We're of course delighted when you visit the Music & Arts Library (701 Dodge) to browse and check out items from our extensive collection of printed music scores. But, there are those times that you may need some music in a pinch, or when we're closed. For those times, the availability of online scores can be very useful, and the Libraries make available several collections of online scores (also identified by the term "sheet music").
Here's a listing of the various collections which are currently available to full-time Columbia affiliates through the Libraries (these links will take you to the CLIO record for the database; click on the URL in the record to connect):
Classical Scores Library — "a collection of digitized scores of important classical music, manuscripts, and unpublished material."
Naxos Music Library. Sheet Music — "digital sheet music in all classical genres, spanning music from Medieval to the 21st century and composers from Bach to Arvo Part." This Naxos database also offers a downloadable software utility which can be used to transpose some content from one key into another (a feature often useful for singers), and to adjust printing options.
A-R Editions' Online Music Anthology — "a database of music scores containing representative vocal and instrumental compositions from antiquity through the nineteenth century."
Outside of these online resources available through the Libraries, mention must be made of the important and open online resource International Music Scores Library Project (IMSLP). This public project, established in 2006, states its primary goal as:
"… to gather all public domain music scores, in addition to the music scores of all contemporary composers (or their estates) who wish to release them to the public free of charge."
Over the last few years, this project has truly blossomed into a very valuable resource, including not only scores but also performance parts, audio recordings, and some commentary and analysis. It's interesting to note that IMSLP, the open resource, has a far larger volume of content than the subscription services mentioned above – but, not for in-copyright materials (one likely reason for the difference).
Note that there are many options for browsing and searching scores, and recordings can also be browsed, by composer or performer, via a link in the left sidebar. RSS feeds are available to keep track of new additions. Another interesting feature is the "Search By Melody" function, that allows users to input a melody string to search, using a pop-up keyboard. For the adventurous, a "score similarity" algorithm will attempt to match features of scores in the database, to find "similar" works.
Of course, as with any open-source project, there are always concerns with editorial control, and the editions available on the site range from scholarly editions to self-published arrangements with no explicit editorial responsibility or details. So, scrutinize your options carefully when choosing content. That said, there is a wealth of quality material which can be a lifesaver when you just need that score or part, for reference or for performance. And, you'll also find scans of rare or obscure repertoire, both in published editions and in manuscript.
Lastly, many libraries are now mounting extensive collections of digitized scores and sheet music, much of which is under public domain, for world-wide access. Many of these are concerted, scholarly efforts (for an example, see the Digital Mozart Edition) which warrant their own post, so stay tuned for an overview of those collections in a future post!