Best places to find and buy sheet music

23.12.2021 Ben Maloney Sheet music

Anyone who uses sheet music has to first get hold of it, but that isn’t always easy. And the fact that there are more sources of sheet music out there than ever hasn’t necessarily made things simpler. 

Different musicians have different needs, so there are no straightforward, general answers to this question. It all comes down to what sheet music you’re after and how you use it.

If you can answer those questions, you're off to a good start. If you know what you need, whether it’s contemporary repertoire or pop classics, digital access or the widest selection – our guide to the best places to find and buy sheet music should point you in the right direction.

Digital sheet music libraries and apps


A wide range of digital sheet music services has emerged in recent years, with many examples now taking form as apps, such as IMSLP and Musicnotes. Some boast an abundance of works, while others are specialised score-readers. Many raise important questions regarding authenticity of product and fair access to it.

nkoda, available as an app on six platforms, aims to combine these assets – the library, the annotation tools, cross-platform accessibility – in one all-round digital service. 

It places an entire library at users’ fingertips, comprising the catalogues of over 140 publishing partners. Your music can be sourced, saved, marked up, and read in performance - perhaps the best thing about digital access is that it covers you every step of the way.

Availability on subscription facilitates the provision of premium editions for users, as well as fair reimbursement for publishers and composers, helping to sustain the musical community and the publishing industry. 

That might seem trivial, but piracy and the circulation of counterfeit sheet music are real problems in digital spaces where 'free sheet music downloads' and 'free printable sheet music' are some of the most frequently searched terms. 

nkoda aspires to secure the integrity and welfare of music-making, while providing players, students, teachers, musicians, with instant access to the music they need. If you want to get sheet music instantly and anywhere, digital is the way to go. If you want to access it economically and fairly, nkoda is a great resource.

Start your free trial with nkoda today.

Buying sheet music directly from publishers


For centuries, publishers have been the stewards of sheet music, and they remain the institutions that compile, print and distribute it. 

You’ll find their publications in shops and libraries, but most offer their customers the option to own sheet music by purchasing directly from their respective websites. 

Most publishers, particularly where contemporary music is concerned, represent specific composers, meaning that they manage, hire and sell the sheet music for those composers.

If you’re a musician that’s into the works of a single composer, then checking out the publisher they’re partnered with is a good first port of call to see what they’ve written and what you’re able to get hold of.

Frequently, publishers specialise in a particular type of music, and if that type is of interest to you, then that’s another reason to go straight to the source. For instance, PWM Edition is a Krakow-based publishing house whose extensive selection of Polish music is unrivalled (much more than just Chopin). 

If Polish music happens to be what you’re after, then visiting their website might well help you in your search.

Publishers are unmatched in their musical expertise – they know everything about what they sell and you can rely on the details and information that they provide about it. This is the route to go down if you like to know exactly what you’re getting when purchasing sheet music.
 

Your local music store


Despite the onset of the digital age and the subsequent closure of many brick-and-mortar music stores, there are plenty still trading. If you happen to live near one, then the age-old method of getting hold of sheet music is just as valid as any other.

Music stores have been the favourite place for local musical communities for generations, and in most cases sheet music has always been a cornerstone of their custom. 

Outlets for publishing houses are out there, as well as chain stores and wholly independent shops. Having sheet music right there in front of you is helpful if you’re looking to buy. If you’re not, it’s still a pleasure to flick through a score.

Today, most of these music dealers also trade via websites, and not just the chain stores like Musicroom. Based in the Midlands in the UK, Presto Music is a great example of an independent music shop that sells not only sheet music but also instruments, CDs and books online.

Finding sheet music at a public library


On the topic of leafing through physical scores, public libraries are another great source for sheet music. To echo the point made about local music stores, if there happens to be a library nearby, then it might be another option for you.

Some libraries won’t offer any sheet music, while others have impressively stocked sections. It’s ultimately a gamble as to which end of the spectrum your library is nearer to. 

You might get lucky and encounter some dusty but beautiful old editions, but it goes without saying that you won’t be able to take them home for good.

In truth, the number of libraries providing a reasonable sheet music selection is dwindling as digital resources multiply. It seems the glory days of this pillar of public service might now be behind us. 
 

Online marketplaces


Moving back into the online sphere, sheet music can also be purchased in non-specialised online stores such as Amazon and AbeBooks. Within these larger arenas, however, sheet music becomes a more niche product, and as such availability is at worst low and at best inconsistent.

The lack of specialisation on these sites means that you can’t always be sure what you’re getting. Frequently there’s poor metadata for the edition, instrumentation and other aspects of a product, making online marketplaces a less reliable way to shop for sheet music. The issue of authenticity also becomes relevant again here. 

The fact remains that good deals can often be had, and this is the strength of this source of sheet music. If you know precisely what you’re after, and can locate it with certainty, then this can also be a viable way to get hold of sheet music.
 

Independent composers


There are many composers out there who are not tied to publishers, but whose sheet music can still be purchased. Nowadays, there are a lot of methods for these independent composers to distribute their sheet music, so there’s no one quickfire route to obtaining it.

Some composers are self-published, meaning that they compose, edit, print, market and sell their own music. If you follow any composers that fall into this category then you’ll have to hunt down their individual publishing labels to purchase their sheet music.

Third party organisations also exist that offer composers alternative routes to making their sheet music available. Despite each being a little different to the other, Escobar•Digital, Sheet Music Plus and Arcomis are all in this category and are worth checking out.
 

Best place to buy sheet music: the verdict


Although different musicians have different needs, nkoda aims to meet as many as possible. Whether your instrument is piano, guitar, saxophone or cello, or whether you're a beginner or an advanced musician playing pop music or classical pieces, the app can provide music for you. Music that you need - music that you love. 

Instant access to nkoda's huge library and innovative score-reading technology will do better than most services to aid your music-making, while helping to maintain the fabric of the musical community that we're all part of.
 

What's Next? 


Now you know where to find and buy sheet music, you’ll likely want to know exactly how to store sheet music, the right way. Additionally, if you want to touch up on your history knowledge, we’ve produced an article about the origins and history of sheet music.

You are going to want to know how to store sheet music and that is exactly why we created an article on how to store sheet music.

Share this article

Related Articles

How to transpose music

How to transpose music

Finding transposition confusing? We’ve all been there. This guide should put an end to the head-scratching.

Sheet music
By Ben Maloney

Music theory & sheet music cheat sheet

Music theory & sheet music cheat sheet

Musicians need something that will answer all the basic questions, quickly and reliably, anywhere and anytime. Enter the cheat sheet.

Sheet music
By Ben Maloney

The history of sheet music and music notation

The history of sheet music and music notation

The iconic symbols. Where did they come from? What do they mean? And how did they come to articulate an unspoken language understood by millions around the world?

Sheet music
By Ben Maloney

How to memorise music (10 quick tips)

How to memorise music (10 quick tips)

Here are a few things that will help you to memorise music more effectively and bring your musical goals within reach.

Sheet music
By Ben Maloney

How to practise reading sheet music

How to practise reading sheet music

This article is designed to help you to structure your sheet music practice. It’s intended for players who are relatively new to this territory, and are trying to develop some fluency in interpreting notes on the page...

Sheet music
By Ben Maloney

How long does it take to learn to read music?

How long does it take to learn to read music?

Reading sheet music is something that you can absolutely teach yourself to do. You don’t need to receive tuition, whether at school or in private. There’s a world of information out there that’ll tell you everything you need to know, every step of the way. But how long does it take?

Sheet music
By Ben Maloney

How to read music faster and improve sight reading

How to read music faster and improve sight reading

This article takes a look at the craft of reading sheet music quickly and effectively, which is the foundation of good sight reading. Soon you’ll be able to read through a whole opera in the blink of an eye...

Sheet music
By Ben Maloney

How to publish sheet music

How to publish sheet music

If you’re thinking about publishing sheet music, then you can find out more below about these options available to you. But whichever route you decide to pursue, there’s one thing that you're encouraged to keep in mind…

Sheet music
By Ben Maloney

How to store sheet music and organise it

How to store sheet music and organise it

Sheet music can be stored on shelves, in filing cabinets, and even digitally. It's important to organise your collection effectively, in a way that makes sense to you, minimises the risk of damage, maximises space, and facilitates easy access. “How do I store sheet music?” It might seem like a simple question, but any musician who has even the most modest collection will know the horror of an unsightly stack of papers on a piano stool...

Sheet music
By Ben Maloney

Best places to find and buy sheet music

Best places to find and buy sheet music

Anyone who uses sheet music has to first get hold of it, but that isn’t always easy. And the fact that there are more sources of sheet music out there than ever hasn’t necessarily made things simpler. Different musicians have different needs, so there are no straightforward, general answers to this question. It all comes down to what sheet music you’re after and how you use it...

Sheet music
By Ben Maloney