If you are learning to play an instrument, you are part of a growing population that includes 54% of surveyed Americans. More people than ever are purchasing musical instruments and enjoying the benefits of playing music. Although reading music notation is not required to play an instrument, sheet music is still the standard for recording and playing music.
What is Sheet Music?
Sheet music is the composition of musical notations created by the composer to communicate their intentions for the piece. Playing music begins with reading the sheet music and then adding your own improvisation to create your own performance. Sheet music is offered in traditional paper form and also in digital formats. Printed music is typically offered in three forms:
Sheet Music. This consists of single songs that are printed on a few pages and adhered together, usually with staples.
Folios. A collection of songs, folios are packaged together for convenience.
Classical books. Many classical pieces are long and are packaged in a little book to keep it in order.
Sheet music is available in a variety of arrangements. The publishers of sheet music offer it for different instruments and for varying skill levels. One song may be offered in a number of different arrangements to suit the musician.
How to Buy Sheet Music
Printed sheet music is available at your local music store, if you are lucky enough to have one in your community. Sadly, local music stores are closing as purchasing moves towards online spaces. Most people enjoy shopping online and purchasing sheet music is no exception. Since we love music and also the people who compose, sell, and perform it, we strongly encourage you to purchase from small businesses.
Here are a few ways to purchase sheet music online:
Brick and mortar turned online. Of the brick and mortar music stores that have remained open, most of them have incorporated an online shopping experience. We love these businesses because they are still encouraging music on a local level and still hire musicians to be on staff.
Small online businesses. Creating an online store is now more accessible and provides a perfect opportunity for musicians to create alternative streams of income and also share their own compositions with the world. Away Sheet Music is one such online store and we appreciate your business.
Independent composers. Advanced technology and selling platforms have allowed composers to edit, produce, market, and sell their own music. This creates a connection between the composer and the musician that allows for feedback.
Collaborative initiatives. An extension of the composer/publisher model, groups of composers have formed to offer collaborations of combined sheet music and services.
Once you have identified where you wish to purchase your sheet music, be sure to read the details. You will want to make sure that the sheet music is for your specific instrument and that it accommodates your skill level. Although digital sheet music is available, we always recommend using paper sheet music.
On the surface, it would seem that digital sheet music would be a great idea and fall in line with our new world filled with instant gratification and digital device obsession. Sadly, most digital sheet music has fallen short by delivering an overpriced product with limitations. Unlike digital ebooks, the actual delivery methods of most digital sheet music is not convenient and adds unnecessary cost.
Cons of Using Digital Sheet Music
Limitations of Use. When musicians purchase digital sheet music, they are likely looking to use it on their tablets or other smart device. They want the flexibility of uploading it to a sheet music app, like Chromatik or APS Music Master Pro. To do this, the digital sheet music must be in PDF format. Most of the large digital sheet music suppliers do not offer this format, making the digital sheet music unusable. According to the permissions of the larger digital sheet music companies, the user is able to print one copy of the music sheet. The digital sheet music can be viewed in a web browser, but may not be used with any other app.
Added Cost. When you purchase a digital file from an online seller, you expect it to cost less than if you ordered a physical copy that requires printing and shipping. However, with digital sheet music, the digital file costs the same as and sometimes more than physical sheet music. If you wish to provide a set of sheet music for a band or musical ensemble, you must then print the music. If you opt to print on thicker paper and in an 11x17 saddle stitched booklet, as is expected, your printing costs begin to climb. This assessment doesn't consider the added time it takes to work with a printer and pick up the finished product.
All Sales Are Final. Unlike most online purchases, digital sheet music does not permit returns. When a musician purchases printed sheet music, they have the option to return it if they find that it will not work out. Once you complete the purchase of digital sheet music, the sale is final.
Although there are some cases where purchasing digital sheet music may be an added convenience, overall, it fails to support small businesses and does not deliver in ways that other digital media does. Digital sheet music is also not permitted in many traditional settings, such as orchestras. The collective digital glow is distracting.
Those of us who hold fast to paper sheet music are paying homage to the beauty of pencil markings and the tangible sheet that began in 1473. There is something so lovely about the sound of turning paper and the build up of notes that are accumulated on paper sheet music. Sheet music will always be paper in our minds.