VP, I had an analogous experience as a debate judge (competitive debate requires a notetaking style known as "flowing").
Tell me more about this "flowing." Are there tricks? Ways of forming letters that are more efficient?
1. Are you writing comments while the student is still performing, or just in the time between students??? I don't know what the norms are for music competitions, but in the competitive speech/debate community, writing while a student is still speaking is considered SOP. It really speeds up our ability to write comments.
I'm writing the whole time, both during the performance & afterwards. Sometimes I am writing while watching them, so I am looking at them but writing on the paper at the same time.
2. How structured are the forms provided?? Is it basically a free response on your part, or are there guiding questions for judges? If there are any guiding questions (as there were on some high school debate ballots when I judged), use those questions to your advantage. In the case of debate, I frequently underlined key parts of each question and drew arrows with two or three words.
Annoyingly, there are both of these things. There's a rubric at the top with explanations of categories (and I do what you do; underline particular elements that are listed), and I have to put an X in the column that indicates their score on the rubric in that area, then there's a blank space for comments next to each rubric category, then there's a general blank space for comments at the bottom. It is impossible to write in all of these spaces given the limited time, so what I have been doing is mostly using the general comment section at the bottom for comments, especially because a) I think they have not done such a great job at separating out the individual rubric categories, so a lot of comments transcend the boundaries of categories, and b) there is not enough room in the upper comment sections to write anything useful. So I end up writing a paragraph in the general comments section, putting X's in the appropriate scoring boxes, underlining a few key phrases, and writing an occasional word or two in the category comment section.
The thing is, if we dock them points in any category, we have to justify/explain why. So if they have crappy intonation, terrible rhythm, and lousy posture, I have to write sentences about each of those things -- I can't just put Xs in the lower value columns and leave it unexplained. AND we have to write our justifications constructively, and preferably sandwiched in with positive comments. So every time I want to write a negative comment, in effect that means I have to write three comments -- a positive one, the negative one I want to say, and another positive one.
There are other peculiarities of the evaluation procedure that don't have anything to do with the speed of writing comments, but which also cause the volume of necessary comments to be larger than I'd like.
3. If the form is entirely free-response, can you fill certain parts out in advance?? Obviously, you don't know in advance how well the student is going to perform, but you do know the criteria for which you're looking. For example, could you write in general categories in advance (pitch,tone, areas to work on improving, whatever) and then just jot down a few words in each during/after the performance??
I see what you mean, but they've already separated out those things in the rubric grid at the top of the page.
4 . Are you writing in cursive or print? As much as I hate cursive <interthreaduality>, it really is faster than regular printing.
I am writing in whatever seems fastest, which ends up being this cursive/print hybrid that's really just sloppy. I use any and every abbreviation that I think they or their teacher will understand (including both regular ones like @ and w/ or w/o and music-specific ones like LH for left hand and RH for right hand, and I write out music notes and clefs where necessary because it's faster).
I guess what I was hoping was that there would be some system that says: the most time-efficient way to write this letter is this way, the most time-efficient way to write this commonly-used word is that way, etc. And I can find some of this info online — I was just hoping that forumites with experience might be able to suggest some methods that might work better than others. I also have to be at this for hours (sometimes up to 8 or 9 hours in a day of nearly-continuous writing), so I need to be able to physically do it. I always bring my own squishy-grip pencils to prevent blisters.
If shorthand were an option I would totally use it.