Here’s our pick of the best places online to find free (and hopefully legal) printable piano music manuscripts.
Musopen is a non-profit organisation focused on improving access and exposure to music by creating free resources and educational materials. This includes copyright-free sheet music.
Musopen features a database of over 1,000 piano scores, 40 organ scores, and works for piano and orchestra, 4-hands piano and piano trio.
Works are generally from the Classical, Romantic, Baroque and Renaissance periods, as well as some from the 20th century, and include well-known composers such as Rachmaninoff, Schubert, Liszt, Grieg, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Brahms, Mozart, Strauss and Offenbach.
The website allows online viewing of music manuscripts, which can also be printed either directly to a printer, or to a PDF file. This means they are well-formatted for use with a tablet device (such as an iPad) should that be so desired.
Musopen is free to use but, as a charity, relies on donations from anyone who finds the service useful. The site is ad-supported.
Making Music Fun!
Along with a lot of educational material, the free sheet music section on the Making Music Fun web site is useful because it breaks down the music into various levels, from Easy/Level 1 to Intermediate/Level 5.
There are a decent number of traditional and classical pieces with many in simpler arrangements ideal for children and beginning pianists. There are also some free piano book downloads featuring music by Beethoven and Mozart.
8notes.com features a number of free printed music downloads including classical, jazz, rock and pop, along with traditional beginner and intermediate pieces for kids and adults.
Printing pieces can become a bit of a chore as it has to be done one page at a time, and PDF files are of slightly lower quality, unless you subscribe to the service.
The Mutopia Project
The Mutopia Project offers sheet music editions of classical music for free download. These are based on editions in the public domain. A team of volunteers are involved in typesetting the music by computer using the LilyPond software.
There are currently over 650 pieces available for piano and over 150 for organ. Styles include music from baroque, romantic and classical periods, plus folk, hymns and jazz.
The site could be better laid out. For example, selecting the ‘piano’ link page lists all available pieces on one page. You can use your computer’s ‘find on page’ function to search for specific titles or composers, or narrow the search down by genre. Alternatively, the site’s advanced search facility is good.
The quality of PDF prints is very good and are available in several size formats including A4 and Letter. Postscript files can also be downloaded, and the raw Lilypond files are available should you wish to edit the files further in the notation software. MIDI files can also be downloaded.
We have included Free-Scores.com due to the sheer volume of works it claims to include – well over 14,000 for piano and 3,500 for organ.
Having said that, the layout of the site is extremely cluttered. If you can get to the advanced search it lets you search by instrument, type of arrangement, perceived difficulty of the piece (not all are rated).
The results are not well sorted (if at all). If you are looking for a specific piece it is worth entering keywords into the search box as well. The pieces here appear to be mainly classical (in layman’s terms). There may be a number of copyright concerns over some of the available pieces.
Created as a side-project to the popular MuseScore music notation software, Musescore.com allows anyone to upload their transcriptions to the site. This means there is a large collection of known and original music.
The site features a built-in viewer/player for each manuscript, as well as options to download as a MuseScore file, PDF, MusicXML, MIDI and MP3.
There are nearly 17,000 pieces for grand piano and about 850 for church organ. MuseScore produces high-quality prints.
Project Gutenberg volunteers have been engaging in digitizing public domain sheet music, using a variety of techniques, to enable study and performance. For the most part, the musical pieces created have been chamber music, with composers such as Brahms and Beethoven.
Searching Google Books for a term such as piano music score or the composer’s name followed by “piano manuscript” may bring up a number of relevant results, although it can be rather hit and miss.
Additionally, most of the results are excerpts, or can only be viewed on screen.
The European Library
Another search engine but this time indexing a huge number of documents from 48 national libraries in Europe and leading European Research Libraries. You will need to be somewhat creative, but piano music manuscript is a good start.
Of course it’s possible to find most things online for free, but bear in mind that they may not be legal.
Modern contemporary music is less likely to be legitimately available for free online. You should make your own decision about the risks and morals of downloading copyrighted material. That said, Google is your friend.