Print Music 101

So one of the first things I’d like to get to write about is the difference between “sheet” music and “print” music.  I have heard it time and again over the 13 years I have been in the business.  When I say “print” you say “sheet”, when I say “sheet” you says “books”.  No, I get it.  So here it is – the honest answer to an age old question…

What’s the difference???

Answer…Absolutely nothing.  It’s all in what you want to call it.  It’s that simple. 

So now that I have that off my chest, let’s talk a little bit more about what I like to call “print music.” 

First, a little fun fact for you…
According to a February 1988 article in Archeologia Musicalis, the oldest known music to have been written was found in Syria by French archeologists in the 50’s.  It was written on clay tablets and is believed to be 3400 years old.  Click here to hear a midi file of what this music was believed to sound like.    

Of course since the printing press came along we have been able to obtain a copy of the music we are looking for much easier. Here in the United States the revolution of print music took place in Tin Pan Alley. Tin Pan Alley is the name given to the collection of New York City-centered music publishers and songwriters who dominated the printing of popular music in the late 19th century and early 20th century (Many believe that the name “Tin Pan Alley“ came from the derogatory reference to the sound made by many pianos all playing different tunes in the small urban area, producing a mish-mash sound comparable to banging on tin pans).  Tin Pan Alley was basically a centralized location established to bring about a better grasp on copyright infringement – making sure composers were paid for their works.  Over time Tin Pan Alley slowly dematerialized because of technology, but their efforts  can still be recognized today in today‘s copyright law. 

So with this little history lesson where are we today, you ask?  Modern publishers have taken advantage of advancements in digital technology to make print music cheaper, more portable and more widely distributed.  In the digital age, large amounts of printed music can be saved as data files and distributed electronically. This gives the public access to pieces that publishers once thought to be “print risks”; which means “why publish if the masses aren’t buying?”.  With this technology available they have also found a way to make music transposable (literally – we can print this music in ANY key!) therefore more customizable.  And that, my friends, is where I come in.

As a digital music expert, I often I feel like the gatekeeper to all things in the realm of printed music.  So now with a few clicks of the mouse, I am able to download pieces and sell them at a fraction of what the publisher would have charged to reprint them.  And, yes, it IS LEGAL!  The copyright fees are included for every piece that is downloaded.   Though not every song is available, I find that those titles are few and far between. 

So there it is – a little history lesson and a little taste of what’s to come.  Isn’t nice to know your options aren’t “set in stone?” 

Stay tuned for more information about our print music department and for the new page on our website regarding your multiple print music options…


6 thoughts on “Print Music 101

  1. Carole Browning

    Amber…Thanks so much for the lesson on print music. It makes me appreciate how far we have come with today’s ever changing technology. You and James together bring exciting and fresh ideas to Gist Piano Center! It is fun to learn from both of you!
    I wish you the best with your new music department!

  2. Amber Scarberry

    Thanks for the question Heidi! If we download it for you, we download it directly from the publisher and pay for that copy. The publisher then pays the “royalties” (negotiated monies owed) to the artist, composer or other entity that owns the copyright. We only download directly from the publishers to ensure that each transaction is legal and bound by copyright law.

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