"Standard" paper sizes for orchestral (conductor's) score?

I know there probably isn't any standard, but just wondering what are the usual paper sizes employed for a conductor's score with 16-18 staves?  Something that's comfortable to read and not too spaced out that it's difficult to pick out the lines at a glance, but not too compressed that notation starts clashing / becomes confusing to read.

Reason I'm asking: my notation software standardizes to the system default paper size (US Letter), which is laughably small for a 16-18 stave orchestral score unless I shrink the notation to an unreadable microscopic font.  What would be a more reasonable setting to use?

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  • I like 11 x 17, sometimes called tabloid, but I'm not a conductor. They might need a much larger format. But then again, is the conductor really reading notes on a finite level, or merely gisting the overall rythmic flow and pace as melodic contours and patterns?

    • Haha, true.  I guess it's more of what's more comfortable for me to read on the screen, than any real consideration of conductor's expectations. :-D  After all, changing paper size is just one setting away... (well, modulo tweaking layout-specific details, but that's a given).

      Still, it would be interesting to know what "standard" practice is.

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    • This is generally useful for study scores, where it makes little sense to print pages upon pages of rests.  For a conductor's score to be used during rehearsal / performance, I suspect the unabridged score would be preferred.  But I could be wrong.

    • depends on the piece, but I'd say generally try to keep the staves consistently in place within a single movement (percussion/piano/harp a possible exception, depending on their use, but you can also sometimes reduce those to single staves to save space in the full score)

    • Quite much of my scores contain many empty staves per page but I still like the it to have all the staves as it gives continuity from page to page. (in he earlier incarnation of this foru and elsehwere ask if I could run one off omitting empty staves (which I'll do) so it's preference really. 

  • I use A3 and scale my notation to fit, which may not be directly helpful to you. I can attach a sample of one of my scores that's been recorded, if useful - as it proves my system works :)

    Really though, I've just arrived at my preferred system of sizing and spacing through studying other scores (John Williams mainly, being both modern but also old-school in terms of scale and instrumentation), adopting those tenets, and tweaking until everything fits together. I suspect that most orgs will print conductor scores on A3 as long as the original files are close enough in scale.
    • Interesting recommendation.  I guess in this day and age where musicians are more and more adopting iPads and other such devices for scores, paper size isn't really as big an issue anymore, as long as the page proportions are more-or-less OK, the machine will just scale it to fit.  And even when a paper copy is used, scores are transmitted electronically anyway and will just be scaled to fit regardless.

      A3 sounds like a good size though, for the number of staves needed in a good-sized orchestra, with enough space to spare to avoid clashes in most cases.  The font is kinda small on my screen though. My aging eyes are deteriorating. :-(  I'd probably get by with squeezing it to A4 and re-render it in A3 when (if :-P) I send it to a real orchestra, instead of the virtual one in my virtual concert hall which is perfectly happy with any size. ;-)

    • It would still be difficlt with massive scores that could possibly be fitted onto A3 but quite a squeeze. I'm thinking of Havergal Brian's Gothic Symphony, last movement, that runs to 55 staves.

      I personally do my scores for sending round on A4 if I can but have turned to A3, wirebound.

  • 9"x12" is generally considered significantly better than 8.5"x11" for standard orchestral scores and parts but obviously you need a printer that can handle that. I invested in a refurbished HP LaserJet 5200 a couple years ago and it's great for this (it can handle 12x18 so two pages of 9x12). Of course you can go 11x17 with a standard printer but sometimes it is overkill (and unwieldy).

    • Thanks for the tip, John.  What about notation size, if I use 9x12 for paper size?  Just shrink to fit?

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