios,
complete masses, requiems, ...) were stored in cupboards above the
counter, lying flat on shelves. The bottom shelf of the cupboards was
reserved for choristers: hymnal, psalter, music in current rehearsal,
stored vertically (like a bookcase) for each singer.

* * *

My choral library back in Michigan simply used hanging files in a regular
file cabinet. I liked it because it was so easy to read. I took out the
current literature and put it in a rolling cabinet. When I finished with
it, it went back into the cabinets. Worked great! I'm sure you'll get
lots of ideas.

* * *
on August 3, 2008 10:00pm
My needs for storage are somewhat limited as I am a private teacher. I however have the ever growing octavo collection. I discoverd quite by accident that PHOTO STORAGE boxes are a perfect fit for Octavo's. They can be purchased locally ($1.99) They are acid free and acrival safe. They stack and have a place for lables. (plus they come in great colors and designs)
This system would not work for a large collection but will help orginize the smaller collection, especially if your filing needs are "Christmas, Easter, SSA, SATB, Old college music etc.
I do keep all my piano & instrumental (and larger format vocal) music in hanging files. I found it necessary to move my octavos out of my hanging files to make more room for lesson method books.