Sheet Music Archives

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Note for Content Providers

Due to the small number of DP volunteers who can transcribe music, pure music projects are not appropriate for DP treatment at this time.

The information below was written many years ago and may be out of date. Please see the Music Guidelines for updated information about handling music projects at DP.

Transcribing Sheet Music on DP

Music is encountered more and more frequently on DP. Usually it is found as part of a larger, text-based work. (See the Music Guidelines page for more information on handling music in text-based projects.) Occasionally, musical works with little or no significant textual component -- pure music such as sheet music and scores -- have been put through DP.

Until recently, the standard way of dealing with music on DP has been to use Lilypond, a text-based musical engraving system. Due to its complexity, however, projects employing this method of transcription have moved extremely slowly through the rounds. It is probably not in our best interest to submit pure music projects of any great size using this method. The English Hymnal project has attracted volunteers, even though the final product will be in Lilypond, in part because it allows submission of music files created with a variety of other notation programs.

Some projects endeavored to offer a simpler and faster means of transcription, both for pure music projects and for the musical examples occasionally found in DP texts. The first was the MusicXML-Jubilee project, which allowed people to use a variety of graphical editors to transcribe music, using MusicXML as a data exchange format. The second was the PG Finale Project, which was created to allow collaborative transcription using the Finale line of proprietary software, taking advantage of the fact that its entry-level program NotePad was, at that time, free. Both projects used wiki software as a platform to organize the collaborative efforts.

The PG Finale project was created offsite because Finale and audio files could not be uploaded to the DP Wiki. Because it was created after the MusicXML-Jubilee project, it was better thought out as well. There had been some thought given to possibly combining the two projects and eliminating the MusicXML element during the proofing stages, since that had not attracted volunteers. Unfortunately, due to the scarcity of volunteers, the PG Finale project is now dormant. Its model, however, became the basis for the Grove's Dictionary project, which will ultimately be produced in Finale, and which, like the English Hymnal project, permits volunteers to submit music files created with any notation software.

Sources of Scanned Sheet Music

The following sites have scans of sheet music which may be harvested for transcription:

Indiana University VARIATIONS Project

  • Huge archive of scores, including operas, lieder, piano and chamber music.
  • Greyscale scans. Too small for decent printing, but perfectly legible on the screen.
  • Scores are explicitly in the public domain.

Maine Music Box

  • Excellent archive of over 22,000 scores
  • They apparently have transcribed some with Sibelius - some offered with Midi files.
  • They have a curious concept of public domain, suggesting in a blanket statement that music published before 1931 is public domain. (They have Irving Berlin's Always available for download, even though it was copyrighted in 1925 and presumably renewed.)
  • Position on images is, I think, deliberately unclear. However, no copyright claim is made to the images:
  • "Images of music in this database are only available for music that is in the public domain, published prior to 1931. The materials in the database have been made available for use in research, teaching and private study. For these purposes users may reproduce (print, make photocopies, or download) materials from this web site without prior permission, on condition that you provide proper attribution of the source in all copies ... For other uses of the materials from this web site i.e., commercial products, publication, broadcast, mirroring, and anything else that does not fall under 'fair use' (see copyright and citation below), please contact us."

The Lester S. Levy Collection of Sheet Music

  • Popular American Sheet Music from the library at Johns Hopkins Univeristy
  • Color and Greyscale scans. Too small for decent printing, sometimes not even legible on the screen.
  • Includes listings of non-PD music, but, "an image of the cover and each page of music will also be retrieved if the music was published before 1923 and is in the public domain."

Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, 1870-1885

  • Part of the American Memory Project at the Library of Congress
  • No copyright claimed on scans, material is all public domain.
  • High quality, printable tiffs (400dpi) are available of most material.
  • Lots of chaff in this collection, but there are some good bits of music.

Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920

  • Part of the American Memory Project at the Library of Congress, from collections at Duke University.
  • No copyright claimed on scans, credit is requested.
  • Material is available at 72dpi and 150dpi.

African-American Sheet Music, 1850-1920

  • Part of the American Memory Project at the Library of Congress, from collections at Brown.
  • Brown says "This object is available for public use. Individuals interested in reproducing this object in a publication, web site or for any commercial purpose must first receive written permission from the Brown University Library."
  • Material is available at both screen viewable and printable resolutions.

Band Music from the Civil War Era

  • Part of the American Memory Project at the Library of Congress.
  • No copyright claimed on images, credit line suggested.
  • Material is available at both screen viewable and printable resolutions.

Archive of Popular American Music

  • served as pdf files. Nice quality and good selection.

Shul Music

  • Jewish liturgical music, largely for the reform tradition.
  • Some scores are not public domain. Some are.

Inventions of Note Sheet Music Collection

  • In easy to download (but large) PDF files.
  • Smallish collection, but high quality. All pieces refer to turn of the century technological innovations.
  • From the library at MIT.

Charles H. Templeton Sr. Music Museum

  • In easy-to-download (but large) PDF files.
  • Over 2000 pieces, but not all PD. Only PD ones accessible online.
  • Easy navigation to some notable selections, including ragtime, blues, movie music, and a collection of Irving Berlin songs.
  • From the library at Mississippi State University.

Listing of other scanned sheet music resources.

Sources for Proofraiding

There are also a number of collections of transcribed sheet music on the internet. Some of them might be suitable for the musical equivalent of proofraiding. (For example, if you have a clearable score, and find it already transcribed in one of these collections, you may be able to adapt it. As with HTML proofraiding, any original creative content by the transcriber would probably need to be removed.)

Werner Icking Music Archive

  • "the definitive archive of software related to MusiXTeX" and works made with it.
  • also includes music encoded in other formats.

Choral Public Domain Library

  • huge archive of choral scores. Some solo vocal works are also stored here.
  • no standard format or license, but many transcriptions explicitly placed in public domain.

Bach Organ Transcriptions

  • a personal endeavor of Danish Organist Peter Baekgaard, using Finale.
  • "The transcriptions can be downloaded and used for free. If you have comments or suggestions, you are very welcome to contact me."

The Mutopia Project

  • "All music on this site has been typeset using GNU Lilypond:"
  • PDF and MIDI files are available for most (all?) works.
  • "All music in the Mutopia Project is free to download, print out, perform and distribute."

Werner Icking list of other music archives