Freelance Chronicles: Episode 3 – On the hunt for sheet music

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We have all run into that one client who requests 5 specific songs, none of which are in your rep book.  I personally offer free arranging services for all of my clients; with the thought in mind that either way I am adding to what I can offer for future events.  With this being said, it isn’t always easy to locate music at low cost.  By scouring the internet I have found a few useful sources for acquiring music of all kinds!

Pre-arranged music:

If cost isn’t an option, and you aren’t willing to personally arrange music there are multiple places to look for pre-made harp arrangements including, but not limited to:

1. Harp Column Music – including Erin Freund’s arrangement of “Liebstod” from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde

2. Vanderbilt Music – never discount a pre-arranged version of “Stairway to Heaven” by David Ice… no matter how much it crushes your soul people absolutely love to hear this.

3. Melody’s Traditional Music – this is a great place to find the arrangements of Angi Bemiss: lovely intermediate-level music that is available in multiple keys for the convenience of the lever harpist.

Un-arranged music:

Generally this is the more economical of the two options.  With that being said there have been times in the past that I have been forced to pay for an un-arranged piece of music in a pinch.  Piano music can be easily arranged for harp by following a few simple steps:

-If the music is coming from a vocal-piano book (such as the Wicked Song Book) look for music that doubles the vocal line in the piano part.  This will make arranging much easier, and allows you to read directly out of the book, rather than having to create a new part in a notation program.

-Glance through the music for accidentals, large key shifts, etc.  If you play the lever harp this is an all-important step in your arranging process.

I was once asked to play the “Ice Dance” from the movie Edward Scissorhands.  I found the sheet music and recorded a demo for the bride who requested it and she was thrilled.  Only then did I realize that although I had recorded the piece on my pedal harp this was a beach wedding… which means I would be using my little lever harp.  “Uh oh” I thought… there were a lot of pedal changes in the recording I had made… how would I possibly make this work for lever harp?  The answer:

Reduce, reduce reduce!!

Do not be afraid to cut out anything other than the melodic line.  The client who is requesting specialized music likely knows the melody much more than the harmonic figures.  Do what you have to in order to make the part playable for you personally.  If you feel comfortable enough this is your chance to use your music theory skills to choose simple left hand patterns – if not base your choices on what is already present in the piano part; take notes away, don’t add.

Free sheet music resources:

1. YouTube Sheetmusic – what a spectacular resource!!  On this page you will find sheet music created by YouTube cover artists for free.  Click on the download tab at the top of the page and choose the artists that your song is by (from Beetles to Bieber!).  This has been a great source for Indie-music since the people creating the covers are fans first and foremost.

2. Piano Sheets – great for modern movie sound track music and popular tunes!

3. IMSLP – looking for a piece of classical music?  If you know the composer and are feeling a little bold this is a great resource.  For example: If you have a client who really loves that Faure “Pavane” (originally for orchestra and choir) by visiting the IMSLP page for this work you can find a tab marked “Arrangements and Transcriptions.”  Here you will almost always find a transcription of the work for solo piano!!

There are other pages that offer free sheet music.  If you google “free sheet music” you will find a few other pages that offer “free” piano music, but I have found that most of these are either completely non-functional, require you to download something else in order to acquire the music, or simply link you to pages that offer the music for a fee.

Paid sheet music resources:

1. Scribd – THIS IS AN AMAZING RESOURCE!  Upon first viewing it seems like this service is only for downloading books but it is so so so much more… and has become my most invaluable resource for finding music.  Just start your free week-long trial and search the word “songbook” and look under “collections” and you will find yourself in a world of scanned in music!  If you go into your free trial knowing what you want you might just be able to add huge amounts of music to your stacks before you have to pay anything!  If not, the fee of $8.99 a month is a comparatively small amount of money to the potential additions to your gig book!!

2. Sheet Music Plus – this and the next are last resources for me.  If I can’t find the music I need anywhere else I look to places like this.  For $4-5 you can buy a basic easy-intermediate file that can either be printed or added to your digital device.

3. Amazon.com – either through hard copies or digital Kindle files that can be added in the same way as you used for Scribd.

This is a battle we all wage, especially during wedding season (which is all year in Miami!) but I hope that these suggestions will make your life easier.  How do you find music that isn’t already in your gig book?  Comment below with any suggestions you have, and any thoughts on arranging music specifically for clients.

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About Author

Miami based Dr. of harp, gown-addict, lover of bulldogs, and fitness enthusiast.

4 Comments

  1. jessica-frost-ballas on

    Another fantastic article Kristina! Comparable to SheetMusicPlus I also use MusicNotes.com quite a bit for contemporary/popular music. It has a huge database of downloadable music (for about the same price $4-5 per song) and often has simplified piano arrangements as well as the vocal/piano arrangements and regular piano solo arrangements. I use it most often to find music to arrange for students! 🙂

  2. eric-allison on

    The MuseScore community also shares quite a lot of sheet music arranged, tabbed, or as a simple melodic line. The software is free and fairly easy to learn. I’m not a professional but have been able to arrange and print several of my own versions for keyboard and harp.

    The link is http://musescore.org

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