As a music teacher, it sometimes feels like an endless struggle to find sheet music for your voracious roster of students! Obviously there are commercial online stores as well as the library, but there’s also an entire history of free written music available online. I’m talking about public domain music.
This is music where the copyright has expired. Bach? Beethoven? Mozart? These are all hundreds of years old and you can definitely find everything written by these composers online for free.
You can find very nice editions of Bach’s inventions or Beethoven piano sonatas in every music store that are not copyright free as the publishers have added value by making editorial decisions to the work. It may not be note changes, but they may add tempo markings where there were none or dynamics, etc. For example, most music from the Baroque period was quite sparse in directional markings. Seeing a piece from the 1500’s by Palestrina with crescendos and other dynamics is most certainly the work of a modern editor. This can be useful or not. Does it add value? Or is it just an editor trying to impose his/her stylistic preferences?
Finding sheet music that is free and public domain can be tricky. Different countries have different laws regarding copyright especially in the length of term. If you are searching for something that is older than 100 years old, then you are generally safe to assume it’s copyright free. But I’m not your legal counsel. If you are using music for commercial use, you should definitely consult a lawyer. The music business is a lawyer’s playground!
I hope you find these links useful. In a future post, I will explore where to find commercial sheet music, easy beginner arrangements, and how to simplify music yourself.