Content, Part 1: An Overview of Digital Sheet Music Sources

by airturn

The second “C” in the digital sheet music setup is Content, i.e. the files that will make up your sheet music library. There are three primary sources for sheet music content:

1. Paper
2. Internet
3. Composition


We already covered the steps involved in converting your paper sheet music library to digital PDF files in the article on “The 5th C: The Art of Converting Paper to PDFs“. However, I meet many musicians who balk at the time and energy it would take to scan their entire library. The enormity of the task is enough to stop them cold in their tracks, making the prospect of becoming a digital musician about as appealing as peeling a warehouse full of potatoes.

When I started the transition towards becoming a paperless pianist, I had two enormous wall shelves outside my office at Curtis stacked floor to ceiling with alphabetized filing boxes containing my paper music library. My library was so large, I needed a rolling step ladder to get to the boxes on the top shelves! But rather than getting discouraged at the size of my digital Everest, I just focused on scanning the 3 or 4 pieces I needed for the next few days. It’s amazing how quickly your digital library will grow with just 15 minutes of scanning a day. As the proverbial saying goes, the way to eat an elephant is one small bite at a time (my vegan friends are cringing at the thought, but you get the idea…)

Another helpful perspective is to consider how much time you spend organizing, searching for, and then re-filing your paper music collection (and for those of you who are as absent-minded as I am, add in the time you spend re-tracing your steps to find that piece of music you left in a practice studio or in a backstage dressing room). If you apply the time you would normally spend searching for your physical sheet music into scanning, you’ll find that – at least in the beginning – the time spent working with your music nets pretty evenly. As your library grows, you’ll find yourself scanning less and less frequently. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the benefit of having everything that you need with you at all times and searchable instantaneously. No more messy stacks of books and binders. No more time wasted searching for that piece of music buried in your collection. No more headaches over re-filing your collection (or dealing with the aftereffects of procrastinating that task). And best of all, no more stress over forgetting to bring that part or losing your music altogether due to lost luggage at the airport.