Where to Find FREE Sheet Music Online
Updated: May 1, 2020
Whether you're a seasoned professional or a young beginner, all musicians need access to sheet music to learn music and perform for friends and family. But, like a lot of aspects in the music world, sheet music isn't always cheap. While I would recommend purchasing your sheet music as often as you can, I understand that there is privilege in being able to do so.
Of course, you must purchase sheet music that is not in the public domain, especially if you are going to perform it. But there does exist a plethora of music that is in the public domain and free to access. You just need to know where to look!
Site #1: IMSLP (Petrucci Music Library)
IMSLP contains the largest amount of free sheet music for classical musicians. You can find music for solo instruments, chamber ensembles, orchestras, and tons of arrangements and transcriptions. It has existed since 2006, so you can imagine how many scores are currently on the website! (Over half a million, in case you were wondering.)
Not only does this site have sheet music, it also has professional recordings and composer information. You can search for music by categories such as composer name and nationality, time period that the piece was composed in, instrumentation, and genre.
One thing to note is that IMSLP functions much like Wikipedia, in the sense that anyone can upload their copies of sheet music. It is free in part because of that. You do have the option of subscribing and financially supporting the site, and that will eliminate the 15 second wait time you experience when accessing a PDF document of sheet music. But what's great is there will often be uploads of different versions or editions of the same piece, as well as arrangements for other instruments/ensembles, since different users upload the version they own.
Something really helpful that you will notice when you click on a piece is a warning if the piece is not in the public domain of a certain country (see below). It is important to follow the copyright laws in your country, as they state. Thankfully, sometimes a piece is in the public domain in Canada, even though it's not in the United States (sorry, Americans!). A piece becomes public domain in Canada 50 years after the death of the composer. In any case, there are still thousands of pieces in the public domain that you can access and learn no matter your country!
The last thing I want to mention is the section called "General Information" at the bottom of each piece's page (see below). You can find the year of composition, name of the movements, duration, and more. This is very helpful when thinking of putting together a concert or recital, or just for your personal knowledge.
Make sure to bookmark this website, as you will use it for the duration of your musical life :)
Site #2: Flute Tunes
As you might imagine, this website is for flutists specifically. But it contains so much great music that I can't help sharing it!
I've had this website bookmarked for maybe seven or eight years at this point. It has many flute pieces but even more arrangements of non-flute pieces. You can search for music by title, category, level, instrumentation (of the original piece), composer, key, and difficulty.
When you search by category, be prepared for many options! You can find fun categories such as dance tunes, love songs, and film music, or more traditional ones such as Baroque music, concertos, and pieces written for flute specifically. (There are over 100 different categories!!!)
I like using this site for my younger or beginner students, but I also use it for myself from time to time. What I love is that once you click on a piece, it gives you information such as the key, the range of notes, the performance timing, and a MIDI recording (a computerized recording of instruments) so you can hear what it sounds like. There is also tons of other information on the page (see below). Some pieces will be for solo flute, but you can find many pieces with piano accompaniment, or for other ensembles such as flute duos and trios.
Lastly, the website offers articles, a metronome, a tuner, staff paper, flute scales and fingerings, and much more! Perfect for flutists of any and all musical backgrounds. Once again, make sure to bookmark the home page; there are a couple thousand pieces waiting for you!
Site #3: Free Scores
This is yet another great website with sheet music for all instruments. This website offers more than just classical music pieces; there is also religious and jazz music, for example. You can search for music by composer, instrumentation, and level.
Once you click on a piece, you can listen to the MP3 recording of it and download the PDF of the sheet music. There is also information about the piece, just like on IMSLP or Flute Tunes (see below).
Free Scores also has a section where you can search and purchase sheet music, if you can't find it for free or it's not in the public domain. (But if you're looking to purchase sheet music, I can recommend some wonderful websites in another post.)
I hope you have lots of fun exploring these great websites! There are many other ones out there, such as musescore.com, 8notes.com, and sheetmusicplus.com (though this last one is mostly to purchase sheet music). If you know any other ones, please share them in the comments!
Another really important resource is your local and school libraries! Here in Montreal, the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) has tons of sheet music to loan. And most universities with a music program also have a music library. McGill University, for example, allows non-students to sign up for a library subscription, allowing you to take out scores from the Marvin Duchow music library.
Not only can you take out scores from your local university music library, you can usually also request scores be sent to your library from another school. WorldCat is a great place to start to look for sheet music and recordings from libraries worldwide.
Again, it's very important to purchase music that is not in the public domain in your country (if you can't find it in a library and if you will be performing it). And even if it is, there are many pieces that are so common in your instrument's repertoire (ex. the Mozart flute concertos) that it's a good idea to invest in a purchased copy, so that you have your part and any accompanying parts available to you in good condition.
What's great about purchasing sheet music is the publishing house will often include notes or information on the composer and piece, which can greatly enhance your musical knowledge and learning.
Happy music-making! :)