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Piano Sheet Music in the Internet Age

Feb 11, 2008
Over the past decade, the rise of the Internet has dramatically changed the availability and presentation of piano music. Free downloads of sheet music -- as well as audio recordings of piano performances -- are easy to find in abundance through a simple Web search. Because of this, old-fashioned sheet music publication has been on the decline in favor of Web-based documents -- image files, .pdf's, eBooks, and other formats. As with a lot of technological change, this is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It's just different. Today, conscientious adult piano players should have a basic understanding of the current state of sheet music publication, and where it is headed.

After all, when we examine our habits as consumers, we find that most of us tend to look for the cheapest and easiest options whenever possible. So these days, when there are so many free piano music downloads to be found all over the Internet, why would anyone ever pay money for sheet music?

In truth, more people cling to the old mediums of sheet music than one may think. And, of course, there is nothing wrong with this. Some people are simply not comfortable with the Internet, and may never be. Besides, what adult piano player doesn't enjoy the look and feel of a thick, comprehensive collection of the piano works of Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, or Rachmaninoff? Most contemporary pianists learned how to play with such books, and most still own tons of those old, worn, and wrinkled collections. Until recently, these books were the lifeblood of the piano world, which had been the case ever since the advent of the printing press.

Indeed, something has certainly been lost in the decline in popularity of such books. "The Complete Piano Works of Beethoven," for instance, holds pieces even the most passionate Beethoven fan might not know. In contrast, for years since the inception of the Internet, only the most popular works by the most famous composers have been available on the Web. When it comes to Beethoven, "Fur Elise" and "Moonlight Sonata" are easy to find on numerous sites, but what about more obscure works like "Piano Sonata No. 13 in E-flat major?" For years, pianists were hard-pressed to find such works on the Internet.

Fortunately, the world of online piano sheet music is now working to overcome such shortcomings. Yes, "Fur Elise" is as easy to find as ever, but now, former no-shows such as "Piano Sonata No. 13 in E-flat major" are almost just as available. This is thanks to a number of sites offering free downloads of piano music. The Mutopia Project, for instance -- an online source of free piano music downloads -- offers free piano music by hundreds of composers, from the origins of written music up to the 20th century.

Plus, piano teachers are now learning about the expansiveness of music available on the Web. Many piano teachers will tell you that the most difficult thing about their work is choosing pieces to perfectly suit the needs of a student. Because of the Internet, this is no longer such an issue. When a teacher feels that her student needs to learn a certain piece, that piece is likely available on the Internet. Just a few years ago, this wasn't true. Now, thanks to the continued growth of the Web, almost every piece of piano music by every significant composer is available to download for free. Instead of those old, massive piano music collections, today's piano teacher is more likely to use folders of sheet music printouts from the Web.

Of course, the availability of piano music free to download does not change the fact that many of us still love those old-fashioned piano books. After all, such books are still high-quality products, and they always make great gifts. Thus, even though the Internet is now a huge and ever-growing source of sheet music, the old mediums aren't likely to disappear any time soon.
About the Author
Duane Shinn is the author of over 300 DVD home study courses on playing piano, all available at
"DVD Courses In Exciting Piano Playing!"
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