I became intrigued with collecting sheet music for various instruments, most of which I play, ever since my mom came home from an auction with a box full of sheet music in pristine condition, dated in a range of the past 100 years. She was really pleased with the score, no pun intended; it is the most appropriate slang from that time period of my youth. I helped her use some to decorate our music room. It was an experience similar to working in the back room of a used book store. It was amazing. Music! Something I could take off the wall and read and play, and recreate the sounds jotted on paper from 100 years ago. Needless to say, I was hooked.
So now I’m older and I have my own collection to accumulate. Inheritance would be the easiest way, but I’m impatient. I’ve spent less time finding sources for sheet music than I have for books, but I have found at least 10 reasonably cheap or free ways to build my collection.
Auction: I haven’t had much luck at auctions, but my mom did, so I’ll always have high hopes for this method. If you knew my mom, you’d know she got a screaming deal.
Online sheet music sites: I’ve become addicted to VirtualSheetMusic.com, but you can try musicnotes.com, the Sheet Music Consortium, 8notes.com, or a number of others. This is as cheap as your printing costs, unless you want to install a monitor on top of your piano.
Become a Band Librarian: The Booster Clubs in many places include a librarian to sort, file, and transcribe missing copy for arrangements. Sometimes, the piece is too old and too many parts are missing, or it’s being tossed to thin or update the library. Volunteering as a band librarian is music to my ears, or, you could become a pro.
Write or transpose your own copy: For personal use only, I have files of staff paper covered in my interpretations of songs I hear, have heard, or have invented, as well as songs I needed in the key of my instrument. If you have skill in reading it, you probably have the skills to get good at writing it. Nothing more cost-efficient than doing it yourself.
Former Students: Band and orchestra students, unfortunately, frequently abandon their instrument as the rest of their lives becomes a reality. If you know any, or have a director or instructor friend who know of former students, they may have a folder full of sentimental but unused music that you could rescue and revive.
The Public Library: Music and Songbooks are in the 780s of the Dewey Decimal System. Play your heart out, for the gentle cost of overdue book fines.
Join a Sheet Music Club: You know, like a book club. There might be one or you could start one in your neighborhood, or you could join a Yahoo! group with members from over the world.
eBay: Like on-site auctions, Internet auctions are hit-and-miss when it comes to quality, quantity, and value, but it’s there and all you have to do is look.
Sheet Music Magazine is less than $25 a year, and it comes with a variety of music selections. It’s much more reasonably priced than purchasing each piece separately at a retail, and it comes with readings I’ve always found intriguing, after, of course, I’ve played through the selections.
Join the band: One way you can very simply find sheet music is to join the community symphony or band. If just the possession of good music to play isn’t enough, put it to good use. Work hard, play well, and the exhilaration of the ensemble is unparalleled.
Whether you’re looking for a specific piece, or just have the urge for the collection, this list should give you plenty of ideas to start tickling the keys. Whether you’re looking for Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons or Seasons of Love from the musical Rent, the search for the right composer, artist, or melody is never-ending because the mood of the moment changes as quickly as the weather.
Image courtesy of Lili Vieira de Carvalho