You need to know this before buying piano sheet music online!

You need to know this before buying piano sheet music online!

Piano sheet music is widely available on the web, and there are huge differences between providers and editions. Here, you'll find all kinds of tips to make sure you'll enjoy your piano sheet music.
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How to spot serious platforms

  • They cooperate with reputable publishers
    Reputable music publishers like the Universal Music Group, Faber Music, Alfred Music, Schott, or Bärenreiter - to name but a few - guarantee high quality when it comes to their sheet music. It is safe to assume that they consider carefully which platforms they allow to sell their music scores.
  • They are recommended by piano players and piano bloggers
    It is a sign of quality if piano players or piano bloggers write about a piano music score provider. These piano professionals are always on the lookout for good sheet music. You can save a lot of time reading blog recommendations.
  • They disclose the difficulty level of a music piece
    It is not unusual for some sheet music editions to differ from the original piece. They might be transposed - changed in tune - or simplified. If you want to make sure that you'll be able to play the arrangement, choose a provider who lets you see the difficulty levels of his arrangements before the purchase.
  • They are transparent concerning payment & postage
    There are various ways to purchase sheet music on the internet: order online and get it sent to you, download single purchases, or subscribe and stream your scores. Serious providers will give you a clear overview over pricing and possible additional costs (printouts, shipping, etc.), so you're able to compare your options.

3 ways of shopping for sheet music on the web

  • Musical note
    Order online, receive via mail
    Disadvantages: - Waiting time for your order - You have to buy the whole songbook even though you just want to play one particular piece - storage space required - Return & refund is complicated and possibly costly - most expensive option Advantage: sheet music can be given as gift, lent, or inherited
  • Musical note
    Single purchase & download
    Advantages: Quick access to scores - start playing when you feel like it. Disadvantage: Expensive, when you purchase a lot
  • Musical note
    Piano sheet music subscription
    Advantage: Quickly access the sheet music you like - play whenever you like - you don't like a piece? Just play another one without any extra costs or hassle - play as much as you want for the cost of 3 cups of coffee Disadvantage: Commitment to a provider - so make sure yours has a huge selection of pieces for your skill level!

3 steps to buy piano sheet music that guarantees you playing joy

  1. 1

    Ask yourself these questions

    • Am I looking for a certain piece or do I want a large choice of arrangements (not all platforms have a large selections for piano)
    • Am I looking for a special edition of a piece? E.g. for beginners, or the original edition?
    • Am I interested in sheet music of a certain genre?
    • How often do I need new piano sheet music , and how much does the purchase cost me each time?
  2. 2

    Make your choice

    • Choose a trustworthy service (make sure they cooperate with renowned sheet music publishers)
    • Choose a sheet music service that provides music scores customized to your needs
    • Choose a service that allows you to print your favorite pieces (if you like)
  3. 3

    Start playing!

    • Some digital sheet music platforms allow you to add your fingerings and notes directly on the sheet. Often, interactive functions are included, like auto-scroll and digital metronome.
    • You don't need a printer when using digital sheet music.
    • Just in case your tablet crashes, gets lost or stolen, save your precious sheet music purchases OR use an online platform that enables you to access your sheet music from any device.

Buy digital sheet music or download it for free? - Good to know!

  • Composing, setting, arranging, and copying sheet music is an elaborate process that digital publications have to undergo just like print publications before you are able to play them. Composers, arrangers, and music publishers that are involved in the publication process have a vested interest in receiving fair pay for their job - it is their way of earning a living.
  • Opposed to that there is a movement that wants the public to have access to the cultural property "sheet music". It is the law (in the EU, but similar laws apply all over the world) that the rightful interests of composers and publishers expire after the composer has been deceased for a certain amount of years - most often, 70 years. Then the composition enters the public domain.
  • There are special situations that can be problematic from a legal point of view. If the composer is deceased for more than 70 years but a music publisher still owns the rights to the published arrangement, free copies downloaded from the web can be illegal. Free sheet music platforms usually state that they do not take any legal responsibility for any uploaded PDFs. They just appeal to uploaders to make sure they have the right to publish the material they upload and make accessible. Fact: If you want to be on the safe side, buy your sheet music.

Frequently asked questions

  • What do I have to keep in mind when buying sheet music via the internet?
    The most important thing is that you know what you want, and look for exactly that. One and the same song can be available in a piano solo version, in a version for vocals & piano accompaniment, or a chord & lyrics leadsheet arrangement. Also, one and the same song can be available in various difficulty levels. Depending on what you want, pay attention to labels like "original" or "for beginners". OR use a sheet music service that clearly labels the skill level and arrangement style.
  • How do I access the sheet music that's available on the internet?
    There are roughly three ways: Per snail mail, if you shopped on a publisher's website for the print-and-paper songbook. Via single purchase in a webshop & download. Or you have a sheet music subscription that gives you immediate access to all the digital sheet music you want to play. Just save the songs you want to practice in your personal library.
  • Why are some arrangements available for free, while others have to be bought and paid for?
    Contemporary compositions (movie soundtracks, New Age, Rock, Pop, Jazz,...) are protected by law. You can only lawfully own a copy of them if you pay for it. This usually gives you the added benefit of having excellent sheet music quality, optimized for digital use (no hard-to-read scans of yellowing old book pages!). And a fair remuneration for contemporary composers ensures they can keep writing music professionally. Once a composer has been deceased for more than 70 years, his or her music enters the public domain and can be used for free. However, publishing houses can still hold legal rights to certain editions.
  • When does a sheet music subscription make sense for me? When is a single purchase better?
    Single purchases of individual pieces of sheet music can become expensive quite quickly. If you like to play a lot, want to make sure that every sheet music you use is legally accessible, and of high quality, a sheet music subscription service pays off quickly. If you hardly play new songs a subscription might not be worth your while. It is probably better to buy individual pieces in that case. But watch out and compare - a subscription might save you money starting with as little as 2-3 pieces you play per month.