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Ten Things You Might Not Know About Sheet Music

May 28, 2008
1. A Book of Music Is Not Technically Sheet Music

The American Heritage Dictionary defines Sheet Music as "Compositions printed on unbound sheets of paper". So books of music script would not (technically) be classed as sheet music.

2. "Sheet Music" Was The Title of an Album by 10CC

This was the second album written by 10CC which reached number nine in the UK album charts, and number eighty one in the USA. The 1974 release by the Manchester (England) band included the singles "The Wall Street Shuffle" and "Silly Love".

3. Sheet Music or Score?

These two terms actually mean the same thing, as score is the more generic description of Sheet Music. There are several types of score including "full score", "miniature score", "piano score" etc. Score can also be used to refer to incidental music written for a play, TV or film.

4. The First Printed Sheet Music Book Appeared in 1457

The "Mainz Psalter" was the first book printed to include music notation. It was printed in Mainz, Germany but still had to have the notation filled in by hand!

5. The First Machine Printed Music Appeared in the 1473

The first sheet music publications printed on machines didn't appear unitl 1473, almost 20 years after Gutenburg had invented the printing press. Before this most sheet music was written by hand! This was essentially when the Music industry as we know it began.

6. Chappell & Co Were Founded in 1810

Chappell and Co were founded in 1810 by Samuel Chappell, Francis Tatton Latour and Johann Baptist Cramer. They started by selling and publishing sheet music. It was only later that Chappell & Co began selling the pianos that they became so famous for. Chappell & Co now operate as two separate companies; the publishing company "Warner/Chappell Music", and the music retailer "Chappell of Bond Street" (on Wardour Street, London).

7. Manuscript Paper is the Blank Form of Sheet Music

Manuscript paper is blank sheet music pre-printed with (typically) two sets of six staves on a line, marked with a "Clef" to indicate the key and pitch of the piece of music. It is sometimes referred to in the USA as "staff paper". Manuscript paper can also be used to notate music for drums and guitar tablature! You can get hold of a blank piece of sheet music here: http://www.visionmusic.com/manuscript/paper.html

8. The Earliest Piece of Sheet Music was from 1400 BC

Clay tablets (transcribed by Prof. Anne Kilmer in 1972) containing the cuneiform signs of the Hurrian language contained a completed hymn with both words and music. The hymn related to the Moon God's wife Nikal, and included instructions for vocals and harp.

9. Tablature Tells You Where To Put Your Fingers

As apposed to the traditional notation of sheet music, Tablature (or Tabulature/Tab) transcribes the music with the placement of fingers written as numbers. It is usually written for fretted instruments such as guitars, but can also be used for percussion and some other instruments.

10. Free Guitar Tabs Sites Are Not All Legal

But don't worry, it is the websites themselves that are the only ones to be concerned. As of Monday December 12, 2005, distributing free tablature of copyrighted music using the Internet is considered illegal by the international music industry.

Several free tab sites were shut down in 2006 as a results of legal pressure from music publishers including MXtabs.net (now back online as a legitimate resource), and also Guitar Tab Universe who later re-launched as "Music Student and Teacher Organization" (MuSATO) claiming that as an educational resource they were not longer in breach of copywrite. The music industry maintain their opposition to free tab download websites.
About the Author
This sheet music article was provided by Chappell of Bond Street, London (Est. 1811) with the intention of spreading the word of sheet music.
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