What is digital sheet music?

21.12.2021 Ben Maloney Music tech

To put it simply, digital sheet music is just your regular old sheet music - but digitised. It might be a scan of a printed score, or it might be a straight-to-digital edition. Either way, it features the same notation and music, and serves the same function and purpose.

It can still be read, played, studied, annotated, and even placed on a music stand. In effect, the only difference is, it being digital, you can’t really grasp it. But, in exchange for that frankly old-fashioned physicality, you the musician get a range of major benefits in return.

This post should tell you everything you need to know about digital sheet music.
 

Why does digital sheet music exist?


It’s not just sheet music – absolutely everything is being digitised. Audio on Spotify. TV shows on Netflix. E-books on Kindle.

Since the dawn of the age of the internet - and increasingly since the rise of smartphones and tablets - ever-expanding digital access to an ever-widening range of media has taken place. In truth, these developments are among the most notable of the young 21st century.

Why has this come about? Well, in a word: convenience. Digitisation enormously enhances accessibility and shareability, while offering greater security and all but unlimited storage. Less cynically, it’s also environmentally friendly, and there’s an egalitarian dimension to accessibility, too – not everyone has a local cinema, or is able to afford stacks of books.

Turning back to digital sheet music, all these factors apply to some extent. Sheet music can be expensive, unwieldy, and often difficult to track down. It’s easier to write, print and distribute music through electronic means. These processes work in a range of ways, explored in greater depth in our article on how digital sheet music works.

Most importantly, this new medium is breathing new life into music-making worldwide. It’s never been easier to discover, learn, play and share music. Digital sheet music is nurturing the growth and sustenance of a global musical community.
 

How can you get hold of digital sheet music?


The world of digital sheet music has become pretty big, meaning that musicians can now access and interact with digital sheet music in all manner of ways. So if you want to know where to get it, there’s more than one answer.

If you want to create sheet music and share it digitally, for instance, then you’ll need to get hold of some notation software such as Sibelius and Dorico. If you want to buy and download it, then you can visit a range of online marketplaces, or go directly to the websites of music publishing houses themselves.

nkoda aspires to offer musicians the opportunity to cover as many bases as possible through one digital service. nkoda is at once a music library, a score-reader, an annotation kit, and a personal hub where you can store all your digital sheet music, and share it with other users.
 

What does nkoda offer as part of its digital package?


The library contains the sales and hire catalogues of over 140 sheet music publishers, totalling over 110,000 titles. Unlimited access is available on subscription but with a free trial you don't have to purchase one just to see if this content is right for you.

Don't forget that digital sheet music can also comprise your own pieces of music, and this is why nkoda is as much a viewer of scores as it is a finder of them. PDF files can be uploaded to an unlimited personal space in the app, and you can arrange your music into playlists here, too.

If you're looking to perform using digital sheet music then these playlists can become set lists. Bluetooth pedals can also be connected to the app for handsfree page-turning, forever solving that dreaded problem that all pianists face.
 

What genres of sheet music are available in the digital library?


Any and every type of sheet music can be digitised, so if it can be notated, then there's a chance you’ll find a digital version of it in nkoda’s library.

Most people associate sheet music with the classical genre - Mozart, Beethoven and co. - but in truth the majority of music genres utilise it to some extent, whether we’re talking lead sheets in jazz performance, or arrangements of pop songs. Although nkoda’s virtual shelves are lined with the broadest possible repertoire of classical works, that really is just the beginning.

From classic rock to chart pop, R&B to Christmas carols – whatever genre of music you’re looking to play, you’ll find something to suit your tastes in this digital score library. 

Is there digital sheet music for all instruments?


Think of an instrument. Got one? Well, whatever it is, a composer somewhere has doubtless written sheet music for it. Even the sounds produced by the most obscure instruments can be - and have been - captured through musical notation, which can then be digitised.

Moreover, it’s likely that some of that sheet music has found its way into nkoda’s library. There are works for harmonium in the collection, for example - but that's probably not what you're after, admittedly.

Turning to some of the more popular instrumental combinations – orchestra, string quartet, voice and piano, solo guitar, and so on – works for all these forces are out there in abundance, and many of them are among nkoda's titles.
 

What devices can I read digital sheet music on?


If it has a screen, then it can display digital sheet music. But depending on how you’re intending to use your sheet music, some types of device will better suit your needs than others.

For instance, computers are optimal if you want to carefully study your sheet music, while phones are particularly useful if you need to check out sheet music quickly and on the move. Tablets offer the perfect balance of readability and portability and are the best kind of score-reading device to use in performance.

The nkoda app is free to download on all these different types of hardware. More specifically, it’s compatible with the following platforms: iPhone, iPad, Mac, Android phones and tablets, and PCs that run Windows 10. You can log into your nkoda account from any type of device, no matter which one you originally downloaded it to.
 

Get started with digital sheet music


If you find yourself reading these words, chances are that you’re wondering how to engage with the digital sheet music phenomenon. And, as written above, nkoda can offer musicians the opportunity to immerse themselves in this world.

Whether you’re a new starter or an advanced player, a member of an amateur orchestra or a university student, if sheet music plays some kind of part in your life, then nkoda has the potential to transform the role it performs.

At the very least, it can satisfy your curiosity to learn a little more about digital sheet music. At most, it can revolutionise your relationship with music, introduce you to countless new works, and help you to improve as a musician.

Try it for yourself. Discover what it means to be a part of the world of digital sheet music with a free 7-day trial of nkoda. Or download the app right now from the App Store, Google Play, or Windows Store. Cancel anytime. Play anywhere.

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